Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros

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Find inspiration, technical help, and professional tips on how to choose the right paper for your next print design project.

They said print design would go away. They said a lot of things that never came true. If you design for print, you know that nothing will replace the tactility and natural interaction one has with the paper that hosts it.

When we work on computers all day, it’s easy to forget that the physical medium can totally change a design — that the paper is far from an afterthought. It can not only enhance the color, or the presentation itself, but paper can change the very message you’re trying to communicate.

Think about when you’re trying to create a sense of depth or texture using layers of paper scans, and just not getting the right look. Simply print the un-textured design on the paper you were trying to mimic and the things that obscured what you envisioned are now real. You can hold it and see the depth and 3-dimensional space

Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros — Sample Books with Paper StockDisplay of sample books showing a fraction of the many offerings of paper stock.

Making the right paper choices is where a paper company rep can be a real asset. Paper companies are staffed by people who care about paper, and want to connect you to the right stock. They care about paper similarly to the way a print designer does, because one helps the other, symbiotically.

A paper stock is only as useful as the content it hosts; a design relies upon the host media to be successful.

The Advantages of Making Friends with Your Paper Company

Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros — Make Friends with Your Paper Company

We visited Clampitt Paper in Dallas, TX recently. Not only was it a great break from the typical workday, providing inspiration to refresh the designbrain, but visiting a paper company helps to form relationships. You get in-depth information about paper stocks you may not come across in the wild, directly from the knowledgeable rep.

A good sales rep will be able to tell you what’s new, what’s special about it, and also be able to listen to what you’re going for in your current or upcoming projects. They can show you stuff that’s already available, connecting the dots through your conversations and providing samples for you to try your designs upon.

Tips on Choosing the Right Paper

We spoke with Meredith Clampitt at Clampitt Paper about the benefits of familiarity with your local paper company. She was able to break down some of the hang-ups about paper choices, as well as provide valuable insight and a little psychology about how the feel and look of certain paper stocks can guide design choices.

Here’s what she had to say.

Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros — Choosing the Right PaperAbove, the sample room at Clampitt Paper in Dallas, TX. Each slot contains sheets of paper of different types, weights, brightness, or color. This is but a smattering of the total offering – a print designer’s dream for sure.

Coated vs. Uncoated

“If my customer doesn’t know if they want coated or uncoated paper, I ask them to tell me about the content. If there’s a ton of imagery and they want to retain the details, then I’ll suggest coated paper. Because uncoated is softer, the ink has to dry by being absorbed into the paper. So that makes the images a little different, which can also play to your advantage. If you’re doing a project like an annual report, or a charitable mailer, an uncoated paper will have the texture that makes people feel involved, to provide a personalized interaction with your design.”

Choosing The Right Brightness for the Job

“Coated paper is priced according to its brightness and surface. Cost comes into play when you have a lot of whitespace, or you have specific images, because ink is translucent. So the paper is going to show through, and that means a paper’s brightness is going to matter. If you’re doing full coverage, you can get away with a paper that is less bright. But for an important project, where quality matters, you should step up to a brighter paper.”

Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros — Finding the Right Brightness for YouDisplay showing how textured paper stock from Sappi, a paper manufacturer, can mimic the materials shown, enhancing the haptic experience.

Haptics: The Neuroscience of Touch

“The sense of touch is highly developed in humans — more so in us than other animals. According to many studies, as well as The Neuroscience of Touch, the relationship built by engaging through touch can create lasting impressions, which are valuable to brands. Being able to feel the paper you want to use or have your client purchase is really important, so that informed choices can be made to ensure the collateral is engaging.”

Designer Resources: Paper Tips from the Pros — The Role of TouchImage via Sappi

This is why choosing paper via physical samples is so important. Imagine having to choose a textured paper based on description alone. Does “pocked” or “flecked” seem particularly appealing to the imagination? You’ll want to feel the paper to make an informed choice based according to the desired response of your design.

More Cool Paper Resources

Meredith also told us about some cool and useful resources for working with paper. Both informative and fun, the links below will help expand the possibilities of using paper in design.

Foldfactory.com provides a huge library templates, prep files, and dielines, as well as “Super Cool Folds™” — guides to folding common and uncommon pieces like direct mail and brochures.

To address concerns with the environmental impact of the paper industry, twosides.info was formed by a comprehensive list of companies within the graphic supply chain industry, such as forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes, and postal operators. Their goal is to promote the sustainability of the graphic communications supply chain and to dispel common environmental misconceptions by providing users with verifiable information, ensuring that print and paper is a sustainable medium.

And for more on sustainability and design, check out “A Better Source: The Directory for Sustainable Designers and Businesses.”

Want more on print design and sustainability? Check these out.

HP Introduces Sustainable Ink Initiative To Change Digital Print SolutionsWhat Is CMYK? Spot Color and Process Color in Print DesignsTips for Creating a Zine Template for Print in InDesign5 Designers Who Use Their Work to Promote Environmental IssuesPPI vs. DPI: Demystifying the World of Online and Print Resolution

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