The paper matters in book production: …Make the right choice


Making the right choice or decision with respect to the paper in book production is very beneficial in the long-term. Print production plays a major part in the production of physical books. More so, the paper stock is a very essential raw material in the production of physical books. Paper comes in many forms and with different qualities; hence, when it comes to book production, choosing the right paper is very important.

Unfortunately, paper stock for book production and some other print materials are mostly imported. Each type of paper that is manufactured has its own qualities and characteristics.  In the field of print production, some of the common paper stocks are: Bond paper, Art paper, Newsprint, Vanguard, Eggshell paper, Manila, Tracing paper, Art card, Chromocote, Chipboards, Strawboard, etc.

In print production, paper stocks have two main categories. These are coated paper stocks and uncoated paper stocks. Coated papers are paper stocks which are coated with a mixture of materials which make the surfaces of the paper glossy, hence making the display of text and images sharper in details. Coated papers have the characteristic of reducing the amount of ink absorption, thereby allowing for denser colors and deeper blacks. It is more difficult to write on coated papers, especially with pencils or ballpoint pens. Papers can be coated on one side or both sides. Coating papers not only gives a glossy appearance but also adds weight, increases opacity as well as surface smoothness.

Uncoated papers, on the other hand, are paper stocks without any surface coating – which makes the paper porous and thereby permit ink to be absorbed into it. Images printed on uncoated papers tend to be softer and less crisp. Uncoated papers contain numerous types with varying textures. With white, uncoated paper, more light is reflected back to the eye when the sheet is brighter.

In choosing a paper for book production, there are other characteristics or qualities that should be considered. These are weight and thickness (calipers), opacity and paper colour. The weight and thickness of a paper indicates how rugged, bulky and thick a paper is. Papers are usually weighed in stacks of 500 sheets or reams.

The weight of a paper actually affects the thickness of the paper, and Grammage (gsm) is the measuring unit for paper weight. For book production in Ghana, it is recommended that the minimum paper weight for book block (main text) should be 70gsm machine-finished wood-free paper like mechanical bond paper. The minimum weight of a book cover should also be 200gsm single-sided coated paper such as Chromocote or Art Card, with 25-micron laminate or UV coating. For case binding, strawboard or chip should be above 1,100gsm.

Paper opacity is the measure of transparency or how much text or images show through from one side of a paper to the other side. A good paper for book production should have high opacity. For book production in Ghana, it is recommended that opacity of the paper for printing should be at least 90%. A paper that shows nothing from the other side is said to be 100% opaque. On the other hand, if a paper is 0% opaque it is transparent.  Furthermore, thicker papers are more durable and possess high opacity, though expensive and harder to work with, compared to thinner papers.

Considering the colour of papers for book production is very necessary. Paper used in printing books typically comes in shades of white. The recommended options of paper colour for book production should be bright white, off-white or cream.

In conclusion, a desirable output with respect to print production can be realised when producers of books make the right choices on paper to be used. This calls for adequate knowledge of papers and their use. Among other things, some issues or problems in printing born out of the choice of paper would be avoided if the right choices are made – hence the need for publishers and print producers to avoid compromising on the right choice of paper for book production.


The writer is the Production Services Manager, Ghana Book Development Council.






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