Let’s Talk Printing! Types, Paper Stock, and Eco Choices

Let’s Talk Printing! Types, Paper Stock, and Eco Choices

Kathryn Wright
Sep 27, 2010

If you have ever had something custom printed on a large scale or quality, then you probably know it's a highly technical and complicated process with many options to consider, especially if you want to go the eco-friendly route. For wedding invitations, baby announcements, holiday cards or anything else you might print yourself, here are a few things to consider:

Printing Type

Offset Printing: What is it? Classic lithographic printing requires plates to be make for cyan, magenta, yellow and black combined to create a regular color image.

  • Pros : Color and cropping are perfectly consistent from start to finish.
  • Cons: It takes about 400 sheets of paper to set up an offset job properly, so you need to order at least 500 pieces to make it worthwhile.

Digital Printing: What is it? Very high-quality laser printing.

  • Pros: Requires only 1 – 10 sheets of paper for proofing, so it's a great option for quantities smaller than 500.
  • Cons: Color and cropping will not be consistent, and depending on the printer the printing may not come out perfectly straight.

Letterpress Printing: What is it? A traditional plate based printing method done mainly be small boutique letterpress print shops. Letterpresses currently in use are usually very old and independently operated by their owners.

  • Pros: Letterpress printing is by far the most tactile and nice looking printing available. By printing letterpress you'll likely be supporting a local independent artist or designer and not a huge corporate print shop.
  • Cons: Letterpress designs need to be created using as few colors as possible in flat color. You can't print photographs or gradients. Letterpress is generally the most expensive way to print.

Paper Stock

The best paper choice is an locally-sourced, 100% PCW, FSC-ertified stock. Here's a brief breakdown of what it all means:

Post-consumer waste (PCW): This is the paper that is made from what you put in your recycling bin. It is, by nature, also 100% recycled.

Recycled Stock: A recycled stock differs from PCW in that it is made of pulp that was recycled during the process of creating virgin stock. It's recycled from the paper facility as opposed to from your blue bin.

Virgin Stock: Paper made directly from recently forested trees.

FSC Certified: Check out What Does FSC-Certified Really Mean? for a full explanation.

Inks: For offset or letterpress jobs request soy-based or 100% vegetable-based inks when possible.

Image: Letterpress Wedding Invite from Letterpress Light

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