Paper Choices Abundant for Binding and Finishing Work

by Jen Clark, PostPress
Neenah swatchbooks incorporate printed samples into the front of each booklet to show various inspiring images and print techniques.

Choosing the right paper stock to convey a message is an important part of the design process. The wrong paper can send the wrong message; and the wrong message can end up being costly in the long-run. Paper not only is there to give the ink a foundation, but to enhance the design of the image designers – and their clients – want to portray.

The tactile nature of paper gives a printed piece its personality. That personality should fit with the piece’s intended purpose – whether it be low-cost, luxury or somewhere in between. Postpress companies play an important role in paper selection. An understanding of the different types of paper that are available and how these stocks fold, crease or work in packaging design, as well as adapt to foiling, embossing, engraving, thermography, trimming, diecutting and binding, is critical to the ultimate success of the project. The latest developments from two paper companies in the US include specialty coatings and finishes, as well as new colors, textures and weights.

New developments bring personality

With its recent acquisition of FiberMark, the customers of Neenah Paper, Alpharetta, Georgia, now have immediate access to thousands of colors, textures, finishes and weights in premium papers, box wraps, folding boards and labels. “Our already expansive portfolio includes a large selection of color and texture in certified digital papers,” said Jamie Saunders, marketing communications, fine paper and packaging, “and we’re adding more all the time to meet market demand.” Neenah also has increased its envelope offering to feature 33 standard styles and sizes. “That makes it super easy to find the perfect match to the majority of our papers,” she said. “Newly expanded capabilities to Neenah include specialty coatings and finishing with a focus on customization.”

The Strathmore fine paper brand from Mohawk represents 123 years of American craftsmanship.

In celebration of the Strathmore fine paper brand, which represents 123 years of American craftsmanship, Mohawk, Cohoes, New York, recently introduced four new Heritage Colors within the Strathmore line: Golden Olive, Pyro Brown, Dusk Blue and Riviera Rose, said Diane O’Connor, director of public relations. “This carefully curated palette is inspired by four colors discovered in The Strathmore Archives and represents four distinct periods in the history of Strathmore papermaking.”

Mohawk also recently introduced new shades and weights of Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress papers that have been designed to emulate the look and feel of handmade papers, with a luxurious surface that allows for a beautiful contrast between the sheet and the printed impression. It is available in two vintage shades of white – Ultimate White and Soft White – and two rich colors – Smoke Gray and Chino – carefully selected to meet the creative needs of traditional social stationers and new letterpress printers. The papers come in various weights and calipers for digital printing and for letterpress printing and matching envelopes are available.

Swatchbooks not only tool to aid decision making

Paper companies offer many resources to help designers not only to choose the perfect paper for a project but to help them through the entire design and print process. Officials from Neenah and Mohawk agree utilizing swatchbooks are one key to getting the right paper for a project. Swatchbooks showcase the paper offerings currently available and can give ideas on real-world use of specific kinds of paper.

“Swatchbooks are important for customers to be able to see the entire offering for a brand in one place,” Saunders explained. “We work to make our swatchbooks special by incorporating printed samples into the front of each one that show various inspiring images and print techniques. This allows the designer or printer to be able to really see what our papers are capable of. Seeing a swatch online is nice so that you can do an initial color check, but having a swatchbook or paper samples allows engagement with the paper on another level. Confirming weight, color and caliper is important to the overall outcome of the printed piece.”

In an effort make it easier for designers and printers to be more creative, productive and efficient with digital printing, Neenah released a series of three print demonstrations. EXPLORE is about inspiring a city, with printed samples designed to cultivate awareness and encourage action. From a creative brochure using three different papers cut to three different sizes to promote a local art space, to a unique triangle box used to create community interest by housing a small surprise, EXPLORE 2 showcases seven different printed pieces of inspiration that are practical, quick, strategic, tangible and printed digitally. EXPLORE 3 is about making events in both work and life more memorable, personal and thoughtful. The folder includes an eclectic mix of creatively designed pieces including an ingenious way to celebrate the purchase of a new home, a birth announcement, a save the date, custom bottle labels and a versioned seasonal menu for a food truck event.

Over the last year, Mohawk has redesigned its series of swatchbooks to make the paper specification process clearer, easier and more inspirational for designers, printers and paper enthusiasts. “The new Mohawk swatchbook series was designed for beauty and utility to help designers and printers discover the impact of paper, color and texture,” O’Connor said. The nine swatchbooks were developed by Hybrid Design of San Francisco, California. The swatchbooks measure 9×6″ and feature a Quick Spec section to provide a quick, organized overview of all colors, finishes and weights available within the paper grade. Waterfall features allows users to easily search by color, finish, weight or printing technique, including helpful tips on choosing finish and basis weight.

Beyond swatchbooks, Mohawk’s and Neenah’s websites provide in-depth information on paper styles, as well as best practices for each paper grade. An extensive resources library with an array of information, tips, templates and information about how to select the best paper for print projects is available at, O’Connor said. In addition, Mohawk offers two blogs – Felt & Wire and MohawkMakeReady – that provide “practical information, tips, templates, industry resources, videos and inspirational case studies to demonstrate how Mohawk fine paper has successfully been used for print, design and packaging projects,” she said.

Mohawk produces and makes available a number of free resources, downloads and publications to printers, designers and students, as well as binding and finishing companies to educate these communities about choosing and suitable use of a fine paper for their printed projects. Publications include Paper Basics, Printing Basics and Envelope Basics. It also assists educators with free paper information for their students to help educate students about how to select paper for their print projects. “We also publish various print samples on our papers, including the award-winning Mohawk Maker Quarterly, which serves as a print sample to demonstrate the beauty of projects printed on Mohawk fine papers,” O’Connor said. “The Mohawk Maker Quarterly was designed to communicate experiences that are unique to paper, to elevate print communications and to highlight the beauty and tactility of fine paper. Thousands of free samples of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly are distributed to designers, printers, merchants and paper enthusiasts each year.”

Neenah offers and to provide the resources needed not only to choose the perfect paper for a project, but to help designers through the entire design, print and finishing process. “We have Personal Proof® which lets you order three printed samples using your own artwork or artwork we’ve provided for you,” Saunders said. “We have created dielines for envelopes, packaging and various end use applications. Our calculators are mathematically engineered to help you figure out how many pounds of paper you need for your job or the recycled content of the paper you choose.” For printers, Neenah created printing tips that detail best practices of how to use specific Neenah brands, posted conversion charts and an entire section of the site dedicated to USPS guidelines. “With our Neenah Cabinet™ app for Mac OSX, iPhone, iPad and Android we have created the quickest, most efficient way to find paper,” she added. “Search papers, envelopes and packaging. Browse by color family, category or gradeline. View colors by waterfall and save favorites. Compare colors, Neenah brands and forward your selections to your printer.”

In addition, these websites offer information on how projects can be enhanced through postpress techniques such as foil stamping, embossing and diecutting, among others, and then bound into the final product using techniques like saddlestitching or perfect binding – or collated into envelopes or folders – to name a few examples.

PostPress would like to thank Neenah and Mohawk for contributing to this article. For more information, please visit and