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Choosing the Best Paper for Your Postcards: Types, Weight, Uses & More

types of paper for DIY postcards

Selecting the perfect paper for postcards can be a challenging task as it largely depends on the intended use and personal preferences. However, there are some common types of paper and cardstock that are often recommended for creating impressive and durable postcards. 

By understanding the qualities of each type, one can make an informed decision and choose the best option that suits their specific needs.

Why is Paper Choice Important for Postcards?

Choosing the right paper for postcards is crucial as it determines the overall quality, appearance, and durability of the final product. The best paper for postcards will effectively convey the intended message, while also providing high-quality visuals and a lasting impression on the recipient.

What is the Best Paper?

The best paper for postcards depends on the purpose of the postcard and the desired emphasis on the content and visuals. Taking into account factors such as thickness, finish, and opacity ensures a high-quality final product that effectively communicates the intended message while leaving a lasting impression on the recipient.

Different Types

Coated vs Uncoated Paper

Coated paper has an ink absorbant layer covering the paper base. This type of paper is suitable for print jobs with images and artwork, as the coating traps ink and enhances vibrancy and detail. Coated postcard paper can be further divided into gloss and matte finishes. Common coated paper types include the following:

  • Paper stock: a lightweight option typically used for brochures, flyers, and magazines
  • Cardstock: a thicker and more durable option often used for business cards, invitations, and postcards
  • Cover paper: a heavy, sturdy paper typically used for book covers, greeting cards, and folders

Uncoated paper, on the other hand, does not have a coating. Ink is absorbed into the paper  fibers. The results are more muted colors and slightly blurred text when printed. Common applications for uncoated paper include stationery, envelopes, newsletters, and flyers. Uncoated paper tends to cost less than coated products. 

Matte vs Glossy Finish

Matte and glossy finishes are two popular choices when selecting the best paper for postcards and other print materials.

Matte finish has a non-reflective, muted appearance that showcases fine details. It tends to be suitable for text-heavy designs or if a subtle appearance is desired. Matte paper can be coated or uncoated.

Gloss finish has a shiny, reflective appearance that enhances colors and adds vibrancy to images. It is often used for photographs and graphic-heavy designs. Glossy paper is typically coated, which increases its resistance to smudging and fingerprint marks.

White vs Colored Paper

White paper is a classic option for postcards and other print materials, providing a neutral background that allows colors, text, and images to stand out. White paper can be found in various shades, ranging from bright white to softer ivory tones.

Colored paper, available in a wide range of hues such as blue, orange, pink, and yellow, can add a distinctive touch to postcards and complement specific themes or designs. However, it is important to consider the color contrast with the images and text to ensure that they remain visible and legible.

Paper Weight and Thickness

Weight and Points

When choosing the best paper for postcards, it's important to consider the weight and thickness of the paper to ensure durability and a professional appearance. Paper weight is typically measured in either pounds or grams per square meter.  Heavier paper weights provide better durability and higher quality feel.

Index cards, posters, brochures, and magazines all have specific paper weight recommendations for optimal performance. For postcards, a weight range of 80-110 lb. cover stock (216-297 gsm) or 9-14 mil / pt is recommended to ensure they withstand handling and mailing conditions. This weight range strikes a balance between durability and affordability for most postcard projects. 

Thickness and Caliper

In addition to paper weight, thickness, sometimes called caliper, is another important factor to consider when selecting paper for postcards. Paper thickness can be reported as mil / points (pt) or microns and refers to the actual physical thickness of the sheet. Thicker paper is less likely to bend, tear, or become damaged during handling and mailing.

Cardstock thickness is important for postcard durability as well. While regular lighter-weight paper may be sufficient for brochures and some promotional materials, postcards should generally be printed on thicker cardstock to ensure they are able to withstand the mailing process.

A thickness range of 12-15 mils (300-380 microns) is commonly used for postcards, providing enough rigidity to withstand the mailing process and maintain a professional feel. Some premium postcard options may use even thicker paper, but this may result in higher production and mailing costs.

Different Uses

Personal vs Business Postcards

When selecting paper for personal postcards, consider factors such as the purpose and recipients' preferences. A high-quality, slightly textured matte paper can offer a pleasant touch and showcase images or text in a tasteful manner. Linen cardstock is another suitable option for personal use, as it has a luxurious look and feel.

For business postcards, choose a professional and durable material like coated cardstock. This will ensure your postcards withstand handling and convey your business's professionalism.

Marketing Campaigns

When running a marketing campaign using postcards, it's essential to consider the target audience, message, and desired outcome. To engage clients and potential customers, use a high-quality and sturdy cardstock material that can endure wear and tear. Coated cardstock can give your postcards a professional and polished look while also enhancing the impact of visual elements.

Printing Invitations and Greeting Cards

When printing invitations and greeting cards, it's important to select paper that reflects the sentiment and occasion. For casual events and personal notes, textured matte or linen cardstock can create warm, elegant pieces. Formal events and greetings often call for a heavier, more luxurious cardstock.

Creating Posters and Menus

Posters and menus require durable materials to withstand frequent handling and exposure. Cardstock with a matte or satin coating is an ideal choice, as it can resist fingerprints and smudges while providing a sharp print finish. When creating menus, opt for a heavier cardstock to ensure longevity and minimize curling or damage.

Influence of Paper on Design and Print

Effect of Paper on Ink and Printing

The choice of paper plays a crucial role in determining the quality of ink and printing on postcards. Different types of paper have varying effects on ink absorption and drying time. Smooth stationery, for instance, may provide a sharper and more vibrant print. However, rougher or textured papers could give a more unique and tactile feel to the postcard.

It is essential to consider the printing method, such as inkjet or laser printing when selecting paper. Inkjet printers work best with paper specifically designed for inkjet use, while laser printers require paper with higher heat resistance.

See our comparison of Inkjet and Laser Printers

Role of Paper in Embossing and Foil Stamping

Embossing and foil stamping are popular print marketing techniques that enhance the visual appeal of postcards. The thickness and texture of the paper significantly influence the effectiveness of these techniques. Heavier paper stocks are preferred for embossing, as they can hold an impression without tearing or distorting. Similarly, paper with a smoother surface is suited for foil stamping, as it allows the foil to adhere evenly.

Impression of Paper on Photos

Incorporating photos and images into your postcard designs requires careful consideration of the paper you choose. High-quality printing paper can make a significant difference in the appearance and longevity of the photos. Ideally, opt for papers with a matte or glossy finish, as they can enhance the colors, contrast, and sharpness of images. Additionally, thicker paper stocks can provide a more professional, high-quality feel to your postcards.

Impact of Finish on Aesthetics

The finish of your postcard paper is another crucial aspect that contributes to its overall aesthetics and design. Available in matte, glossy, and other specialized finishes, each option provides a unique look and feel. Matte finishes offer a softer, more sophisticated appearance, while glossy finishes can make colors pop and create a more vibrant, eye-catching effect. The choice of finish ultimately depends on your design goals and the preferences of your target audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal paper weight for postcards?

The ideal paper weight for postcards usually ranges between 100lb to 130lb cover stock. This translates to 50 - 65lb. in the bond weight basis. This weight gives a good balance between durability and quality, making it suitable for most printing and mailing purposes. However, you might consider a lighter weight if you're on a budget or a heavier weight for more premium postcards.

Which paper sizes are commonly used for postcards?

Commonly used postcard sizes include 4x6 inches and 5x7 inches. These sizes are typically used for personal and promotional purposes, as they provide enough space for creative designs and essential information. Some businesses also use EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail) postcards, which have larger dimensions like 6.5x9 inches and 8.5x11 inches.

Which paper finish is best?

The best postcard paper finish depends on the intended purpose and design of the postcard. Glossy finishes provide a shiny and vibrant look, which is ideal for colored images and photography. Matte finishes, on the other hand, offer a more understated and elegant appearance that's suitable for minimalist designs or when writing on the postcard is important.

How does postcard paper thickness affect print quality?

Paper thickness can impact the print quality and overall appearance of postcards. Thicker paper stocks, such as 12-15 mil / pt, can give a more luxurious feel and better durability. They're also more resistant to bending or damage during handling and mailing. However, thinner paper stocks can still yield high-quality prints but may be more susceptible to damage.

Are there any eco-friendly postcard stock options?

Yes, there are eco-friendly postcard paper options available. You can choose recycled paper, which typically contains a percentage of post-consumer waste materials. This helps reduce the environmental impact of paper production. Look for certifications like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), which ensure that the paper is sourced responsibly from sustainably managed forests.

Original Publication Date: October 26, 2023

Article Last updated: May 06, 2024

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