Paper finishes

How to Choose the Right Paper and Finishes for Your Print Project

Brian Kroeker

January 26, 2023

Summary of Key Points

  • The design for your print project is important, but so are the materials. Little Rock Printing offers a great selection of different materials for various print products.
  • Generally, coated paper is best for designs with sharp text and bold colours, whereas uncoated paper is ideal for a more organic or rustic look, or for products that need to be written on.
  • Thicker materials tend to last longer and have a more premium feel, but they’re also more expensive and aren’t practical for every application (for example, you wouldn’t use cardstock to print pages in a booklet).
  • Staying in your budget and considering your design will help you narrow down your options—but some of the best ways to find the right paper and finish is by looking through our online paper library or ordering a free sample kit, which Little Rock can send directly to your doorstep.
  • You can also order a free proof of your design on any paper we sell if you want to see how it will look in a larger run. Just order a single copy and use the code FREEPROOF at checkout. For best results, cross reference your sample with the other options in our sample kit to make sure you picked the best one.

No matter what you’re printing—a document, business card, banner, or something else—the design is only the first step. You can use our gallery of free Canva templates for that, but once you’re finished, you’ll also need to give some thought to the paper type and finish you want to use for the final product! After all, those little details are often what elevate a truly great print from a generic one.

Of course, choosing from all the different paper types that Little Rock offers and selecting the ideal finish can be a challenge in and of itself—but we’re not going to let you face it alone! Just read on to discover our top tips for preparing your print job perfectly.

A Cheat Sheet for Different Paper Types

We offer an incredible variety of different paper types at Little Rock Printing, but they’re not all appropriate for every project! That’s why we narrow it down for you and display a specific list of appropriate materials to choose from on each different product page.

The following table, while not exhaustive, shows what common paper types are available for some of our most popular print products. Have a look before you get started!

Note: “X” indicates a paper type that can be used with the corresponding product.

Printing material comparison chart - what pare works with what items?

Coated vs. Uncoated Paper Types

If you looked at the chart above, you probably noticed that some of our paper and cover options are coated while others aren’t. Here’s the difference:

  • Coated paper has a thin layer of material applied to the surface to make it smoother and more glossy. This can result in sharper, more vibrant colours and sharper text when printed on.
  • Uncoated paper does not have this coating and therefore has a more natural, matte finish. This can result in a more rustic or organic appearance. Uncoated paper is also generally easier to write on. However, solid black backgrounds generally don’t look great on this type of paper, so we recommend coated options instead if your design has a lot of black in it.

If you can’t choose between coated or uncoated paper, we recommend ordering a sample of your design on each and comparing the two when they arrive.

Paper in various thicknesses to represent print options
Via Adobe Stock.

Paper and Cover Thickness

Thicker paper or covers result in higher-quality and more durable products. That’s why you’ll tend to see thicker materials used for premium products—like high-end booklet covers, business cards, art prints, and hang tags.

Thick materials aren’t always practical, though—for example, while you might use thick cardstock for the cover of a booklet, you’d never use it for the inside pages, which need to be easy to handle and turn.

Four Steps to Choosing the Right Print Materials

Now that you’ve had a chance to glance at some of our most common paper types and finish options, here are a few more steps you can take to ensure you choose the right options.

Step 1: Work Within Your Budget

Higher-quality print materials cost more, and while the difference might not seem like much for a few copies, it can be significant for bulk orders. Don’t worry, though—you’ll be able to see how much your order will cost before you place it, so you can always go back and experiment with different options and see how they’ll change the price before you purchase.

Step 2: Consider Your Design & Its Purpose

Printing something with lots of vivid colours? Coated paper is probably the way to go—and if you want it to have a nice heft to it or last longer, thicker cover and paper options will be best. That’s why you’ll often see business cards printed on thicker cardstock. But if you’re trying to create something economical and disposable (like a brochure that people can write on), lighter options like 70# Uncoated Paper will be just fine.

Blank business cards on cardstock
Via Adobe Stock.

Step 3: Get a Free Paper Sample Kit

The single best way to know what kind of paper will be best for your project is to see it up close and in person—which is why Little Rock Printing offers free paper sample kits!

Our sample kits are shipped directly to your doorstep and contain samples of every material we offer (including signage material!). We do this so you can understand exactly how each one would look and feel for your project.

You can also browse our online paper library (which also contains detailed descriptions of our other materials for products like labels, vinyl decals, poster boards, and more).

Step 4: Order a Free Proof of Your Print Project

Little Rock makes it easy to order a free proof of your design on any paper we sell, so you can see how it will look in a larger run. Just order a single copy and use the code FREEPROOF at checkout.
Since we make everything in house, making a single copy for you is no problem—and we’re confident that you’ll move forward with your order once you see what one copy looks like!

For best results, we recommend that you order one free proof on the paper you’re most interested in and also order a free sample kit. This allows you to cross-reference the kit and make sure you’re happy with your choice before placing the full order.

Questions about Choosing Paper or Finish Options? Ask Us!

As a local Calgary print shop where we do every job ourselves, we’re involved at every level of our business—including customer service. That means we’re here to help answer any questions you have about choosing the right paper type or finish for your upcoming project.

Contact Little Rock Printing now to speak with one of our experienced team members. With our help, getting your perfect print will be easier than ever.

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