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I'm printing a tradeshow flyer and was wondering what type of paper I should print it on. I don't want anything glossy so I'm trying to decide on the following:

  • 100# text weight matte
  • 80# cover
  • 80# matte

What is the difference between the types above? And how can I make a decision?

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Hi there, I've made a small edit to the question title: we can help you understand the differences between paper types and how to choose, but only you or your client will know what type of paper best suits your particular case, so we won't be able to tell you which type to use – user568458 Jul 22 '14 at 17:25
Entirely dependant on the company, and what "signals" they want to send. Glossy? trad? environmentally friendly? classy? sophisticated... – Benteh Jul 22 '14 at 23:08
Oh, and I would in any case go above 80. – Benteh Jul 22 '14 at 23:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are basically 3 or 4 types of general finishes on stock without getting into texture finishes such as laid or linen...

  • Newsprint/Craft/etc. : These are low-end raw papers used more for utility purposes. Customarily not used for consumer level marketing materials. Newsprint obviously refers to newspapers to give you an idea of quality.
  • Offset : a general uncoated raw paper. This is sometimes referred to as "bond" at the consumer level and would be in line with average every day copier or writing paper. It's got some teeth in the finish and would not be considered smooth to the touch.
  • Matte : Sometimes referred to as "Dull coat" - a dull semi-gloss coating on the stock. Basically it's like a no-glare gloss but not as slick and shiny. Think of laser printer paper, where it's smooth but not particularly shiny. That would be close to a matte stock.
  • Gloss : Slick and reflects light (glare). Gloss is the shiny stock.

The weights vary considerably and refer to the weight of 500 sheets. So 100# means every 500 sheets of stock equals 100 pounds. This is designed to give an indication of the thickness or heft of the stock. A 100# stock will be roughly twice as thick as a 50# stock.

Weights are generally in 3 categories:

  • Book : These are very light weight papers designed for, you guessed it, books. They can be coated or uncoated but are generally just all purpose inexpensive papers. Think of bible pages and how thin and lightweight that stock is... that's a book weight.
  • Text : Text weight stocks are generally better quality paper than book weights and come in slightly heavier weights designed to hold details a bit better (like text). Magazines or novels most often use text weights for their interior pages.
  • Cover : Cover weight papers are thicker in nature and more rigid. Covers are designed to have a bigger "snap" to them and are designed to rip less than lighter weight papers. Postcards are often printed on cover stock, just to give you an idea.

When considering stock weights there are a couple things to think of.... Heavier text weight stock will help ensure you can't read through the stock (you know you read side A but can also slightly see side B on the back at the same time). Lighter weight text stock will fold and crease better.

As for your list.....

  • 100# text matte would refer to a relatively heavy paper with a dull finish. A good all-purpose finish and weight to use for any flier. Although a 60 to 80# text stock would work well also. 100# just means you'll have a "thick" flier that feels heavier than average copy paper.
  • 80# cover refers to a thicker stock with some additional rigidity when compared to average text weight stock. (there's no mention of finish here) I would not use a cover stock for a flier. You'd essentially be creating a large postcard with the same rigidity making it difficult for people to fold it and put in in a pocket. But, if that's your goal, this may be an option.
  • 80# Matte is exceptionally ambiguous. 80# matte cover will be much different than 80# matte text. See above to text and cover differences. The only thing which is clear here is that the finish is a dull coat (matte).

Realize that 100# text will be in the neighborhood of a 80# cover in terms of thickness depending upon the stock. The cover stock will simply be more rigid.

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The 'pound' of paper (paper weight) refers to (supposedly, though I think this is a loose rule of thumb) the weight of a ream of said paper.

The heaver the pound, the denser (typically, thicker) the paper.

20# paper is your typical copier paper.

80# and 100# are thicker/sturdier and (literally) 'heftier'. Most paper above 50# is considered 'card stock' and is suitable for things that require a more substantial presence.

So, in terms of 80# vs. 100#, 100# paper will be a bit heavier than 80# paper.

'Cover' is just a term to mean thicker paper--suitable for things like the cover of a paperback book or report. This is opposed to saying 'text' which is for lighter weight paper used for letterheads and the like.

'Matte' refers to the finish. It's not shiny, as opposed to say 'gloss' which would be a shiny finish.

Where things get confusing is that you can have 100# cover and 100# text. WHen you see weights like that, you can assume (but always check with your printer) that cover vs. text now refers to thickness. Both are heavy papers for their usage, but the cover paper will be much thicker akin to business cards.

Bottom line: Pick your paper by seeing the actual paper. Get samples from your printer before committing to a print run. In the end, it's going to be a personal decision as to what you think works best for the particulars of your project.

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FYI: The lb weights (aka basis weights) are the weight of a ream of the paper before cutting it. So, for example, 20lb standard letter paper means that 500 basic sheets of it (which are 17x22" = 4 sheets) are 20lbs. That'd be silly, but usable, if all types of paper had the same basic sheet size. They don't. Index paper (for example) has 25.5x30.5" sheets, so 20 lb index would actually be lighter paper. Worse, sometimes its 1,000 sheets instead of 500. Wikipedia has details. If you can get the metric g/m^2 weights, those are sane. – derobert Jul 22 '14 at 21:31

In addition to weights and finish there's what tailors call "hand" - how it feels when you're holding it. The weight and finish will contribute to the total feel of the document in your hand as well as how colors appear and the overall look. What look or feel are you going for? There's as much variety in materials and finishes as there are in inks; are you looking for a semi-transparent or translucent look (you'd probably want to only print on one side unless your design incorporates the printing on the second side showing through). It seems like you're going with a heavier paper - this is typical for single page handouts or trifolds, so keep in mind your flyer will feel like almost everyone else's unless you go with a more unique finish.

DA01 has the right idea - go and hold various samples (any decent printer should be more than happy to show samples of in stock papers). See if they've got printed samples as well; a paper with more tooth feels rougher but may do funky things to wide swathes of color (or really, really cool things depending on your design).

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You've gotten some good answers about the differences between the types of paper but not so much on the And how can I make a decision? part.

Here are some considerations:

  1. Who is the audience of the trade show? Industry executives or general public?

  2. Will they be carrying "swag bags" or brief cases or anything to put said flyer in?

  3. What size are you planning on doing? The smaller the size, the heavier the stock should be. This will keep the paper stiff instead of flopping around. (Think of a fortune inside a fortune cookie --- very malleable.)

  4. Printing on a heavier stock is more expensive to print, and more expensive to ship. If you have to send 5,000 flyers or carry 5,000 flyers the weight is a real consideration. If it won't increase the perception and ultimately sales of your company than you're wasting resources by using a more expensive paper.

  5. Humidity is also a factor. Is the show indoors or outdoors? Do you hope the person looks at the flyer indoors or outdoors? Certain cardstocks and inks can bleed more than others. Generally you'll be alright since you're not considering any glossy finish but a heavier stock might also help prevent someone's sweaty palms from ruining the flyer in some cases.

You need to really consider who's going to receive the flyer, and what they're likely to do with it. If its going to wind up on the bottom of a "swag bag" then go with the cheapest paper possible. If it's a white sheet going in an executives brief case go with something nice. For most cases I'd go with 80lb. I'd only go heavier if it's a smaller size like a postcard.

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Technically, 80 lbs cover and matte (eg. 10pts) are usually the same unless it's specified as coated (eg. glossy on one or two sides.) That's the stock often used on very economical business cards.

The paper used for standard books, letterheads or on a laser printer is closer to 24-35 lbs matte, to give you an idea.

When they refer to a text paper, even if it's a 80lbs, it's thinner than a cover 80 lbs. It's what you often see used for pizza flyers and most brochures. But if your printer says it's matte, then it has a soft satin compressed feel but it's not as thick as a cover. It's usually very opaque, bright and white.

When you see heavier paper, it doesn't mean it's thicker. The text type of paper is as heavy as the cover but more "compressed", therefore it doesn't feel thicker.

My preference for a flyer is to use 80lbs text and less; the flaps close well and it does feel like a standard commercial printing without looking cheap. You can always use the 100 lbs text version if you like very thick brochures. I don't recommend any cover type unless you use 65 lbs and less.

If you want something more "natural" then you'll go in the real dull category where you can see and feel more the texture of the paper. Make sure to specify if you want it extra white or not; there's different types of dull, satin, semi-coated and coated stocks used for offset printing and the best is to simply ask your printer and choose a sample.

All stocks have their own brands as well with different brightness, and the weight is just one part of the choice!

Here's a scale with a good reference for which paper to use:

Choice of stock paper and weight


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Maybe I'm sticking my nose in where you've already made your decision but let me be a contrarian: Why are you so against glossy? Every time I've printed color images on flat or matte stock they just don't look as good as they do on glossy paper. Even the very best plain stock pales compared to glossy for retaining the depth, sharpness, brilliance and purity of tone of images and even reducing banding. Of course this difference is more obvious if you are printing to laser, even 1200 DPI. I recently had a professional color profile made of the plain paper (bright white) stock that I'm using and another color profile made of the glossy, so "all things are equal", and the glossy just comes out purer with better blacks and more accurate range of tone. No contest. If you are going to a true web or offset press, the differences between glossy and flat stock are less, if it's a calibrated press. But for me, give me glossy for color photos and even color text and line drawings, any day of the week!

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This would be better as a comment – DA01 Jul 24 '14 at 2:50

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