Leapin’ lizards! The last time there were so many new, uncoated paper stocks introduced to the graphic design community was probably the same week that fire was invented. It’s been a long time coming, but there are great new finishes, textures and hues now available for printing and packaging projects.

With the addition of these beautiful new paper stocks design potential is growing exponentially. Coupling the new stunning colors and finishes with outstanding graphic design can yield breathtaking results. In this article we’ll introduce you to some exciting new paper options and what you can use them for.

But, first some background on uncoated paper stocks.

What are uncoated paper stocks?

For the past several decades, there have basically been about a half-dozen finishes and textures manufactured which fall under the uncoated paper umbrella.

Non-embossed, uncoated paper stocks

business card printed on uncoated paper
This business card gets a lot of character from uncoated paper stocks. Design by Ian Douglas.

There are several types of non-embossed, uncoated paper finishes. Vellum paper has almost an eggshell appearance and a somewhat rough-hewn finish. Its name is sometimes confused with translucent paper, which is correctly known as ultravellum. Chances are good that paper manufactured for stationery usage, letterheads and matching envelopes is wove paper. This typically has a semi-smooth surface and no real distinguishing characteristics. Smooth and ultra-smooth paper has been repeatedly flattened during the manufacturing process. This finish is commonly used in copying machines and for digital printing.

Smooth and vellum finishes are often available as opaque paper stocks. Generally, these are low-priced “work-horse” paper stocks that have reduced show-through and are most suitable for reports, workbooks, journals and other lengthier publications. These are perhaps more for function than for design.

Embossed, uncoated paper stocks

Among the embossed, tactile, uncoated paper finishes, laid paper gives the feel and appearance of a very traditional (some would say aged), hand-crafted, high-quality paper. It has a series of continuous, fine lines on its surface that run parallel to the paper’s grain direction. A linen paper is a more complex version of laid. Linen stocks are reminiscent of fine linen napkins or tablecloths, featuring a crosshatch pattern on both sides of the stock. Felt paper has a coarse, grainy texture, which appears as a series of hills and valleys on the paper surface when magnified.

Exciting new paper stocks you need to know about

Now, let’s explore several of the new and exciting print and packaging paper options available to art directors and business owners looking to make their print projects shine.

I’ll take cream and two sugars with that paper

Kona Paper by Monadnock
Kona Paper by Monadnock Paper Mills. Image via nhbsr.

Monadnock Paper Mills, based in leafy New Hampshire, has been manufacturing fine printing and packaging paper since way back in 1819. Despite its old age, it has introduced some truly rad, new products to the market.

Taking recycling to the max, Monadnock has created Kona Paper, which is produced from fiber derived from used burlap coffee bags. Saving these bags from eternal life in landfills, they have been repurposed into paper stock used for labels, tags and folding boxes/packaging. Manufactured in two caffeine inspired hues, Light Roast and Medium Roast, Kona can be appropriate for offset and digital print reproduction.

It’s rewarding to be part of a solution where you divert packaging from the landfill.
- Lisa Berghaus

“It’s rewarding to be part of a solution where you divert packaging that was made from natural fiber from the landfill, and make something new and really beautiful,” explains Lisa Berghaus, Monadnock Paper’s Director of Marketing Communications. “We’re helping to close this loop in the coffee supply chain.“

In a nod to the ever-expanding signage market, Monadnock earlier this year announced the introduction of their Ultrahide Blockout Poster stock. This is a 100 percent opaque cover stock (meaning no show-through), ideal for two-sided signage, window signs and other retail, point-of-purchase, event and hospitality uses. It is most suitable for offset printing and Latex or UV inkjet.

The key to kolour

keaykolour paper by mohawk
Keaykolour by Mohawk

New York State’s Mohawk Fine Papers has very recently been named the sole US distributor of Keaykolour. Long established outside the US and manufactured by Arjowiggins Paper, Keaykolour has been revamped by Mohawk; actually transforming the brand to better serve the US graphic community’s needs.

Among the changes made to Keaykolour: it is now available in 43 hues, including three shades of white. The beautiful color palette works individually or combined, with hues ranging from Cappuccino (notice a coffee theme here) to Blackberry to Lipstick to Steel.

Using colored paper has never been so easy and accessible.
- Chris Harrold

“Using colored paper has never been so easy and accessible,” says Chris Harrold, Vice President and Creative Director for Mohawk. “Simply choose from 43 colors in text or cover weight.“

Keaykolour has a vellum finish, and is manufactured in 80 lb text and 111 lb cover weights. Keaykolour can be the right choice for a wide-breadth of projects, and is compatible with both offset and HP Indigo digital printing. Matching envelopes can also be provided.

All that glitters is paper

Glittery Diamond Print paper
Glitter you can print on! Diamond Print by Harmony Papers.

Looking for a lot of glitter with that design? Harmony Papers has created Diamond Print, which they describe as printable glitter paper. Certified for HP Indigo digital and offset printing, Diamond Print can provide a truly memorable background for everything from invitations to pocket folders to envelopes to displays to packaging.

Diamond Print is made in Crystal (white) and Champagne (natural white) colors, in text and cover weights.

So classic, yet so radical

Neenah Paper’s Classic Paper has been a go-to brand for the design community for decades, but it has recently become a whole lot more interesting. In 2017, the Neenah mill added three totally unique, completely unduplicated, new finishes to the Classic family, collectively known as Classic Textures.

Neenah Classic Woodgrain
Classic Woodgrain by Neenah Paper
Neenah Cotton Mint
Neenah Cotton Mint 110 lb cover printed CMYK and foil stamped in bronze leaf

For designers and brands seeking a paper texture that gives off a warm, homey vibe, Classic Woodgrain provides the aesthetic charm of a wood finish. Neenah’s Commercial Sales Manager Holly Kirby says, “With an organic feel and complementary color palette, Classic Woodgrain was developed specifically because designers requested an environmental, organic touch to fall in line with current trends.”

Designers requested an environmental, organic touch to fall in line with current trends.
- Holly Kirby

Last, but not least, is Classic Techweave, a finish that embodies the texture of fabric, but with a high-tech twist. Kirby describes Techwave as “high touch meets high tech with this new texture.” She adds that, “It is the feel of finely woven fabric, with one-of-a-kind surface, inspired by the movement of digital data.” Both of these are available in six shades of white, plus ten additional colors; manufactured in weights ranging from 80 lb text to 165 lb double-thick cover.

Neenah has also expanded its Cotton brand of 100 percent cotton paper that’s ideal for letterpress, engraving, embossing, foil stamping and digital or offset printing. Three new hues in the Letterpress finish—blush, gray and mint—join three shades of white. Neenah Cotton, also manufactured in wove and smooth finishes, is a great fit for invitations, letterheads, envelopes and professional documents.

Versatility matters

by George paper stock
by George paper via ArcherMalmo

Crafted in South Carolina by International Paper Company, by George is a new family of fairly smooth, cover weight only stocks perfect for a potpourri of applications.

Manufactured in 11 point and 18 point thicknesses, suggested uses include hang tags, table tents, invitations, book covers, menus and posters. There are seven colors in the by George family, ranging from bright white to deep black. Ideal for various finishing processes, by George can be embossed, foil stamped, die-cut and folded.

The right paper will do the trick

Keep these stocks in mind for your upcoming design projects. Between the vast array of unusual new textures and finishes, along with the introduction of new colors to the marketplace, the design possibilities are endless.

Chances are good that paper samples and/or swatch books can be obtained from your print vendor, or from the above-mentioned paper mills. Check them out to find the perfect paper for your next print project.

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