choosing the paper

Paper does not equal paper

There are a lot of different types of papers and the paper has a big impact on how the photo or brochure looks and feels. Thus, the material should be selected based on the look you want to achieve. Different shades of white, rough or smooth surface, color reproduction – all those things change how the viewer perceives the object.

As there is a lot to know and write about paper (at the end there are some links and book recommendation from us that we found helpful) we will make this quiet brief and tell you a few things about paper by means of our sharing is scary zine.


The tone / shades of white

A paper’s color affects the color reproduction. Warmer white tones contain more yellow while a cooler white tone contains more blue.  A neutral or true white shade reflects the color spectrum equally. Cream white paper swallows/absorbs blue and cooler colors and will look somehow yellowish. A cool white paper does the opposite, so that it will look blueish and cooler. And then there are also a lot of other shades in between these three.

For most pages of the sharing is scary zine we decided on a “standard” white tone that leans towards a cooler/brighter white. There will be more info about which other papers we used.

Paper grain

Paper used for printing is produced with the grain of the paper in one direction, this is the direction in which most of the fibers lie. Paper can be be either short grain (parallel to paper’s short side) or long grain (parallel to the paper’s long side). This depends on how the paper was cut during production. The paper’s grain direction affects how paper curls or changes shape. Whenever possible you should go with the grain not against it. Load the paper in printer correctly to avoid curling. Also fold paper parallel to the grain direction; paper folded against the grain may be rough and crack along the folded edge.

Find out your paper’s grain: Tear a sheet of paper to check the direction of the grain. Is the tear is straight, it means that it is in the same direction as the paper’s grain direction. Not straight means that it goes against the grain.

Weight / thickness

Paper weight is generally expressed as grams per square metre ( g/m2, grammage), a measure that makes it easy to compare any two pieces of paper. The standard office paper for example has about  80g/m2. For sharing is scary we used a slightly heavier paper, which has about 120g/m2. It is good for futher processing, because it’s not to thick and with minimal show through.

Smoothness / finish / duplex printing

The rougher the surface, the poorer the image quality. This is somewhat true, but as everything else, it depends on the look you want to achieve. (You can adjust the printer to the roughness of your paper.) But this is another matter; for sharing is scary we decided on a smoother surface, because when you’re planning to print this zine there’s another advantage to a smoother surface: when you’re folding or binding it is more easy to handle and it won’t break or frizzle as quickly. When you’re printing a kind of brochure or magazine at home it is very important that the paper is suited for both-side printing. The typical photo-paper has often a finish that is only applied to one side only (you can feel if one side is different than the other).


Further reading / info

(list will be continued)

test_paper grain direction
pdf_ricoh: operating instructions / guide to paper
video_grain direction / book binding basics