Quick tips: picking the right paper

When I started in the marketing field over 20 years ago I found the language describing paper baffling. It hasn’t changed! Whether you are specifying paper yourself, or responding to suggestions from your marketing firm, it helps to know the territory. Here’s a quick guide:


Finishes are the texture of the sheet. There are 2 big categories:

  • Coated papers: Magazines, for example, typically use coated paper. The most common finishes are (in order of shininess) gloss, dull and matte
  • Uncoated paper: The interiors of books use an uncoated sheet. Uncoated paper comes in smooth, vellum, and antique (the most textured), as well as many unusual finishes.


Weight is the heaviness, or thickness of the sheet. The terms can be puzzling — it is an archaic (though charming) system!

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  • Cover weight: The heaviest — used for (you guessed it) covers of publications, pocket folders, etc.
  • Text weight: everything else — mostly used for interiors of publications
  • Bond weight: essentially fancy text papers that are used for stationary.

Cover and text weights can describe a coated or uncoated sheet. Bond is always uncoated.

Good news

You can always see samples of the paper specified for your project — swatch books and sample sheets are given at no cost. In fact you can ask for “dummies”, which are mockups in the exact size and configuration of your project using blank sheets — this is also gratis. This is a great way to get a feel for how your project will turn out.



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