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How-To Articles

Tips on Paper Selection

We are often asked about FSC and PEFC papers. The answer is YES! We use them almost exclusively unless an alternative for a special request cannot be fulfilled with FSC or PEFC stocks, eg synthetic paper for maps and outdoor signs. FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) offers a Chain Of Custody standard for virgin fibre from the forest, through to mixed and recycled papers. PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is a standard for sustainably managed forests, which in turn feeds directly into pulp and paper mills.

FSC and PEFC stocks are manufactured in a full range of weights and are also available as coated stocks so that the impact of glossy photos and images is not compromised.

From the five major paper manufacturers and importers who fill our stock orders from our supply chain in Australia, we have on-the-record environmental credentials for each of the stocks we use for our customers.

Looking for logos? This is the suite of logos that indicate an adherence to an audited or certified environmental standard and they are all available on products made or imported into Australia.

Logos to look for:

As an energy intensive industry, pulp and paper manufacturing also seeks to lessen their impact on the environment and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by seeking endorsement from many standard setting organisations. Energy and Forestry and wood merchant certifications are important for a well managed industry, but do not have a direct impact or influence on the printed products we produce. For a full list of these organisations and their endorsement programs, call in to one of our offices.

Save The Koala and the Rainbow Alliance, while not certified and/or audited to the extent of FSC or PEFC, are worthwhile organisations committed to sustainable use of our forests, world wide and as such, are making a valuable contribution.
The right paper for the job?
Choosing the right paper for a printing job can be a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be though. When selecting the best paper type for a particular job, you’re often faced with an overwhelming number of options. Asking us, your printer, for “white” is like asking your waiter for “food” — you’ll have to be more specific than that.
To the educated consumer, the choices don’t seem nearly as intimidating. Before you order though, you’ve got to know the menu. Paper has a number of characteristics that affect its cost and appropriateness for a given job.
The surface of paper affects its look, feel and printability. When paper is pressed at the mill, it passes through a series of rollers in a process called calendaring. Calendaring affects paper in numerous ways. As the extent of this process increases, paper is made smoother, glossier, more capable of retaining ink, thinner, less opaque and less bright. Why does surface matter? Because people do judge books by their cover.


The colour of paper is perhaps the most salient of all characteristics. White is by far the most popular colour and is generally optimal for conventional usage. Not all white is the same, however — it runs the gamut from ultra-severe hues to softer, more antique shades. Photo white paper is best for accentuating the contrast between light and dark hues.
Off-white sheets produce less glare, and are best used for publications such as novels or technical manuals that demand long and uninterrupted attention from readers. When comparing colour, always examine paper under standard viewing conditions and with minimal atmospheric distractions.


The brightness of paper measures the percentage of light that it reflects. Most papers reflect approximately 60 to 90% of incoming light. Remember: brightness and colour are not the same thing. Unlike the colour characteristic (which is highly subjective and imprecise), brightness is a strictly quantitative, or measurable, attribute. Brightness is important because it affects readability — high brightness can cause eye strain, while low brightness can produce a blurring effect.


The opacity of paper is the degree to which other printing is visible through the page. High opacity, or density, minimises the visibility of printing on subsequent pages, thus enhancing readability. Opacity increases with the bulk and weight of paper, and is influenced by numerous other factors, including paper colour, ink color, coatings, chemicals and coverage.


The grain of paper describes the direction, or alignment, of its component fibres. Paper grain is either grain long or grain short. When fibres are patterned parallel to the length of a sheet, the paper is grain long. When fibres run parallel to the width of a sheet, the paper is grain short. Grain direction is a critical factor for print jobs because it directly affects usage — for example, paper strength, flexibility, tack and versatility are all impacted by grain direction.


The caliper of paper is its thickness. Caliper is measured in thousandths of an inches and micrometres referred to as point size. Do not confuse type point with caliper point. Type point describes the height of a particular font; caliper point describes paper thickness.


The bulk of paper denotes its thickness relative to its basis weight. For example, uncalendared paper would have a higher bulk than gloss coated paper. Remember though that paper may be bulkier or thicker than another grade, yet still have the same basis weight.


The size of paper describes its physical dimensions. An A4 sheet is 297mm long and 210mm wide. Access to specific information concerning the range of paper sizes available for any given printing job is essential to containing costs and ensuring efficient usage.


The quantity of paper refers to the number of sheets bought, sold or used. A ream is a standard unit of numerical paper quantity. Paper that is “ream-wrapped” is packaged in a bundle of 500 sheets. Cartons of paper are not defined by exact numerical specifications, but approximate weight. Cartons typically weigh around 16kg and are used in practice as a standard unit of sales.