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Production Basics: Talking about Papergrades

What do the printer or paper merchant mean when they ask if you would like a paper that is "Number 1 or Number 2?"

Bottom line, paper grades don't mean as much as they use to, let's face it, with budget cuts, you buy paper according to cost. 

However, if for some reason, you overhear a conversation like this (which would be very rare...) if a production person talks about paper in terms of the particular sheet as being premium, number “one” or number “two.” They are describing general categories of coated papers not necessarily talking about the “brightness” of a sheet (how white the paper looks to the naked eye).

In general terms, when you can convince them to spend the money, you always want to stay with a number 1 (or premium) sheet, the brightness, quality and consistency of these papers, in most cases, will give you the best looking finished piece. In today’s world of papers, technology has improved to the point where at one time you would never consider a number 2 grade of paper for your project. Mills are now offering number 2 grades that should be given the chance to be reviewed. 

This is why it’s important to handle and look at paper samples, and samples of the stock that has already been printed upon. Always compare your paper samples, on brightness, but also compare the whiteness, holdout, opacity, smoothness, finish, and paper content to select which paper is right for your job.

Check with your printer. Find out if they have a “house” stock. Sometimes a bigger printer can get some great buys when they buy in bulk… and it may actually cost less than if you picked some other lower grade paper! Lastly, your paper choice should be picked based on what is best suited to your design and budget.

Standard grade for all paper finishes:

Quality Brightness
Premium 87.9 and above
Number 1 85.0 to 87.9
Number 2 83.0 to 84.9
Number 3 79.0 to 82.9
Number 4 73.0 to 78.9
Number 5 72.9 and below