Posted by: AG | May 20, 2011

Types of Paper

In this article I’ll cover the main paper types you’ll need to know when working with printers. For newcomers to the field of print production a lot of the terminology is far from intuitive, so you just need to learn it any way you can.


Bond paper is used for stationery, letterheads, forms, direct mail ads, announcements, prices lists, and invoices.

Bond papers are noted for their strength, permanence, good appearance, crisp feel, ink receptive surface, good erasing quality, and lack of paper fuzz (tiny fibers.) They’re usually made from rag fiber, cotton fiber, or other chemical wood pulps in a wide range of qualities.

Rag bond is a very classic style of letterhead paper and gives a warm, traditional feel. It’s usually watermarked and comes in various textures, such as laid or in a wove form. The rag content can range from 25 to 100%, with the more rag content being more expensive and delicate.

Since bond paper is fairly hard, with an even smooth finish, they won’t absorb any kind of ink into the body of the paper.


Book papers can be coated or uncoated and can be used in any kind of printing process. It’s used for books, pamphlets, folders, brochures, catalogs, and direct mail advertising.

Among the notable qualities of book paper are its appearance, strength, opacity, permanency, and the fact that it can be coated. It’s composed mostly of raw wood pulp, straw, and recycled wastepaper.

There are a number of different finishes available for the uncoated variety, such as antique, eggshell, machine, English, and super-calendered. Antique has the roughest surface and the super-calendered has the smoothest and slickest finish for uncoated. For the coated book papers, they come in either a dull, matte, or glossy coat, and can be coated on either one or both sides.


Bristol papers are a group of stiff, heavy papers which are also fairly thick. The common uses for bristol paper are for file folders, time cards, self-mailers, programs, menus, announcements, booklet covers, and similar items.

The paper is usually smooth, lint free, and sturdy enough for heavy uses. Sometimes bristol will have a rag content but they all have good writing and printing surfaces. Postcards can be printed on bristol since they can have a coated or uncoated finish. Cast-coated Bristol is used for postcards and have the best surface for printing photographs. It’s also used for menu covers and other surfaces that get handled more than normal.


Cover paper is used mostly for the outside cover of catalogs and brochures. It’s also used commonly for booklets, manuals, binders, programs, directories, self-mailers, or announcements.

Because it’s on the outside of the printed booklets, it has good resistance to handling and abrasion. It also has a good appearance, permanent color, good printability for either offset or screen printing, and can be embossed, folded, and glued if used on paperback books.

It’s usually made from a rag pulp and wood pulp combination. It comes as coated or uncoated, on one or both sides. The uncoated types can come in a wide range of finishes and textures, such as linen, leather, corduroy, and other unique textures.

When specifying coated cover, note that they often come in a cast coated finish, which gives a super hard and glossy look, much like heavy photographic paper. They also come in metallic colors or other colored coatings, but they’re usually quite expensive.


Newsprint is the lowest grade of paper you’ll find in printing. It’s used mainly for newspapers and phone directories. It’s not made to last long but is fairly stong considering that it can be very thin, as in phone books. It’s also noted for having a low light glare to make ready small print easier and has excellent absorption qualities for ink, but will eventually yellow if exposed to the air, and will become brittle. Because it’s used mostly for newspapers and directories, the paper is only available on rolls for large and high speed presses.


Offset papers are basically book papers that are made specifically to be printed by offset presses. It’s used for manuals, reports, form letters, ad and promotional materials, forms, and most other materials.

Like book papers, they can come in uncoated or coated varieties, including a special clay coating. They have very little lint or paper dust when printing since their very stable.


Recycled paper is noted for having the ability to be recycled easily. Recycled paper comes from waste paper from businesses, industry, and general city waste, since most of the solid waste from cities is paper. Printing companies themselves will collect trimmings and wasted paper and generally recycle them.

In summary, it’s worth your while to get a basic understanding of paper types when you start dealing with printers. For most sizable jobs, the paper alone will make up over half your invoice. So choose wisely.


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