5. Paper and Print Media

5.1 What is it?

Paper is made from pressing moist fibres of cellulose pulp together. Once dried it produces the thin, flexible sheets to form paper as we recognise it today. The cellulose pulp can be extracted from wood, rags, or grasses. The process is speculated to have originated during the Han dynasty (2nd Century A.D) by eunuch and official Cai Lun in China, potentially as early as 105 A.D. However, the earliest archaeological finds place this paper making process in 2nd Century BC in China.

The paper industry today is a global process, with the adoption of modern techniques such as chemicals to manufacture it, China also leads its production today, closely followed by the US.

5.2 Types of Paper

Paper can be classified into seven distinct categories:

  • Paper for printing
  • Paper for wrapping – for the protection or concealment of goods
  • Paper for writing
  • Paper for blotting
  • Paper for drawing – comprising of rough surfaces for artists
  • Handmade paper – characterised by the lack of grain direction
  • Paper for speciality use – such as cigarette and toilet paper

Some common paper types include:

  • Bank paper – a thin yet strong paper for writing
  • Book paper – a type of paper used for publishing
  • Coated paper – typically coated by a polymer or compound in order to give the paper certain qualities, such as surface gloss, smoothness, weight, or to reduce the amount of ink absorbed
  • Kraft paper – is a cardboard that is sturdier than typical paper
  • Waterproof paper – a more durable type of paper that is tear and water resistant, typically made for use in wet environments
  • Wax paper – a type of moisture proof paper made by the application of wax

Uncoated Paper

Uncoated paper is more absorbent than coated paper, it is also not as smooth and tends to be more porous. Uncoated paper is typically used to give a more prestigious or elegant look to a document


Glossy paper is designed to make prints and photos look sharp and vibrant. This type of paper can also become easily marked by fingerprints and dirt, so care should be taken when handling.

Silk Paper

Silk paper has a soft feel and lies somewhere between a gloss and matte finish, it consists of a light sheen without the mirror-like shine of gloss.

Transparencies / Tracing Paper

A transparency is a thin and flexible sheet of transparent material, onto which things can be drawn. They are typically used with projectors for displaying to an audience.

Tracing paper is similar, and used more commonly to create precise copies of drawings.


Envelopes are a common packaging item. They are usually made of a thin, flat material which is cut into three shapes: a rhombus, a short-arm cross, or a kite. Once folded they are typically used to mail letters or other flat documents. Some envelope stocks can be fed through a printer or photocopier’s bypass tray and printed directly onto.

NeverTear Paper

NeverTear paper is a type of water, oil, and grease resistant print media made from a bright white polyester for strength and durability, without the need for lamination. This material can be printed on by some of the newer production printers and digital presses.

It is worth noting that some modern machines have a media library you can consult for paper compatibility, particularly on light production and wide-format machines.

5.3 Paper Size

Today the international standard ISO 216 is the paper size used by nearly every country, ISO 216 includes paper sizes A, B, and C. Paper size is hugely important as it affects many industries, almost every single business, office, and home. All printed items from cards, marketing collateral, business documents, stationery and writing paper will have originated from one of the above sizes.

Paper size is particularly important when it comes to printing, as every machine will have specifications on what size paper they can print on. This is crucial in order to avoid machine breakdowns and paper jams.

A Series

The A Series of paper sizes is the most common and widely known of the paper sequences, and starts with the largest being A0 through to the smallest at A8.
A0 is categorised as having a total area of 1 M2, and rounded to the nearest millimetre. The subsequent A Series sizes are defined by halving the previous size, for example A1 is half the size of A0, A2 is half the size of A1, and so on.

B Series

The B Series of paper is not as commonly used or as widely known as the A Series, nonetheless it is still used predominantly within commercial print markets. B Series sheets of paper are sized by way of the geometric mean (average) of A Series sheets. For example, B0 is between A0 and A1 of the A series, with successive B Series sheets being a half, a quarter, or further fractions of the B0, which itself is a metre wide.

C Series

The C Series is categorised in ISO 269 and is sized as the geometric mean of it’s A and B Series counterparts. So C4 for example is slightly larger than A4. The C Series is most commonly used for envelopes.

5.4 Grammage

The grammage, referred to as the basis weight in the United States, is the measurement of weight used in the paper industry to denote paper thickness by examining grams per square metre. Therefore, the higher the grammage of paper the thicker the sheet will be. In the US the basis weight is the mass of a ream in pounds.

Standard office paper is typically around 80 – 100gsm, with business cards, folders and postcards being printed on thicker materials typically 250 – 350gsm.

5.5 Tips Towards an (almost) Paperless Office

The importance of a paperless office is clearly widely recognised as an issue for all. With fifteen billion trees cut down each year, and nearly three trillion pages printed, offices and organisations can make small changes to their processes and help to preserve the planet.

Managed Print Software

Implementing a type of managed print software is a key element that can help an organisation go paperless. This software focuses on reducing the number of duplicate print jobs, unnecessary use of colour, and keeping ink and toner cartridge costs low. Print management software such as PaperCut and Equitrac are particularly useful for reducing waste, encouraging responsible behaviour, and making employees accountable for their use of machines.

See our range of Print Software

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