We all know “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” This is true in all communication, especially print!  Since print, in the simplest terms, is color on paper, let’s start there. (For just a moment, consider color or paper simple.) So, step one in the tactile and visual impact considerations of your printed piece is in choosing the best stock and colors. Plus, in 2022, making the best of the stocks that are available.

Color Psychology

The study of communication is really a study in psychology; and color psychology is a common and powerful marketing tool. Theories like red equals action and black infers sophistication show themselves repeatedly in design. Luxury car marketing inevitably includes some combination of black and silver. Deep blue relays “power,” so attorneys and banks commonly use dark blue stocks, often adding to the sensory experience by utilizing linen or other textured options.

Also, the color of the sheet is the first important factor when choosing the best production processes to utilize. For example, conventional, metallic foil remain the most popular process on deep shades of uncoated sheets. Again, promoting the psychology of stability, security, maybe even wealth. Or, once the holiday season approaches, foil effects are often used with rich colors to convey festivity and celebration.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a shift from “busy” to “clean.” Remember, white is useful, too. The design focus has taken a definite back-to-basics turn as brands and marketers recognize that in the current emotional and attention-manic state of the world, maybe less is better and one bright message may be more impactful than several “thousand word” photos. White (particularly when paired with soft-touch, or sturdy matte finishes) confer safety, the byword from 2020 that continues to garner a strong emotional response among buyers.

Science of Paper

For those of you following along, you’ve heard me beat the tactile drum for years.

The power of touch is an extremely versatile communicator. I can’t emphasize enough maximizing the sensory responses triggered by print. To prove the point, a few years back Mohawk Paper released the  “Maker Quarterly” to show readers, designers, and marketers the visual and tactile effects of print, paper, and finishing effects. (Check it out. https://www.mohawkconnects.com/inspiration/maker-quarterly )  A more sciency (my word, let’s keep it) explanation is provided in Sappi’s “Neuroscience Shorts” videos which delve into the power of paper weights and finishes in relation to the final impression of the print message. Importantly, the key emotions of trustworthiness and security can be triggered by a tactile response.

Here’s an example from the folder world, accountants often purchase pocket folders with a clean, simple logo printed on a linen stock. Their goal is to convey consistency and provide a sense of comfort. Over the last six years or so, we’ve noticed a substantial shift from 80# to 100# cover in this market. Accountants may want to keep things “clean”, but also instill comfort and stability, the right stock choice conveys these messages through the fingertips.

Although paper mills have converged and combined over the years, there are still dozens of finishes, from smooth (with many variations of smooth) to felt (with each brand having a unique embossed pattern) to columns/grooves and more! Even whites vary from pure white to bright white to, well…white.

Paper Stock in 2022 – Remind, Replace, Renew

So, supply chain, Am-I-Right?  Here’s my advice.

  • Remind: Go to the client before they come to you. Though buying trends have been tricky to track the last few years, chances are your clients each have their own seasons, and you know them. If they usually order in two to three months, no time like the present to check on stock and let them know the state of affairs. Do they usually order in Oct or later fall even? I don’t want to be the bearer of doom, but there are mills refusing to take any further orders for the rest of the year. If your client loves their current paper choice – maybe better to reorder sooner than later.
  • Replace: Along with starting as early as you can, also find out what is available and sample up. There are still replacement options for most stock options, be it a slightly different shade or maybe same color, new texture (maybe just smooth is, in fact, as effective as super-smooth. Or at least maybe this once.) Starting early gives you the opportunity to request samples and get the options on the table before the project due date.
  • Renew: This is actually the perfect opportunity to renew and maximize the message by shaking up the old and using new technologies. Now is the time to alter projects to include a hot new process or finish. Parts two and three of this series will delve more into finishing options and specializations, so the short version is: show off something new! You don’t need a whole rebrand effort to better maximize the impact of the current message. Instead of an uncoated sheet, maybe a soft touch lamination will provide the look and has a, I’ll say it, sexier feel. Or perhaps instead of a dark colored sheet, try flooding a white stock on one side instead. This option allows you to provide any color under the universe! In addition to giving a very classy “duplex” feel to a sheet and  reverse text to clean white copy (better for small type and additional areas than foil). Just a few ideas – Again, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just a little brainstorming for positive change.


Show and tell! You probably have walls of paper swatch books, however, talk to us about samples! Because a computer screen can never, and will never, tell the whole story. Get a complete kit here!