A professional-looking printed document is not achieved only by the quality of the document's layout and design. Even the most basic Word document can look impressive if the paper on which it is printed is carefully selected.
The first issue to consider is the paper thickness, which is usually expressed in g / m2, and increases in thickness from 80 g / m2 up to 160 g / m2 or even 200 g / m2. The higher the number the heavier the paper is and most printer / copier manuals will give a guide to what type of paper to use for the purpose.
The lowest grade of 80 g / m2 is the standard and most widely used for ordinary, everyday office copying and printing, such as faxes, drafts, emails and in high-speed copiers.
However, for some documents, especially if they are going out to clients or customers, a higher grade of paper of 100 plus would be better especially for proposals, presentations and for double-sided printing to prevent type on one side showing through.
Higher grades of paper like 160 g / m2 should be used for signs and flyers, professional presentations and heavy-coverage documents.
Any of these thicknesses can be used in an ordinary office printer / copier.
The impression of quality is partly about perception and psychology. A heavier, slightly stiffer paper feels somehow more impressive. However, there are other factors that should be considered.
The brightness of a paper can also have an effect on the quality of the image produced. The whiter and brighter the paper is, the sharper, more vivid and crisp the letters, images and colors appear.
There is a third factor relating to paper quality that can have an impact on the look of the final document and this is whether the paper is laminated, also known as coated. This does not necessarily mean a glossy surface. Laminates can be either matt or silk finish also.
The value of a laminated surface is that it keeps ink from spreading before it dries on the paper. Again this gives a crisper, sharper print and can be especially important if the document contains images that include fine detail or are in color.
Somehow a heavier, slightly stiffer paper feels more impressive. The one remaining issue to consider when choosing a paper for printing is whether it is going to be used for documents that will need to be archived for a substantial length of time, something that is often a legal requirement in professions like the accountancy, legal and health and care sectors.
The quality of and production methods used for recycled paper have improved steadily since the early days of recycled paper, which was often slightly greyish and was held to be more prone to paper jams in printers. Nowadays the efficiency of the way it is produced and the use of bleaches mean it is possible to produce much better quality, white recycled paper.
If the environment is a major concern to a company, another option is to look for the FSC logo on the pack – it represents the Forest Stewardship Council, a non profit organization that promotes the responsible management of the world's forests. FSC sets very high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable way.
The one remaining consideration when choosing a paper for printing is whether it is going to be used for documents that will need to be archived for a substantial length of time, something that is often a legal requirement in professions like the accountancy, legal and health and care sectors. In this case it is better to choose a paper that is acid free, which prevents documents from yellowing over time.
Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers