Designing with Paper

by Andrea Alstad

Designing with Paper

Wausau PaperAS TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES, DESIGN DOES, TOO. In a world of rapid digital advances, there's a timeless analog tool with incredible powers that should not be overlooked: paper. With its versatile capabilities, there are endless ways to use paper to your advantage.

Not only does the tactile experience of paper heighten your design's impact, the tangible product increases awareness and loyalty. According to a study by the Digital Printing Council of PIA, print is still the best way to develop brand loyalty and is the most-trusted media, overall. They also found that with projects using higher quality paper (e.g. smoother paper, paper with a heavier weight), customer responses were 10-16 percent higher than projects with lower quality papers.

paper texture and color blend with design for striking results

Paper's Toolbox

THERE IS MUCH TO CONSIDER when creating a printed design, and each detail will contribute to achieve a standout, final piece. For example, choosing a stock with a unique finish will differentiate your design from the rest. Incorporating texture -- whether tactile or visual -- is another great option that adds interest, depth and detail. By using a textured paper, you can make a two-dimensional piece seem more life-like. One of the best ways to garner attention, however, is to employ the use of colored paper.


quoting Color is noticed by the brain before shape or words. Since a high percentage of our response to color is unconscious, brands are sending a message to consumers whether they know it or not. end quote

Color is also impactful to your bottom line. According to the Color Marketing Group, color improves readership as much as 40 percent, increases comprehension by 73 percent, accelerates learning from 55 to 78 percent, and increases retention by 18 percent.

pop art

Not only does colored paper aid in message comprehension and retention, but it is one of the easiest and most cost-effective tools you can use to create a piece that truly stands out. Think of paper color as a free 'spot' color. Your design will pop out in a sea of white, luring the eyes of your audience. The American Paper Institute noted that during a study comparing response rates between identical mailings of both white and colored paper, the colored paper version showed an unprecedented 20 percent greater response rate.

paper texture and color evokes emotion and recognition

Design with Impact

SELECTING A COLORED STOCK opens a world of creative possibilities. You can create a simple, yet dramatic appeal by printing black ink atop a bright paper, such as a black image over a yellow stock. Similarly, you could use white ink over a dark colored paper, such as a midnight blue or a rich violet. This technique is a great way to keep costs at a minimum while producing a visually-enticing design. For optimum results, make sure the chosen ink color provides a high contrast with the selected paper.

It is also possible to print colored ink on colored paper, a technique that boasts drama and impact. Because offset inks are transparent, the paper on which they are printed shines through the layers of the ink. If your image has a strong blue base, printing it on a bright-blue paper enhances the tone and demands attention. The key is to understand the paper on which you're printing, as the color of the ink can look vastly different depending on the color of the substrate. For example, images printed on a cream paper stock will look warmer due to the substrate's yellow undertones.

IT'S INARGUABLE: paper truly enhances not only design, but design objectives. It's more than just a material; it's a tool that commands attention and builds loyalty and consumer response. You pour your heart into your design -- make sure people take notice.

Andrea Alstad
Wausau Paper

See also:
Digital Printing Council of PIA
The Color Marketing Group
Daydreaming in Color
Coke Can Pop Art by ~SoonerOrLater23
The Puddle
Wausau Get a LOAD of color from Wausau's collection of ultra-bright papers!


Andrea Alstad, Wausau PaperAndrea Alstad is the manager of strategic markets, print & color for the paper segment of Wausau Paper, a leading manufacturer of colored uncoated printing and imaging papers. For more information, visit


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