Paper! We love it in all of its colors, textures, and weights – but picking the right one can be overwhelming. Your paper choice can make or break your invitations. We’re here to help you sort out all of the terms and make the right decisions for your invitations!
The Weight of It All
The most common questions we get regarding paper have to do with the weight of it. What’s text, what’s cover, and why are some thicker than others at the same weight?
At its most basic, “Text” weight describes thinner options, where “Cover” describes thicker options. (There are exceptions, of course.) These terms come from traditional book making where the majority of a book’s TEXT goes on lighter weight papers to reduce the thickness of the book, while more durable COVER weights were used to protect the interior pages of the book.
So, why is an 80# text paper thinner than an 80# cover? Text paper is made on a larger sheet size than cover paper. To determine the weight, 500 sheets of the paper are weighed before they’re cut into smaller pieces. Since the cover paper is on a smaller sheet, it’s a thicker paper. It’s one of those “simple/not simple” things, and there’s a lot of stuff like that with paper!
One More Weighty Pun
We’re all familiar with 20# text weight paper; it’s standard printer paper. While we don’t use it for much other than basic mockups, it’s a good reference to have in mind as you consider other papers. Our standard for most book-style invites is 80# text. It’s a little thicker than a standard book paper, but it feels good in-hand.
Most invitation cards are printed on 100#-110# cover weight. When you think about cover weights, though, you usually think of card stock and other thick papers. However, the range goes down to ~60# cover, and our Romance Managed is printed on 65# cover. It’s actually thinner than some of the heaviest text weights, and it gives a great, sturdy, ancient feel to the piece.
Letterpress is done almost entirely on cover stock. Often, it’s a special paper with a higher cotton content so the impression is more dramatic. However, some of those come in 90#-110# cover weights that will run through most digital presses. It’s a good way to get the feel of a fine paper even if letterpressing is out of your price range. If you are able to afford letterpressing, then consider a 220# cover weight stock. Not only is the thickness of the paper striking, but the way it takes the impression is fantastic.
Texture and Color
Texture combines with weight and color to establish the feel and the look of your paper. Incidentally, the process used to create papers of certain textures or colors can also establish the smell of your paper. And if you don’t think the smell of the paper matters, go find some cassette tape inserts from the late 80’s or early 90’s. The paper used in a lot of those is still stinky nearly 30 years later!
There is a tremendous list of textures (just watch the video above), and the range of colors covers the entire visual spectrum. We use a lot of eggshell, smooth matte, pearlescent, and parchment textures in our pieces in a variety of shades. The most extreme texture and color example is the leaf that accompanies our Tolkien suite. It has a veined texture to the paper that really sells the illusion because it feels natural but unusual.
If you’re not able to find a paper in the color you want, just remember that digital printing can give you great, smooth color fills. There are, as always, some exceptions.
Three Things to Consider
In the suite as a whole, you’re carefully selecting paper choices that compliment each other and function well. Keep in mind – paper choice often depends on what the manufacturer makes in certain colors or textures or weights. With that in mind, here are 3 important things to consider:
Image: How will your design look on the paper when it’s printed? If printing with digital printers, smooth papers work best for crisp photography and large areas filled with ink. For letterpress, thicker, textured papers are best (see above).
Durability: Pick the right weight for the job. For example, cover weight for a postcard. Ask yourself how the piece will be handled, and what it might need to survive.
Functionality: What does the paper need to do? How does it need to work? You need to select the features of the paper based on the way that you need to use them so they work well. Some thicker papers won’t fold at all, while others will fold but they won’t lay flat when folded. You can also combine different papers into a layered card to get the desired look or function.
Image, Durability, and Functionality based on Weight, Texture, and Color: There’s a lot going on with paper, and we’ve only begun to *ahem* cover it. (Sorry.) That’s why we recommend partnering with a professional so that your invitations’ paper makes the perfect first impression.