Pulp Fundamentals (1,669 words)
by Richard Goldsmith
How would House Beautiful magazine look if it were printed on newsprint? Probably not that great; the colors would look kind of flat. The photographs would look fuzzy. It certainly wouldn't be something you'd want to keep on the coffee table, because frankly, it would look "cheap."
How would your direct mail package look if it were printed on newsprint? It probably wouldn't arrive at all, because the paper would be torn to shreds by the mail sorting equipment. If it did arrive, it probably wouldn't make a very good impression, neither would your four-color brochure. Heavy coated paper just "prints better." A newsprint order card would be difficult to write on without tearing, and it wouldn't survive the Postal Service sorters either. It would probably look pretty "cheap" too.
Certain papers are used for different forms of printed matter and there's a reason. When you send a mail piece to someone, you're conveying a message that is both written and subliminal. Paper serves a functional and aesthetic purpose.
What are the characteristics of paper that affect how it prints and how it will work for various components in your direct mail package? They are as follows:
Type of Paper
Newsprint is one type of paper. The kind of papers usually used for direct mail printing are Text and Wove. The paper manufacturers call them these names because the paper fibers have different characteristics.
Wove paper is made so that it has a higher tear strength. This makes it ideal for envelopes. It will hold up to the high-speed sorting equipment the Postal Service uses. Wove paper has a smooth finish; this helps the printing look nice because the ink doesn't spread as much as it would on a vellum (rough) finish paper. Wove paper is available in many colors, but if you use a color other than white, be sure to use one that will not interfere with the readability of the Postnet barcode.
Text papers are used for letters, brochures and order forms. Text papers come with different finishes. They can be coated or uncoated. The usual coatings are gloss (typically used for brochures), matte and dull coat. These coatings allow the ink to sit on top of the paper and not get absorbed by it. This helps keep the dots sharp so that the images will not look fuzzy.
Gloss coating is the slickest and shiniest. Matte and dull coat are also coated but not as slick. This makes them great for pieces you want to print with four-color pictures when the recipient has to write on them. It's easier to write on paper when the coating is not so slick. It's also better to use when you are marketing to seniors. The reduced glare makes it easier to read.
Uncoated text papers are used for letters, order forms, buck slips, etc.—pieces that should be easy to read and write on and do not have to show four color art. That is not to say they can't be used for four-color printing. Many printers can print four-color process on uncoated papers very beautifully. Fancy brochures are often printed on textured uncoated stock and, many magazine insert cards are too. We just don't see it as often. When the paper is uncoated, the ink can be absorbed and the dots will spread. They won't be as sharp as on coated paper. This dot spread is not a problem when you're printing type or simple photos, charts and so on.
The weight of the paper you use also has great effect on your direct mail piece. First of all, there are some postal regulations you must be aware of. The minimum weight of stock for a postcard is 75-pound text weight. The paper must also bulk to .007˝ if your mail piece is no larger than 41⁄4˝ x 6˝. If it is, it must be .009˝ thick.
Often, you use a heavier paper when you want give the impression of worth. A light flimsy paper might convey that your product is flimsy. Heavy paper will give an impression of strength and stability. If you are going to put a lot into an envelope you might also want to use a 28-pound wove instead of a more common 24-pound wove.
Don't forget, you also pay postage by weight. Generally, the heavier the mail piece, the more you pay. If you want to mail first class, you must be particularly careful because one ounce adds up very quickly. When your weight is over an ounce your postage goes up significantly. Standard mail allows you a little over three ounces before you have to pay extra.
International mail all goes by weight so you want to generally use as light a paper as you can.
You buy paper by weight. The heavier it is, the more you pay. One way to reduce your paper costs is to "lighten up."
Weight will also add opacity to your paper.
Opacity is the measure of how much you can read on the back of a piece of paper without having to turn it over. It is very important on letters as poor opacity can really detract from the look and readability of your letter. Brochures generally are printed on a little heavier paper so it doesn't seem to be as much of an issue, but it can be.
When weight is a consideration (first class or foreign mailings) you can use an Opaque sheet. These are made with extra titanium and a lighter weight will have the opacity of a heavier "normal" sheet. A 40-pound opaque can work great for letters. You pay more per pound for these papers but you need fewer pounds.
Finishes can add to the beauty and interest of a direct mail piece. We spoke before of coated vs. uncoated paper and various coatings. Uncoated text papers have many finishes available. They include Laid, Basket Weave, Linen and many more. They will affect the appearance of your printed piece so be sure to discuss these implications with your printer.
The smoothness of the surface of the paper is known as surface integrity. Think of it as the surface of a lake in which you can see the reflection of the trees. If the lake is smooth, you can see a perfect mirror image. If the wind blows and there are ripples on the water, the image will be distorted. The same is true with the images on the surface of paper. The dots that are being printed will be greatly affected by the smoothness of the surface. The smoother the surface, the nicer the reproduction, the more expensive the paper.
A paper's brightness is important because when you look at something printed, you're seeing light go through the ink and reflecting back from the paper. The brighter the paper, the brighter the printing will look.
We know what four-color reproduction will look like on white paper. If we printed on yellow paper, the colors would look different to us. That can make a very nice effect if your designer knows what he/she is doing. We can certainly use colored papers when we are printing type. It can be a very inexpensive way to make your package stand out. As mentioned previously, colored wove papers for envelopes can be very effective.
Now that we've discussed all these different characteristics, let's look at what options are available. When ordering paper, the first thing you usually think of is its intended purpose. Will it be an envelope, letter, order card or brochure?
What will you print on it? Type, pictures, heavy ink, light ink? And, what kind of a message are you trying to get across? All of these considerations will affect your decision on what kind of paper to use for each component in your direct mail package.
Outer Envelopes—Usually printed on 24-pound White Wove but remember, wove comes in other colors. Be careful of the barcode reflectance. You can also use Kraft paper, if it's going to be big and heavy, or 70-pound coated one-side paper. This is used when you're going to print a glossy outer envelope. The one-side coating keeps the envelope from slipping around a lot as it's being folded.
Letters—Usually printed on uncoated 50-pound to 70-pound text paper. Sometimes lighter paper, 40-pound opaque or heavier 80-pound text is used. It can be colored and/or textured too. Watch out for opacity. Matte coated paper can be used if you're going to print some four-color process on the letter and want it to jump out from the sheet.
Brochures—Usually printed on coated text. Coated papers are sold by grade, which measure the different characteristics we discussed previously. Premium #1 is the best paper and number #5 is the lowest grade. We usually use between grade #2 and #4 in direct mail depending on your product and your budget and we use between 50-pound and 80-pound weight. Again, some people use as low as 40-pound and as heavy as 100-pound, or more. Again, the heavier weight the "richer" it will look and the more you'll pay for paper.
Order forms—We often print order forms on card stock (uncoated or Matte coated) so they can be mailed as postcards. If the order form must be returned in an envelope, it isn't necessary to use such a heavy paper. Use matte stock if you're printing a nice four-color photo of your product. Otherwise, use uncoated stock.
These are just some of the considerations and some of the "norms." Should you use newsprint in your mailing? Perhaps. We've all gotten the article with the Post-it™ note from "R". There's a time and a place for everything. Pick your papers with the right "time and place" to achieve your creative and functional goals.
Richard Goldsmith is president and founder of The Horah Group, New York, NY. He is also the author of "Direct Mail for Dummies" and can be reached at email@example.com.