Magazines Register

Heavy Weight, Glossy, Sheetfed — Say What?

Digital to offset printing. Giclee to inkjet. Heavy weight to the tooth of a paper. Learning the printing process can feel like studying a whole new language. Add in the pressure to make the best decision — and the consequences of getting it wrong — and your choice of paper could cost more than you bargained for. Lighten the load with this brief breakdown on paper for magazine publishers.

Defining terms

Magazine printing can be confusing, and for one new to the process, choosing which paper to use can be overwhelming. Start by boosting your basic paper vocabulary:

  • Weight. A paper’s weight refers to the weight of an entire ream. A ream is typically comprised of 500 larger sheets before being cut down to smaller sizes, such as letter or ledger. The thicker the paper, the heavier its weight. Bond paper typically weighs between 20 and 80 lbs., while cardstock ranges from 50 to 140 lbs.
  • A paper’s finish is its sheen or texture. Uncoated papers preserve the material’s natural texture; examples include linen or vellum papers, which are good choices for letterhead, art projects, and personal stationery. Glossy papers have a shiny surface perfect for printing photographs. Papers with a matte finish lack the sheen and texture of the others, but they are excellent for adhering color.
  • Sheetfed vs. rolled. All paper is created in rolls. Sheetfed paper has already been cut from its original roll into individual sheets. Each sheet can then be fed into a printer one at a time. Printing on rolled paper reverses this process, so the paper remains on its original roll during printing and is cut down to size afterwards.

Knowing the terminology is a good start, but how do you know which paper is best for your publication?

Paper preferences

For magazine publishing, choose a paper heavy enough to maintain durability and light enough to keep your shipping costs under control. Many magazine covers are printed on 110-pound glossy, but interior pages are often printed on a lighter 80- or 70-pound glossy.

Glossy paper is traditionally the most popular finish for magazines with a lot of photographic content — think Vogue and National Geographic. But in the last ten years, more magazine publishers have drifted toward matte or uncoated papers to give their finished products a more textured or natural feel. Examples of this style include Kinfolk, Breathe, and Flow.

The choice between rolled or sheetfed paper depends on your printing partner and its in-house capabilities. Communicate with your printer to make a final choice on paper. Choosing the right paper can be a challenge, but the right partner will happily help you navigate this critical decision.

Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.

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