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Which Paper Stock Best Suits my Book?

A sentiment commonly expressed by book consumers is their initial love of the look and feel of a book. It is a tactile experience that cannot be replicated by e-books or e-readers. Whether it be a memoir, children’s book or coffee table pictorial your choice of paper stock is an integral part of the book’s overall look and finish.

Paper stocks come in three basic categories – gloss, matte and uncoated, ranging in weight from 45gsm up to 170gsm. Cover stocks begin around 200gsm and increase up to 350gsm.

All stock weights are expressed in grammage, whereby the weight of 1 square meter of paper is expressed in grams per square meter (gsm or gm2). Most paper stock is manufactured around the ‘A’ format, A4 being the most common and A1 (8 times larger than A4) being the largest.

As a general rule the weight of stocks reflect the size of the production run required and the likely lifespan of the material being printed. For example, your daily newspaper comes on uncoated 45gsm, while most magazines and catalogues with short windows of relevance generally use lightweight stocks between 55-65gsm.

Paperbacks are printed on uncoated ‘bulky offset’ ranging in weight from 55gsm to 80gsm, while something like a more upmarket cookbook will generally use heavier coated gloss-stock between 115gsm and 150gsm.

So what stock should you consider using?

As a rule of thumb, publications that are predominantly text driven print on either uncoated or matte coated papers, which lessen the amount of light that bounces back off the sheet onto the reader’s eye. Conversely, high quality photo-books and the like use gloss paper to enhance the colour and contrast of their imagery. Textbooks and reference books often use matte/satin papers which enable the designer to aesthetically combine large amounts of text with supporting imagery.

A very important consideration is the amount of handling the book is likely to be subjected to, which must in some cases be weighed against the number of pages in the title. A good example of this is the ‘board book’ for young children whose hands are more likely to tear a lesser product, while at the other end of the spectrum Bibles are often printed on light 45gsm because of the number of pages required.

Matching your text stock to the cover stock is also something to be considered in making your decision. It is the role of the cover to hold and protect the internal stock pages, generally this means that the greater the number of text pages the heavier the cover stock required. This will also have implications for the variation and suitability of the binding process being utilised.

The amount of imagery, and therefore ink coverage, on the sheet must also be considered. Solid areas of ink can result in varying degrees of ‘show through’ when lighter weight stocks are employed. Apart from detracting from the overall appearance of the book the show through interferes with the readability of the text, as the eye needs to distinguish the images on the facing page from those leeching through from the previous page.

Other factors that influence the choice of stock include the suitability of the particular stock to certain forms of binding – in particularly some forms of glue binding require the use of uncoated stock to guarantee a lasting bond. While acid free papers are utilised when there is some form of archival requirement for the text.

With all this in mind, the following are a few stock combinations that are commonly used for various types of publications:

  • Paperbacks – text: 70gsm bulky offset / cover: 250gsm gloss art-board
  • Memoir – text: 90gsm offset / cover: 300gsm gloss art-board.
  • Textbook – 100gsm offset / cover 350gsm matte art-board
  • Cookbook – 130gsm gloss or satin / cover: 300gsm gloss art-board
  • Children’s book – text: 150gsm gloss / cover: 350gsm gloss art-board or case bound
  • Pictorial book: text – text: 170gsm satin / cover: gloss case bound.

For more information and samples on the range of stocks available please contact us.