How to choose the perfect card stock for printing
One of the questions we are asked most at Clubcard Printing is "Which card stock will work best for my project?" It's a great question and one that should be answered before you start to design your cards. Each card stock has pros and cons and in some cases the stock you use may require using different color palettes, limit the size of fonts and even determine the level fine detail in your design.
With so many different card stocks to print on the choices can be a little daunting, so we've put this post together to offer some advice on choosing the stock that is perfectly matched to your project.
Generally speaking, we offer two types of card stock, coated and uncoated. We do offer some variations of coated and uncoated stocks and these options will be explained in detail later on, but the decision making process begins here.
What is a coated card stock?
Coated card stocks have a microscopic thin layer of white clay added on top of the paper fiber to provide a smooth even surface that has a low luster or matte sheen that can be minimized or enhanced during the printing process. Depending on the level of shine you want we can add a clear low luster aqueous or a high gloss UV coating to your cards as the final step in the print process. Another way to change the sheen of a coated card stock is to add a layer of lamination. More on these options are explained later.
Coated card stock typically feels stiffer and sturdier than an uncoated card stock of the same thickness. In other words, if you have a 14 point coated card and a 14 point uncoated card - the coated card will feel sturdier even though it is the same thickness. This is due to that thin layer of clay that acts as a stiffener and limits flexing of the stock. One important factor to note is that coated card stock cannot be written on with a pencil and most pens and ink stamps will smudge, so look at one of our uncoated card stocks if this is important to your use and design.
Smooth surfaced, coated card stocks allow for more precise image and color reproduction as the ink sits on top of the clay surface which prevents ink from being absorbed into the paper fibers. If you're printing fine detail, complex images or microscopic text, a coated card stock is going to be your best choice. This is why many of the specialty print and finishing options that require precision registration are only available on our coated card stocks.
What is an uncoated card stock?
Uncoated card stocks are made of paper fiber without a clay coating to smooth the surface, providing a true matte, natural look and feel. Uncoated card stocks generally have a smooth surface, however since an uncoated stock is in its natural form there will be some texture to the touch. We do offer textured uncoated card stocks to choose from if you wish to enhance the tactile feel of your cards; more on that below.
An uncoated card will feel less stiff than coated card stocks of the same thickness and are not ideal for printing precise, fine details, complex images or small text. When ink is applied to an uncoated card stock it will absorb into the stock degrading a small degree of the precision we strive for in printing. colors printed on an uncoated card stock will look muted compared to the same colors printed on a coated stock. If you're looking for a more natural and subdued appearance - uncoated card stock is a great choice.
What is coated one side card stock?
A combination stock that is coated on one side and uncoated on the other, allows you to print vibrant artwork in full color on the coated side of your business cards and use the uncoated back for writing personal messages or appointment times. You can print full color artwork on both sides of these coated one side business cards, but the coated side lends itself to richer colors where the back prints more subdued colors inherent with the uncoated surface. These business cards printed on C1S (stands for coated one side) card stock are great for appointment cards, frequent buyer cards or any card you want to write on with a pen or pencil with ease. You can even stamp with ink with confidence knowing there is no risk of smudging.
What is matte card stock?
We often hear people ask for a matte card stock, and these do exist, although we do not offer this as a standard stock at Clubcard. This is a bit of a tricky question to figure out since a matte appearance can mean different things to people. For instance, we offer a matte coated card stock and a matte uncoated card stock. Matte finishes generally refer to a card that has no or low sheen, consider a coated card with a low luster matte aqueous coating for special finish options or an uncoated card if you're looking for full color printing without a special finish.
Uh, what are points?
You're probably wondering right about now - what the heck are points? I'm glad you asked! When we refer to points in printing terms we mean a measurement of a card's thickness. You may see us refer to points in abbreviated form of "pt", so when we refer to a 14 point card stock or 14pt that means the stock measures out to 14/1000 of an inch in thickness. The higher the points the thicker the card, in other words a 24pt card will be twice as thick as a 12pt card. The image above should help as a visual reference.
Why do some coated card stocks also have the option to add another coating?
When we print cards on the offset press we use soy based liquid inks, and because these inks are applied wet, we add a coating to help dry the inks faster so we can trim your cards without smudging. Unlike the thin layer of clay added on top of coated card stocks, these coatings are actually clear liquids applied to the sheet to help that ink dry.
The added benefit of adding a coating during the print process is that it helps protect and enhance the look and feel of your cards.
Matte Aqueous Coating (AQ)
We offer a matte finish (low luster) aqueous coating at Clubcard Printing which is a clear, water-based coating that is mainly used to help dry your cards quickly. Aqueous coatings are applied as a "flood coating" meaning the entire press sheet is covered as a final step of the print process. Once exposed to oxygen, the aqueous coating begins to evaporate and this helps to dry the ink under it.
High Gloss UV Coating (UV)
When you're looking for a very shiny card, a high gloss UV coating is your best choice. Like an aqueous coating, a UV coating is a clear liquid that is applied as either a "flood coating" or "spot coating" (more on that below) as a final step during the print process. UV coatings are dried or "cured" instantly by exposing them to an ultraviolet (UV) light on the press. UV coatings provide a harder surface that enhances and adds depth to printed colors and also helps prevent chipped edges during the trimming process.
Why do colors print differently on coated, uncoated or laminated card stocks? There are many factors that affect how your color will appear on your cards and the main factor is based on the stock you choose. In general coated card stocks produce color that is more vibrant than uncoated card stocks. The second factor is the print method used to produce your cards and whether wet inks or dry toner is used in that print process.
Offset and letterpress printing use wet inks and will provide the truest color fidelity when compared to a color swatch-book. Indigo Printing is a hyrbid offset-digital print method that produces color with a liquid toner for accurate color reproduction. Digital printing uses dry toner to produce your cards - it is often hard to see any difference in color results.
At Clubcard we allow you to choose the print method you feel will work best and then select from a set of card stocks that we have tested to provide the highest quality results.
Tips to get the color you expect when printing;
• Never rely on your computer screen to choose your colors.
• Choose your colors using a coated swatch book for coated card stocks or an uncoated swatch book for uncoated card stocks.
• UV coatings enhance, add depth to and provide a more saturated appearance to colors.
• Uncoated stocks produce subdued, muted colors that may appear dull compared to those printed on a coated card stock.
• We offer several types of lamination at Clubcard, all are made of plastic polymers that will change the overall hue of your cards. In some cases lamination can add a slightly fuzzy blurred appearance over fine detail or text.
• Silk or Suede lamination will subdue the overall color and soft touch lamination will produce an off-white appearance to the white card stock in addition to producing subdued colors.
OK! Onto the good stuff.
Now we have that out of the way let's look at some of the card stocks we offer at Clubcard Printing so you can choose the right stock before you start your design.
The following stocks are available at Clubcard Printing to allow you to create a wide range of cards suited to every style and application.
Lightweight white coated card stock that is well suited to business cards, postcards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Lightweight, Desert Storm uncoated natural kraft 100% recycled card stock that can be written on with a pen or pencil, a great natural choice for business cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Medium weight, white coated, card stock that is a great choice for business cards, postcards, rack cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Medium weight, white uncoated, matte, card stock than can be written on with a pen or pencil. A popular choice for business cards, appointment cards, postcards, rack-cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Our most popular white, uncoated, matte, card stock well suited to business cards, postcards, rack cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Sturdy, white uncoated, matte, 100% recycled card stock than can be written on with a pen or pencil. well suited to business cards, appointment cards, postcards, rack cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Sturdy, epic black, uncoated, matte, 100% recycled card stock well suited to business cards, postcards, rack cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Sturdy, natural kraft card, uncoated, matte, 30% recycled card stock well suited to business cards, postcards, rack-cards, folding cards and greeting cards.
Sturdy, coated on one side, uncoated on reverse card stock well suited to cards that can be written on with a pen or pencil on the uncoated side, a great choice for appointment cards, frequent buyer cards, business cards, hang tags, postcards, rack cards, greeting cards and thank you cards.
Durable, thick and sturdy, matte laminated card stock that adds a silky feel to business cards, hang tags, postcards, menus and cards that need to hold up to the elements.
Durable, thick and sturdy, suede feel, laminated card stock that adds an elegant tactile element to business cards, hang tags, postcards, menus, rack-cards and cards that need to hold up to the elements.
Durable, thick and sturdy, laminated card stock that adds a velvet-like tactile feel to the touch on business cards, hang tags, postcards, menus and cards that need to hold up to the elements.
Very thick and chunky, kraft chipboard, 100% recycled card-stock that adds an earthy look to business cards, hang tags, postcards, menus and product cards.
Very thick and sturdy, white, stipple textured, 100% recycled, matte card stock that that adds a subtle pebbled feel to business cards, postcards, menus and product cards. This is a very popular choice for wedding invitations, RSVP and save the date cards.
Extra thick, sturdy, bespoke card stocks made white uncoated matte card stock hand glued over a black core and trimmed to size. A truly elegant and substantial card stock for business cards, hang tags, postcards and rack cards.
Letterpress Exclusive Card Stocks
The following premium stocks are available exclusively on Clubcard's letterpress printing services using centuries-old print methods to create elegant and sophisticated cards.
Crane's 21point Lettra White or Pearl Stock. Lettra card stock is engineered for letterpress, made from 100% recovered cotton fiber making them an environmental stand out. Letterpress cards are carried by heads of state, CEO's and those with an elegant sense of style.
Crane's 42 point Lettra White or Pearl Stock that is a very thick, matte stock made for letterpress printing from 100% recovered cotton fiber which contains no wood pulp. Letterpress cards signify pure elegance and sophistication.
Super thick and extra sturdy, natural kraft 100% recycled card stock with an earthy and organic look and feel that is foil stamped for cards that have stunning glimmers of color contrasted on a natural background.
Incredibly thick, pure black, uncoated, matte, 100% recycled card stock that is paired with foil stamping to allow you to create cards with striking contrasts of color and bold designs on this epic black stock.
Traditionally used for coasters, this stock has textured, pulpy and very soft feel making it ideal for deep impressions on the letterpress, This stock is a favorite for clothing hang tags with an uber chunky and fibrous look and feel.
With all of these choices, the best way to make the right decision is to request a free sample pack so you can see and feel the stocks and decide the best stock for your cards.