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best paper for catalogs printing

What is the Best Paper for Catalog Printing?

Catalogs serve an important role in marketing products and services to potential customers. Unlike a brochure or flyer, catalogs allow you to display detailed product information, pricing, imagery and more.

With the rise of ecommerce, print catalogs have needed to step up their game. Studies show that high-quality catalogs can boost sales and support omnichannel marketing strategies. But it all starts with choosing the right paper.

So what is the best paper to print catalogs on? As a professional China catalog printing manufacturer, I will answer it in this complete guide.

best paper for catalogs printing

Why the Right Paper Matters for Catalog Printing

I’m going to start this guide by making one thing crystal clear:

The paper you choose WILL make or break your catalog.

Cheap paper makes your catalog look…well, cheap! Like those annoying flyers that land on your doorstep once a week.

But premium paper makes your catalog feel luxurious in the hand of potential customers. When paired with compelling product imagery, premium paper helps create an immersive brand experience that makes customers want to buy.

Characteristics That Impact Paper Selection

These four paper characteristics have the biggest influence on catalog quality:

Paper Weight: Heavier paper feels more luxurious. But too heavy makes catalogs hard to mail. I’ll share the sweet spot for catalog paper weight below.

Brightness: Brighter paper makes images “pop” more. Most catalogs look best at 90+ brightness.

Coating: Coatings affect how vividly ink prints on paper. Gloss and silk coatings work well for most catalogs.

Opacity: Thicker paper prevents images from showing through to the other side. This enhances readability.

Now let’s explore the best paper types and weights specifically for catalog printing projects.

Best Paper Types for Printing Catalogs

When choosing paper for catalogs, you typically want a thicker, high-quality coated stock. Uncoated papers lack the smooth, glossy finish that makes images shine.

Here are two paper types I recommend for most catalog printing jobs:

Gloss Coated Paper

Gloss coated paper features a smooth, reflective coating. This enhances color vibrancy and image reproduction. So gloss coated paper is excellent for product catalogs containing photography and graphics.

However, the ultra-shiny finish can cause glare. This can make small text harder to read. But creative designers can work around this with larger fonts and plenty of white space.

Gloss papers range from a subtle sheen to a lustrous, almost mirror-like finish. I suggest picking one in the middle for readability.

Silk Coated Paper

Silk coated paper provides the happy medium between gloss and matte. It eliminates glare while still providing a polished finish.

The key advantage of silk coated paper is it keeps images clear and crisp. But it cuts down on reflective glare compared to full gloss. This makes silk coating ideal for catalogs with both imagery and text content.

Heavier paper costs more. But going too light looks cheap and feels flimsy.

Through testing, I’ve found 100 lb gloss text to be the ideal sweet spot balancing quality and cost.

Let’s explore why by comparing popular paper weight options:

70 lb Gloss Text – Cheapest option but almost too lightweight for catalogs. Makes images look dull. Shows fingerprints and smudges.

80 lb Gloss Text – Slightly better than 70 lb but still a bit too flimsy. Not quite crisp enough for high-res imagery.

100 lb Gloss Text – Provides an ideal balance of durability and flexibility. Feels substantial while folding well for mailings. Enhances clarity of images/text.

80 lb Gloss Cover – Extremely durable for repeated handling but overly thick for catalogs. Makes binding and folding more challenging.

Catalog paper weight chart

The minor cost savings of going below 100 lb often isn’t worth the decline in print results and durability.

I suggest starting your evaluation with 100 lb gloss text samples. Then explore lighter or heavier weights if needed to balance your cost and quality requirements.

Key Catalog Paper Specifications

Beyond weight and coating, a few other paper specifications impact catalog quality:

Sheet Size – 10 x 13 inches and 12 x 18 inches are popular catalog sheet sizes. Pick dimensions fitting your page count, imagery and catalog structure.

Brightness – 92+ brightness enhances clarity of images/text. Brighter isn’t always better though. Going above 96 brightness provides minimal improvement for most catalogs.

Opacity – For pages with heavier ink coverage, 96+ opacity prevents show-through to the other side. This varies based on imagery/graphics.

Calliper/Caliper – In points, calliper measures paper thickness and correlates with durability. Around 6-10 points is ideal for easily mailable catalogs.

When beginning your project, I suggest requesting paper mill sample books to choose from actual paper options. Pictures on a screen rarely do justice regarding precise colors, coating, thickness, etc.

As you evaluate paper, follow the criteria above as a starting point. Then select options aligning with your brand identity and catalog objectives.

Tips for Choosing Catalog Paper

Picking the perfect paper for your catalog involves both art and science. Follow this checklist to guide your decision-making process:

Clarify catalog objectives – Will it be direct mailed? What feeling do you want readers to have flipping through it? Should it stand out on retail displays? Defining goals and use cases informs appropriate paper selection.

Gather paper mill samples – Evaluating physical samples will provide a far better representation over pictures on a screen. Samples help you experience precise texture, thickness, coating and quality.

Map out page contents – Audit imagery, text, graphics, etc on each catalog page. This helps determine ideal opacity, smoothness and other attributes catering to your layouts.

Calculate costs – When prioritizing aesthetics, keep budget realities in mind. Request quotes from your printer including paper options at different price points fitting your goals and constraints.

Cover vs Text Paper for Catalogs

You have one more big formatting decision regarding catalog paper selection – whether to use thicker cover paper stock for catalog covers.

As the name suggests, cover paper is heavier than text paper. Here’s how they compare:

Cover PaperText Paper
80 lb+Under 80 lb
More Substantial FeelLighter & Flexible
Challenging to BindEasy to Stitch & Bind

The choice depends on your goals and product offering. Here are two scenarios where using cover paper for catalog covers makes sense:

Premium Brands – For boutique or luxury products, cover paper helps catalogs feel more substantial in customers’ hands. This aligns with posh branding.

Durable Industry Catalogs – In industrial contexts, workers reference supplies/parts catalogs daily. Thicker covers prevent wear better preserving catalog condition.

In many cases though, sticking with text weight paper throughout simplifies production. This avoids challenges introduced binding thicker cover stock into catalogs.

I suggest evaluating budget, use cases and branding to determine if upgrading catalog covers to cover stock makes sense. In most instances, 100 lb gloss text will suffice for catalog covers and inside pages.

FAQs About Choosing Catalog Paper

Here are answers to a few common questions I receive around optimal paper selection for catalog marketing materials:

What about environmental impact? Eco-conscious brands rightfully prioritize sustainability. Many paper suppliers now offer recycled papers with post-consumer waste. Just beware that going too lightweight looks cheap regardless of environmental wins.

Any options besides gloss coating? While gloss and silk represent ideal catalog coatings, matte finishes certainly work too. Just know matte papers won’t make imagery pop quite as vibrantly. Uncoated feels too raw for most catalogs.

Can I use really heavy paper? You CAN use 120 lb+ papers. But extremely heavy paper introduces unnecessary production challenges for most catalogs. Focus first on papers in the 80-100 lb range before evaluating heavier options.

Should I use special finishes or textures? For most catalogs, I don’t recommend getting too gimmicky with paper selection. Unique finishes like soft touch coating help differentiate catalogs. But if overdone, special papers distract rather than accentuate core content/products.


Choosing catalog paper requires balancing cost, durability and alignment with brand identity. Through internal testing and client projects, 100 lb gloss text represents an ideal sweet spot for most catalogs.

I suggest beginning your evaluation there. Gloss coating helps imagery stand out while 100 lb provides sufficient thickness for a premium customer experience.

Just remember – cheap paper makes for cheap-feeling (and cheap-converting) catalogs. Investing a bit more in paper quality delivers exponential returns through higher perceived value, durability and customer response.

What paper specifications do you prioritize most for your catalog projects? I welcome your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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