How to Pick the Right Paper for Your Creative Project

Jim Krause's latest book, Visual Design, offers 95 things all designers need to know. Understanding how to pick the perfect paper for creative projects is one of them.

Author and creativity guru Jim Krause says his goal in writing and illustrating his new book was to provide an encouraging and straightforward one-stop guide to creating effective works of design.

Visual Design features 95 topics covering everything from composition and color to typography and conceptual thinking. "I also address a wide range of practical matters involving the creation of both printed and posted media," Krause says.

One of those practical matters involves the ability to pick the right paper for your print projects. Following is an excerpt from Visual Design.

Practical Matters: Paper

"Visual Design" by Jim Krause is the inaugural title in the New Riders Creative Core book series, which aims to provide instruction on the fundamental concepts and techniques that all designers must master. 

The right or wrong paper (or stock) can make or break the presentation of any business card, letterhead, brochure, poster, or newsletter you design. Most paper and printing companies will go out of their way to help designers choose the right paper for their print jobs. Take advantage of any advice and tips you can get from paper and printing representatives about the pros, cons, and potential pitfalls of various paper choices. 

Also, expand your knowledge of commercial printing papers by talking with experienced designers. Most designers who work with print media have strong preferences and favorites in terms of the papers they use for their projects.

An almost endless variety of white, colored, speckled, fibrous, and parchment-like stocks are available these days. Paper can have a gloss (coated), matte (uncoated), satin, felt, smooth, textured, dimpled, or ridged finish. Many stocks are available in weights ranging from typical letterhead thicknesses to that used for heavy-duty business cards, and the variety of pre- and post-consumer recycled options is growing all the time.

Glossy coated stocks – because they absorb less ink into their fibers than other papers – are able to present color images with greater clarity and crispness than uncoated stocks. Uncoated papers should not be ruled out, however, when printing in color: Sometimes the slightly softened look of text and images on uncoated stocks is just what's needed for a piece's sought-after look and its tactile feel.

Be mindful of the fact that inks are semitransparent when printing on a stock that's anything but white: A paper's color will affect the look of any inks that are printed on top of it. The effect a lightly colored stock will have on ink color is usually minimal or negligible, but if you're planning to print on a stock with a noticeable shade of color, then talk with your printer to find out what adjustments might need to be made to your document's colors in order for it to print properly.

Excerpted from Visual Design: Ninety-five things you need to know. Told in Helvetica and Dingbats. By Jim Krause. Copyright © 2015. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

Images courtesy of Jim Krause.

Related post: How to Boost Your Creativity: Q&A with Jim Krause

Tags: Books, Design