Paper Explained

Oct 31, 2023 | All, Paper

Paper selection is arguably the most crucial choice for anyone looking to produce a printed product. It affects the entire product in a far-reaching way that often takes people by surprise. It is a very in-depth topic, but we wanted to summarise some of the main areas of importance for our readers here:

Appearance and physical qualities

Paper comes in many different weights, sizes, textures and finishes. Each of these aspects will have an impact on the printed product. Most papers used have a coating on them to change the properties of the substrate, which changes the appearance of the print. We will now quickly go over the four main finishes available for magazines, catalogues and brochures.

Gloss papers

Gloss papers are common choices for magazines, particularly for covers as the shiny finish often helps the print to stand out and make the colours vibrant. There is also no need to seal gloss papers due to the nature of the finish.

Silk papers

Silk papers are popular too. They are still quite shiny but not as much as a gloss paper and have a slightly rougher texture. There is usually a need to seal silk papers most especially if printed sheet-fed as the somewhat coarser texture can result in the ink rubbing off the page in a similar way to a newspaper. Most sheetfed printers do this as standard, but it is always good to check!

Matt papers

Matt papers are also coated but to a lesser extent than a gloss or silk. This would provide a good surface for the ink to adhere to but without making the page shiny. As with silk papers, you would require a seal to be applied during printing to reduce the chances of rubbing occurring.

Uncoated papers

Uncoated papers are often described as being “earthy”. These papers are without any form of coating and are rough to the touch but are very white in colour. They allow people to write and draw on the paper, so they are perfect for products like activity books. However, the print can often look a little dull/flat on these papers, especially when compared to gloss stocks and uncoated papers need to be sealed on sheetfed presses to prevent rubbing. 

Production method

Your paper choice will also influence how your product can be printed. Depending on the weight of the stock, you may be limited to one production method only. Heavier stocks, over 130gsm usually, have to be printed on a sheetfed press. Many stocks can print on both web and sheetfed presses, and there are often cost savings by selecting the more efficient option for the quantity of the magazine or catalogue. Then there are the lighter weight papers that are not suited to sheetfed, and these are usually papers under 65gsm.

Each production method has its pros and cons, and this will be discussed in a future article. However, in the meantime, this video may help to explain some of the

Paper Explained - Paper on roll a t Warners Printers


As paper accounts for the majority of the raw material cost, it’s not surprising that it can be equally as expensive as the physical cost of production.. This topic is worth an entire article by itself, but we will condense some of the key points here.

By dropping a few gsm, a publisher can notice considerable savings without changing the product noticeably. This is because less paper (which is ordered by the tonne) is required in the job. There are also often bulkier equivalents to give a little extra tangibility to lighter paper stock. As mentioned above, by changing the weight of the paper, you may also open up opportunities to print on a more efficient machine.

Reels are usually cheaper to buy than sheets, and it is possible to buy reels of paper up to 200gsm. Many sheetfed printers can use reels thanks to Cutstar, allowing customers to take advantage of potential savings if the job specification allows.

We can order special sized reels which are made to suit your bespoke page size to minimise wastage. These specially sized reels are useful for non-standard page sizes which would otherwise result in higher spoilage. These reels are special makings and often require 4-6 weeks for delivery and minimum order amount, so it is well worth bearing this in mind!


If you are looking to produce a direct mail piece or a magazine for a subscriber, in many cases your postage cost may be as much if not more than your print and paper cost. Reducing paperweights can help you to take advantage of the most cost-effective tariff. 

Environmental credentials

It should be an essential consideration for us to know where our paper is sourced and its carbon footprint. Papers used by reputable printers come from well-managed forests with appropriate certifications. There is also the option to carbon balance papers which is not always well publicised. Most papers contain a certain percentage of recycled material within them, and of course, there are 100% recycled stocks that are available as well!

Any questions?

It is important to note that while there is a great deal of information here to digest, we are always on hand to help answer your questions. Please get in touch with Michael and the team at if you require any further information.