When I first began selling sheet-fed printing in the early 1980’s, my company Progressive Printing, printed an announcement flier for me. Before then I didn’t have much experience with paper other than commodity sheets used on web-offset presses. Think of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers. In the sheet-fed business a whole new world of paper opened up. I was so ignorant of paper that I didn’t understand that the paper my announcement was printed on was an expensive sheet. I didn’t know it until the office manager looked at it and said, “Wow, they must really like you because this is Cranes Crest.”
“Huh,” I said, “What is Cranes Crest?”
It turns out that Cranes Crest is made from 100% cotton fibers and is most often used on upper end letterheads and such.
Nothing more was said about my flier paper, but I realized that I had a whole lot to learn. Luckily for me a paper specifier from Zellerbach Paper Company conducted a mini-seminar in our offices. He covered paper fundamentals. His name was Mark Lander and even though he is no longer in the business I can still recall almost word-for-word some of what he taught us that day. Some of the lessons I’ve adapted and use as 60 second sermons when a customer needs to understand one aspect of paper or another.
I learned about paper because I felt I had to learn to do my job. Most people, including graphic designers find paper stocks they like and pretty much stick with them. There is nothing wrong with that approach. After all we can only hold so much information in our heads at one time. Because I took mastering of paper seriously, I found that my customers trusted my opinions and sought my advice.
If you are one who would like to know more about paper and don’t know where to go to get educated, let me give you some ideas.
- Check the yellow pages, or call a printer to find out who your local local paper merchant’s are.
- Ask the paper merchant if they hold educational classes and attend if you can.
- Be sure to get swatch books and begin building a library of paper options. If you are a frequent user of printing papers they may be willing to furnish you with a whole paper cabinet, at no charge. Ask.
- Find out how they treat new paper introductions. Do they hold paper parties or bring mill reps around to the various buyers. Ask if you can get on the invitation list.
- Research paper on the Internet, some specialty papers may not be carried by your local sources.
- Many of the paper mills have websites that allow you to sign on to their news-feeds. Sign up, this will keep you ahead of the pack.
One service provided by most paper merchants that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is their willingness to create paper dummies. If you have a project with multiple pages there may be weight issues to consider. Your choice of paper could cost or save you a ton of money in postage expense. I’ve often had dummies made and taken them to the business services department of the post office to have it weighed so we would know for sure if we would pay a higher or lesser price. Often postage on a direct mail campaign will cost more than the printing and design of the pieces.
In a future blog I’ll get into paper weights and finishes, so hold on more is coming.