Paper is often a confusing subject when it comes to printing. Most people think paper is paper, but there is a lot more to it than it seems. The type of paper used can have a huge role in how a printed job looks and feels. This short guide will give you a basic understanding of what paper is all about, but always be sure to ask about it when ordering a job.


There are several different types of finish on paper. Here is a list and description of the most common:

Wove or Smooth - A smooth uncoated surface.
Laid - A paper that is manufactured with textured lines on its surface, often used for business stationery such as letterheads, envelopes and business cards.
Linen - Similar to a laid finish, this paper has textured lines on the surface of the sheet, but they are finer and more regular than those that appear on a laid finish stock. This paper is also used frequently for business stationery.
Laser - A paper that is guaranteed to be compatible with laser printers.
Coated - A paper with a waxy finish (shiny or matte).
Uncoated - A paper with an untreated surface that is dull and unreflective.
Coated One Side (C1S) - A cover stock that has a coating on one side and is dull on the reverse side.
Coated Two Sides (C2S) - A cover stock that has a coating on both sides.


The weight of a paper refers to its thickness and is measured in pounds (calculated by pounds per 1000 sheets). The higher the number, the more weight (thickness) a paper has. It is important to remember however, that weight is realitive to the type of paper being measured. You may see 100lb cover stock and 100lb text stock, and think that they are the same thickness, but they are really quite different. A 100lb stock is thick compared to a lower weighted stock of the same type. 60lb text is thinner than 100lb text, but 100lb text may still be thinner than a 60lb cover stock.


A paper's opacity is determined by its weight, ingredients and absorbency. Opacity indicates how much printing will show through on the reverse side of a sheet. Opacity is measured in a percentage. Complete opacity is 100% and complete transparency is 0%.


The brightness of a sheet of paper measures the percentage of a wavelength of blue light it reflects. The brightness of a piece of paper is typically expressed on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the brightest. Most papers reflect 60-90% of light. The brightness of a paper affects readability, the perception of ink color and the contrast between light and dark hues.

Types of Paper

Offset - Also known as book or text paper, offset paper can have a coated or uncoated finish. Offset paper is thinner and lightweight. It is often used for publication interior sheets, brochures & flyers, and letterheads. Common offset weights: 50#, 60#, 70#, 80#, 100#.

Bond - Bond or writing papers are most often used for letterheads. Common bond weights: 20#, 24#, 28#.

Cover - Cover stocks are heavy in weight, rigid and not easily folded. These papers are generally used for publication covers, business cards, greeting cards, folders, and postcards. They can have coated or uncoated finishes. Common weights for cover stocks include: 65#, 80#, 100#, 120#, 10pt. and 12pt.

Tag - Tag paper is a dense grade of paper that is strong, durable, and water resistant. Tag paper is typically used for hanging tags such as store tags on clothing or other products.

Index - Index paper is a stiff, not too thick, inexpensive paper with a smooth finish. It is often used for index cards and folders.


A paper's grain is the direction in which most of the fibers lie. Grain is determined during the paper making process, when fibers tend to align in one direction or the other. Paper is identified as either grain short (grain is parallel to paper's short side) or grain long (grain is parallel to the paper's long side), depending on how the paper is cut. It is easier to fold, bend, or tear the paper along the same direction of the fibers. Folding against the grain often causes the paper to crack.

Other Substrates

Substrate is the name for any material that you can print on. Paper is the most common, but printing is done on nearly any material, though not through the same printing method. Cloth, plastic, vinyl, metal, etc. are all examples of alternate substrates to paper.