Paper Matters Blog
Looking Beyond Paper Specifications

Published paper specifications won’t tell you everything you need to know about paper performance

When it comes to choosing paper for your next project, just look at the paper specifications. They’ll tell you everything you need to know. Or will they?

In truth, the published paper specifications tell only part of the story. Information about basis weight, caliper, brightness and smoothness can help you narrow your search to give a starting point in considering the type of paper that is right for your project, but it won’t guarantee how a specific paper will perform compared to a similar product from a different manufacturer.  Many papers with the same published specifications will behave quite differently on press, this is why it is important to look beyond paper specifications when selecting paper for your print project.

5 Tips to Consider When Looking Beyond Paper Specifications

1.  Choose Your Grade Carefully

Manufacturers usually offer multiple paper grades, with premium grades delivering better results than base grades.

Domtar offers three brands in our commercial printing portfolio to give customers a variety of options for various projects, priorities and budgets.  Husky® is our baseline offset printing grade. It’s going to print very well, but if you are looking to amplify a brand with high-resolution printing that boosts details in imagery or graphics, you may want to consider a higher grade of paper in the same basis weight; such as our Cougar® brand.

2.  Look at Formation

How uniform is the paper structure? The more uniform it is, the more consistently it will print. If you go into a press room, you’ll actually see printers hold up the paper and look through it with a light to see how uniform it is.  When looking beyond paper specifications, you will notice the difference in uniformity from one brand to another.

That’s something that all mills try to control through fiber selection, how the fiber is refined and other variables in the manufacturing process.   Just because a paper has the same opacity, brightness and smoothness as another product don’tmean it has the same sheet structure.

3.  Ask About Guarantees

Most manufacturers will have some sort of gaurantee for their products. Make sure you hold them to their standards and let your printer or paper supplier know if there are issues.  It could be that the issue is unknown and needs attention.

Domtar guarantees that its products are designed to perform well in a variety of applications.

4.  Pay Attention to Cleanliness

If the paper’s surface is covered in fibers or if the edges aren’t cleanly cut, it won’t print well; debris creates voids in the printed images. We have stringent processes in place to help us prevent that.

5.  Demand Consistency

Look for a paper brand that delivers consistent results within and across its product lines.  We have a detailed process that ensures each roll looks and performs the same from beginning to end, and that each brand is consistent across rolls and mills.

The project may start with paper specifications, but it shouldn’t end there. It is critical to collaborate and engage your printer when you see something not happy with.  They will be able to help you look beyond paper specifications and identify the right paper brand for your print project.


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