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Weight, Coating & Brightness…Oh My

Weight, Coating & Brightness…Oh My

With the arrival of the digital age there is an assumption that the paper and print industries are dying. However, printed marketing materials are far from obsolete. They are, in fact, still highly effective forms of marketing that can give you an impressive ROI.

With that being said, just like any other campaign or strategy you choose, there are options and terminology you should be familiar with. Aside from your choice of digital vs. offset printing (more on that later), your choice in paper can make or break your campaign.

Paper is just paper, right? Wrong. Aside from the obvious color options (white, ivory, blue, etc.) you can choose weight, thickness, coating, opacity, brightness and more. Don’t worry, here’s a guide to help you keep track of the most common options in the industry.


In the U.S., the weight of a paper stock is the weight of a ream (500 sheets) used by the production facility before the paper is cut into the size it is sold to end users. Here’s the short definition – the heavier the weight, the higher quality and durability of the sheet.

Don’t stop reading just yet. The weight of paper is also broken down into multiple categories – the main categories being text and cover weight. Text weight is thinner and great for multiple-page documents (an annual report, for example) and cover weight is thicker and ideal for flyers and brochures.

When making a paper weight decision, remember that a sheet of 100-lb text paper is much thinner than an 80-lb cover stock.


Okay, you’ve made your paper weight choice. What’s next? Well, now you need to decide if you want coated or uncoated paper stock.

Coated paper has a glossy (very shiny) or matte (subtle shine) finish. It’s more resistant to dirt, moisture and wear, which is a plus, but it tends to show fingerprints easily. You will want to choose coated if your piece has sharp, complex images, because the ink on coated paper doesn’t absorb and bleed otherwise. Good applications for coated paper include multiple-page brochures and direct mail pieces.

Uncoated paper is generally not as smooth as coated paper and tends to be more porous. It’s more susceptible to damage from dirt and moisture, but is easier to write on (perhaps for a business card). Go with uncoated if you are looking for a more polished, elegant effect.


The brightness of a sheet of paper measures the percentage of a wavelength of blue light it reflects. It’s typically shown on a scale of 1 (dullest) to 100 (brightest). So why should you care about brightness?

The brightness of a paper affects readability, the perception of ink color and the contrast between light and dark hues. Our recommendation is to always use a brighter paper stock. This will help keep your legibility high and ensure brand color consistency.

When looking to print anything with a commercial printer, always ask for samples if you’re unsure. Your vendor should be happy to send you samples in the size of your finished piece so you can be comfortable with your choice.

Too much to keep track of? Have other questions this article didn’t cover? No worries, call us at 513.459.9064 or fill out our Contact Us form and we can help.

(513) 548-4059