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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Working With Catalog Printing Companies: Specifying Very Thin Paper

We’ve been discussing thicker paper in the PIE Blog recently, how to buy paper for catalog printing that will feel substantial between the fingers of an avid reader. But there are equally important reasons, in some cases, to specify very thin paper when requesting bids from catalog printing companies.

When or Why Would You Want to Do This?

Let’s say you are designing an industrial parts catalog. I just received one yesterday listing various custom printing related items, like the fork lifts printing companies use to move large webs of paper. The book was about 360 pages long but only half an inch thick. On one hand, if the catalog were much thicker, it would be an inconvenience. A two-inch thick book, like the old Sears Catalog, would be unwieldy and difficult to read comfortably. It would be heavy. More importantly, it would be expensive for the business printing vendor to mail because of its weight. And in a world where many print catalogs have moved online (making the cost of mailing and postage disappear entirely), a heavy catalog is anathema.

What Are Your Options for Light Paper?

First of all, going back to a prior blog entry about book printing paper, 70# Finch Opaque “mics” to 416 ppi (pages per inch). That means that a 416-page print catalog produced on this stock would be one inch thick. In contrast, Consoweb Advantage, a 36# LWC sheet (lightweight coated), would yield a much lighter and thinner catalog. The ppi of this paper is 954 ppi, so a catalog made from this stock would be approximately .38 inch thick.

Furthermore, let’s say the weight of the catalog printed on 70# Finch was 1.5 pounds. And let’s say the weight of the catalog printed on 36# Consoweb was 10.5 ounces. If you multiply this out by, say, 3,000 copies, your postage cost will be much cheaper for the catalog printed on lightweight paper. If you multiply the weight difference by a truckload of catalogs, your freight charges for direct shipping could also be significantly higher or lower based on your choice of paper.

One Big Consideration

Lightweight papers, which include #5 LWC stocks, like Consoweb, and supercalendered paper (SC-A, SC-A+ and such, which are pressed between multiple sets of metal rollers during the paper-making process to create a thin sheet with a hard paper surface)–these all run only on web presses (note the “web” in “Consoweb”). You will need to solicit bids from catalog printing companies with web presses (roll-fed rather than sheetfed). But this needn’t be a problem. After all, if you are printing a catalog, the chances are that your press run is long and your need for the showcase quality printing (dead-on color) you get with sheetfed presses is not an issue. And web presses can save you thousands of dollars in printing costs compared to the same jobs being printed by a custom printing service with sheetfed equipment.

What to Look For

Paper grades are listed as follows. You can buy a No. 1, No.2, or No. 3 coated freesheet (CFS). These paper stocks will become less bright as the numbers increase, but they will still be relatively bright (approximately 84 to 94, give or take, on a 100-point scale). Over the last several years, even the lower grades have become brighter.

Then you have paper such as No. 4 CGW (coated groundwood: i.e., more impurities and lower brightness). Then comes No. 5 LWC (lightweight coated), then the supercalendered stocks (note the spelling, “calender,” not “calendar”), then newsprint.

At the lower end of the scale (No. 5, LWC for instance), you will note a dramatic decrease in brightness. Consoweb’s brightness is in the low 70’s, compared to that of Finch Opaque (96 bright). If you’re producing a catalog of industrial printing materials (drums for ink and solvents, conveyor belts, ladders, etc.), the brightness of the paper would be less important than its thinness and lightness.

Talk with catalog printing companies to familiarize yourself with your paper options and the nuances of thin paper. Between the web presses most catalog printing services have on their pressroom floor, and the thinner than usual paper, you can save thousands of dollars in paper costs, postage, and freight.

10 Responses to “Working With Catalog Printing Companies: Specifying Very Thin Paper”

  1. Jon says:

    is it more likely to rip?

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your question about thin paper. As long as the tension is right in the web press, it should be fine. Think of how thin Bible paper is, and Bibles are printed on a web press. Of course, if the paper is not physically sound in one location in the web roll, that flaw in the paper could cause a web break (a rip in the paper that shuts down the press). But the short answer to your question is that thin paper should not rip.

  2. Great post. I appreciate that you put a questions and the answers too. It will help us alot! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  3. Really good information about paper. The info will help a lot of people. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

    • admin says:

      You’re welcome. I think a lot of print buyers don’t have a broad awareness of paper qualities and options. I wanted to help them save money and avoid stress, so I collected all the paper information in one place. Thank you for your support.

  4. Trudy says:

    This article is very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Catalogs are personalized small books, pamphlets, or multi-page displays of items providing expressive information about the products or services. They are an advertising tool in a modified formatting of designs, images, and information to support, promote, and help in branding the product or service.


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