Here’s an overview of what to think about when buying paper for magazine printing. Read about the quality aspects you need to consider when deciding which paper grade that will make your magazine pop.
Common paper grades for magazines
Within graphical papers, some paper grades are more commonly used for magazine printing than others. The paper grade is chosen for its ability to convey information in detail, but also for its technical properties and tactile feel. Within the paper grade you then choose a grammage that gives you the best combination of great print results, weight and thickness, and total economy.
Coated versus uncoated papers
Traditionally, coated papers have been the most commonly used when printing magazines. Coated papers have got a matte or glossy, shiny surface which also reduce the ink absorbancy. Various materials can be used for coating, but one of the most well-known is kaolinite, also called china clay.
Uncoated papers have attracted more interest in the magazine segment over the last ten years. They are often chosen for tactile reasons, providing a natural feeling and great readability. The surface of the papers can be more or less smooth and glossy depending on the machining process, where calendering or super-calendering may be used. Uncoated fresh-fibre papers are often porous, which enables a thicker paper than a coated paper of the same weight. Thereby you can go for a lower grammage.
LWU papers – lightweight uncoated papers
Lightweight uncoated papers, LWU-papers, use the porosity, their bulky properties, to their advantage. With their lower weight, distribution of the magazine will cost less, and the transports may affect the environment less. It's not just the question of a lower total cost, many publishers and printers choose these papers for their haptics and for sustainability reasons. A lighter paper costs less for the environment, too.
When choosing a lightweight uncoated paper for your magazine, examine the quality of a printed sample and make sure the image reproduction is to your liking. The brightness of the paper helps ensuring the contrast and a smooth and even quality is important for conveying detail.
Holmen EPIC, Holmen TRND and Holmen VIEW are three papers which are light-weight and high-quality, well worth the time to check out. They are all well suited for heatset (HWSO), coldset (CWSO), digital and waterless printing, and Holmen TRND is also a perfect choice for sheet printing.
SC-papers – super-calendered papers
The super-calendered papers, SC-papers, are thinner and more glossy than most other paper grades. They convey images and details better than one might expect, especially when you choose a paper which has sufficient brightness and opacity. In supercalendering, the paper passes through stacks of hot rollers, where friction and pressure generates a very smooth and uniform surface.
Our most well-known SC-paper is Holmen UNIQ. The paper is well suited for heatset web offset printing (HSWO) and rotogravure printing (RG).
The new generation of magazine papers
High-end magazines today tend to make bolder paper choices. They differentiate themselves from the formerly very glossy market by choosing papers with more attitude. They use the paper to promote a feeling, and many readers like it more when the paper surface is somewhat more raw and natural. Going for the environmentally conscious alternatives will always be relevant.
Certain quality aspects are relevant both for the printing result and the total experience. Here are a few things to consider to get a result that does your magazine justice.
Brightness and colour balance
Brightness is a basic property of the paper, and it depends on the material composition. Brightness is measured as a percentage of the reflected radiation of light in a specified wavelength. 100 percent brightness would be a paper that reflects all light of this wavelength back. A simplified way to say this is that brightness is a measurement of the paper’s ability to reflect “blue light”.
Whiteness is a measurement that also takes the colour balance into account. Light has many different wavelengths, and the paper will absorb the radiation from these wavelengths differently. Particles in the paper will also break the light and reflect it differently depending on the surface properties. This creates differences in the colour spectrum. Read more about the L*, a* and b* values and how a paper reflects light in our glossary of paper properties.
Holmen’s recommended magazine papers have a brightness range of 65-85 % ISO, to provide good contrast and excellent readability. For every paper, our technical data sheets also state the L*, a* and b* values, defining the perceived whiteness in a colour-balanced spectre.
Surface gloss and smoothness
Would you prefer a glossy paper to add crispness and contrast to the images or a matte paper which brings a comfortable reading experience? There is a whole range of options between these alternatives adding detail and depth to the first impression of the magazine.
The surface smoothness is relevant for image reproduction and readability, but it doesn't have to be glossy to be great. High gloss leads to reflection, and too much reflection makes a surface harder to look at. Most important for the image reproduction in detail is whether the surface is consistent. Check out our printed and unprinted samples to be your own judge of the quality.
And don't forget that the touch of the paper is a great part of the magazine brand perception. If it feels comfortable to your fingers, the brand will resonate better with you.
Opacity and bulk
A paper with high opacity - an opaque paper - has low transparency and blocks more light. Transparency may be a problem when the contents of the page shine through to the other side, disturbing the reading experience.
In a fresh-fibre paper, the elasticity of the wood fibres builds up a porosity, called high bulk. This porosity enables a thicker paper, and the thickness counteracts the light permeability, resulting in a paper with higher opacity, even though it is comparatively light-weight. The bulky properties of a paper also bring about a certain stability and bouncy stiffness to the pages. You will feel this when holding the magazine in your hands, turning its pages. It just feels comfortable and right, when the pages aren't flimsy.
The bulk and opacity values can be read out from the technical data sheets for every paper. For magazines with large white areas and highly contrasting design, a high opacity value is extra important. Opacity is measured in percentage, where 100 percent opacity would mean no permeability at all. Holmen Paper's products recommended for magazines range up to 98 percent opacity (which you can find in Holmen TRND 80 gsm). But the starting point for deciding which opacity and bulk you need to go for should always be what your plan is to print.
To get the best possible image and colour reproduction out of the paper, it's important to have the correct printer setup. The ICC profiles for all our papers are free to download in our support section. The print profiles are used for determining how colours are to be printed for a specific printer and paper, enabling a better match to your originals. We also provide tips and recommendations for prepress and printing press setup in relation to the papers and different printing methods.
When you work with Holmen, you will have our Technical Support close at hand. Our experience is always at your service. We follow up how our papers behave all throughout the printing process. Delivery, reel condition, wrapping, how the paper runs in the press, ink penetration and final print results - all these steps are as relevant to us as they are for you. Are directly involved in the printing? You're welcome to discuss any of these question directly with our experts, just ask us and we'll put you in contact.
Is climate impact a quality factor to consider when printing a magazine? Yes. Paper makes up a large part of a magazine's carbon footprint – but digital communication creates carbon emissions too. Learn more about digital climate impact – before looking at the carbon footprint from one magazine.
By switching to our paper, you will most likely lower the carbon footprint of your printed products. There are two reasons behind this:
Paper is manufactured and delivered in rolls. Magazine paper is normally supplied to the printing house on reels with an agreed width (normally between 0.8-2.5 meters). The printing house usually takes care of printing both the insert and cover, cutting and binding. Many times they are also making different types of finishing, wrapping or packing before distribution.
The web printer press is made for printing, folding, and handling of large print editions from paper rolls in a fast process which reduces overhead costs and production time, as long as there are no standstills. Our customer care set-up makes sure our paper rolls are delivered in the right time and place to fit the planning.
Holmen Paper always offer technical support, and we work in close contact with most of the European printing houses as well as with printers all over the world. We are experts in facilitation and we almost always attend the onset of a new magazine title in the press.
Paper sheets for magazines
But many digital and offset printing presses aren't constructed for paper rolls, instead they are sheet-fed. Sheet-feeding is common especially for smaller editions, such as customer magazines and specialty magazines.
Holmen Paper cooperates with paper converters and wholesale specialists to provide paper sheets for magazines.
Magazine customer stories
Here are some examples of magazine publishers' choices - best practises - together with facts about recent trends and usage.
Millennials' reading habits pdf report
Swedish and international magazines
Magazines choose paper banding
Slanted magazine's "Europe" issue
Airplane wing about lightweight fluffy clouds
Woman reading thick lightweight magazine printed on uncoated paper