Choosing the right Paperstock

When choosing a paperstock for your print product, there are several considerations to make, including: your choice of print process; the look you want to achieve; the distribution method; shelf life; image reproduction; environmental impact; the whiteness, bulk, opacity, cost… – we could go on! Each of these elements can add to the overall cost, so it isn’t as simple as ‘the higher the grammage, the higher the cost’.

There are thousands of different paperstocks available, but this can be simplified depending on the print process you choose. For example, the coldset printing process means that when the ink is added to the paper, it dries via absorption and evaporation. This is different to the heatset printing process, where ink is added to the surface of the paper and then dried.

When printing at our sites – and selecting which paperstock to use – there are three main elements to think about:  the weight (grammage or gsm), whiteness and cost.

We would also add the environmental impact to this list. Each of our sites has the ISO 14:001 Accreditation (excluding Luton, which is currently working towards accreditation), and we ensure that we source paper responsibly from recycled or sustainably managed forests. One of the largest misconceptions in the industry is that recycled paperstock should be used – preferably over virgin fibre stocks (fibre directly from trees), which has a similar environmental impact to the paper produced from recycled sources.

Scientific research demonstrates the advantages and disadvantages of both types of paper. Not-for-profit organisation, Two Sides, aims to bust the myths of the ‘green-washing’ regularly demonstrated by big corporations, which promote campaigns such as ‘Go green, save paper’. These claims are unsubstantiated, however, because virgin paper sources are tightly controlled, with the raw materials coming from sustainable and renewable sources.

There is a lot to look at when discussing the environmental impact, and we will do another blog on this subject at a later date.

Our presses are designed to run a range of paperstocks from 40gsm to 70gsm.  Over the years, we have worked with suppliers to find the best paperstocks for our customers.  The stocks can be grouped together as standard, improved or super improved – an improved stock means it is ‘whiter’ than a standard one.

Standard paperstocks include: 40gsm, 42.5gsm, 45gsm, 48.8gsm and 52gsm. This is what is used by the majority of our internal customers, such as Daily Mirror or our regional titles.  These paperstocks all have the same whiteness and are difficult to distinguish apart. In tests, customers certainly couldn’t tell the difference between 42.5gsm and 40gsm – and even 45gsm is very similar.

Paper whiteness is ranked using an ISO scale, and the brightness of these stocks tends to be around ISO 58. Note that whilst the grammage is increasing, the brightness remains unchanged, but the advantage you get with higher grammages is that the amount of show-through (the visibility of ink from one page to another) is reduced.

Improved paperstocks include: 52gsm improved, with 68 brightness (76 brightness is available); 55gsm improved, with 76 brightness (68 and 72 brightness are available), and 60gsm improved, with 76 brightness.

As the grammage increases, the paper mills change their process to enable the paper to be whitened. These stocks are therefore charged with an added premium for the extra processes performed by the mills.

In addition to the above, we also offer super improved stocks: 52gsm SCA, 54gsm SCA and 70gsm Woodfree. These stocks are different to the others, in that they use different starting material and specialised processes.

54gsm SCA (with 83 brightness), due to its relatively low grammage, is a cost-effective option for many of our customers, both in terms of the actual cost of the paper, and also because its lower weight in turn can reduce delivery costs (as vehicles have weight limits). This paper prints well and looks significantly brighter than standard stocks, and is used by retailers, brands and publishers, who are looking for a whiter stock that offers good image reproduction.

70gsm Woodfree is the highest grade of stock we routinely use.  It is exceptionally bright (at 105 brightness) and has a different feel to other stocks. Woodfree means that the lignin (the natural ‘glue’ of the wood, which is used in the papermaking process) has been removed. This gives the paper a longer shelf life. It is not like the 70gsm that many magazines use; it is a stiffer sheet that holds its shape. Although it is more expensive in comparison to our other stocks, it is frequently used by customers looking to create a product that rivals a magazine in terms of look and feel.

We have created sample packs – printing the same artwork on various stocks so that you can see a direct comparrison.  If you would like to order a sample pack email us at [email protected].

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