One of the first questions a commercial printer will ask is, “What are you thinking about for paper?” Printers know better than anybody that when it comes to direct mail, your paper selection can have an impact on your mailing’s cost and effectiveness. What’s more, you need to comply with USPS® paper regulations for direct mail.
4 key paper qualities to consider for direct mail pieces
It’s important to understand the basics of paper before answering that question from your printer. Once you know the terminology, you’re better prepared to address the other variables. Here are the key paper qualities to consider:
- Finish refers to the paper’s surface texture, which affects the appearance of the printed piece. Paper is typically either uncoated — dull and unreflective — or coated for a shiny or matte finish.
- Weight is measured in pounds but refers to the paper’s thickness. It has an impact on the appearance of the printed piece, your mailing’s postage, the printer’s presses and the Post Office™ mailing equipment.
- Opacity identifies how much printing will show through on the other side of the sheet. A lighter weight opaque is preferred for direct mail.
- Brightness indicates the paper’s ability to reflect blue light and affects the paper’s readability.
Other factors for choosing the right direct mail paper
There’s much more to paper selection than understanding the vocabulary, of course. Other factors include:
- Availability. Make your paper decision early in the process so that your printer can locate it and arrange delivery if it’s not in house.
- Equipment. Is this paper compatible with your preferred commercial printer’s presses? This is a key question when a designer, not the printer, makes the paper selection.
- Image. The paper must fit your brand’s image and personality. You don’t want cheap-looking paper for an upscale, expensive product. Similarly, if your company is positioned as environmentally friendly, you’ll need to use recycled paper.
- Samples. Before making the final selection, ask to see printed paper samples to determine if you’ll be satisfied with the quality of your project.
- Flexibility. Be open to small design changes that can save you money on paper or postage. Something as simple as reducing the finished piece size by a fraction of an inch could mean you can buy less paper and spend less money.
Finally, share information about your mailing’s purpose with your printer so you get the best advice possible. A veteran printer will usually know what you need and whether the shop can provide it.Direct Marketing 101, Small Business