Paper classification, especially for coated papers, can be a confusing thing for many designers. You’d think most white coated gloss papers are all the same – right? Well, not quite. Coated papers are classified by a grading system: Premium, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Years ago the system was based on brightness (the amount of light reflected off the sheet’s surface). These days although brightness is a factor, price seems to be what determines the grade a coated paper is referred to in the market. When you get into the economy grades (#3 or lower), which is what most commercial printers use for their house stock, the differences in aesthetics and print quality can be HUGE.
So what’s a designer to do when they have to manage real world budgets and clients expectations? First make sure you know what options are available to you. Keep current on your swatchbooks, order paper samples and compare sheets – especially if you are unfamiliar with a printer’s house stock. I can’t stress this one enough, you want to compare basis weights (foreign sheets tend to be limper than domestic), the “whiteness” of the sheet (most sheets have a blue, red, of neutral undertone) and surface (this is really important if you have heavy, solid ink coverage in your design). You also want to see printed samples, especially if you’re using a special technique like a varnish or metallic inks.
One option in this economy range of papers of note is Anthem Plus from Ohio based paper-maker NewPage. When we looked at their recent promotion, Anthem Plus – The New American Workhorse, we liked what we saw. The piece, designed by Froeter Design in Chicago, showcases beautiful photography featuring images of Americana. From the corn fields of the mid-west, to the lone biker on the open road, to the smiling faces of the FDNY – this piece is brimming with American pride. It also highlights how well the sheet prints. You’ll find heavy ink coverage, including solids which really show off the sheet’s smooth surface. Striking black and white images printed as quadtones show how to add interest and beauty to four color images. Balancing the amount of white space and color, see how nicely image details pop on a gloss finish.
NewPage revamped the sheet last year in response to customer demands for a more economical, bright, blue-white sheet. Coming in at a 90 bright, it technically falls in the #2 range for brightness but priced in the economy category of a #3 sheet. It’s available in Gloss, Dull and Matte finishes, ranging from 60# Text – 100# Cover, including 110# Matte reply-card (perfect for mailing). Our only complaint is that it’s not offered in a heavyweight cover, but they have Sterling Premium for that. While it doesn’t contain any PCW content, we love the fact that it’s a domestic sheet, keeping its carbon footprint low. So often papers in this category are imports, and while we all like to feel we’re being environmentally responsible by using recycled papers, what’s the point if it takes 8,000 lbs.of CO2 emissions to get the paper here?