Something that many banks and credit unions never think about is the actual paper that their statements are printed on. It’s a small detail but can say a lot about your organization. Paper or the “print stock” as it’s known in the printing industry is also one of the largest drivers of price on most print jobs.
There are three big factors when it comes to stock – weight, brightness/whiteness/shade (BWS), and finish.
Paper weights are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. The higher the paper weight in text weight papers, the thicker it feels in your hand. Many of our customers prefer a one-size-fits-all approach to paper thickness, using one paper weight across the board for all of their mailings. Maybe a better option is to be intentional when deciding which mailings use which weights. For example, statements could be put on a lighter stock while important notices may go out on something more substantial.
Heavier weights tend to convey authority to your message and can add a slight perception of importance to the content printed on the stock. This heavier paper also comes with a marginal cost consideration – the typical cost difference between a 24# (twenty-four pound) stock and a 20# stock is usually around xx%.
A 24# stock is sometimes a nice middle of the road stock that falls slightly over the 20# that can be found on most office desktop printers. It only takes a small increase in paper weight to create a big difference in the feel of your commercially printed statements.
Brightness, Whiteness, and Shade (BWS)
Brightness is a lesser–known option in paper specifications but can be a large factor in cost when it comes to printing large volumes. Some printers may skimp on paper brightness in order to keep their prices low but what does that do to the look and feel of your finished pieces? Well, they start to look faded, grey, and old.
The brighter paper makes your blacks pop and colors stand out. Overall your customers might not be able to tell it’s the brightness making the difference, but they will like the brighter piece better. We’ve seen some smaller copy shops use paper with brightness levels below 90. At a brightness of 88, your paper will start to look grey in tone.
Paper mills can use certain additives to increase the reflectivity of the paper and increase brightness sometimes even above 100. While these papers are very bright, they oftentimes aren’t economical and primarily used for special projects. To use a paper over 100 brightness for statements or daily mailings would probably be overkill and you would pay for it.
Whiteness falls into the conversation of brightness as it’s also a measure of reflected light. The difference between whiteness and brightness is the spectrum of light that is measured. While brightness measures only the blue light reflected, whiteness measures all reflected light.
While it seems like whiteness should be the metric of focus, brightness is actually more important towards creating a high-end feel because of the third metric involved – shade.
Typically, shade comes in three flavors, true-white, cream-white, and blue-white. Not surprisingly, most papers today swing towards the blue-white end of the shade spectrum, and that’s because they seem brighter. This is the primary reason why the brightness spectrum is often more important than the whiteness spectrum. However, it if your statements are printed on paper that is too blue, it can affect color quality. Digital printing can oftentimes get away with paper that’s slightly bluer (and brighter appearing) than inkjet can, due to the nature of the toner sitting on top of the paper versus soaking into the fibers. This is one of the main reasons we continue to believe in the high quality of digital printing.
Less relevant to statement-only printing, but still a part of the overall conversation, paper finishes come in a variety of different flavors. The primary categories being coated and uncoated. For statement printing, uncoated paper is favored both for economical purposes and also because of the folding process that happens during the insertion into an envelope prior to mailing.
Uncoated papers typically have three different styles – smooth, woven, and laid – but many specialty variations exist as well. While smooth paper is usually the norm, it’s not unheard of for higher-end statement customers to explore super-smooth or extra-smooth varieties we carry through our paper vendors.
At the end of the day, it’s all about customer preference and extending your brand into every communication you deliver. If you’re a high-end brand looking to deliver a high-end product then a high–end paper can be appropriate for your statements. Conversely, if you’re the only game in town or competing from an economy standpoint finding the most economical option might be the right play.
No matter what your situation, we’re always open to consulting with our clients, both existing and new. So, if you’re looking to start up a new printed communications program or want to make a change in your current situation, contact us today and we’ll find the paper that’s right for you.