What type of paper should you choose for your book?

One of the most frequent questions we receive from new authors is what type of paper would we recommend for printing. It’s an important consideration for the look and feel of your finished book, and deserves some real explanation. However, it can also be a confusing and overwhelming question for someone who isn’t around a print shop every day.


Let’s start with the basics

Perhaps the best place to start is the difference between the type of paper that most people use on their home printers versus the type of paper used in a commercial print shop. Setting aside glossy and cover stocks for the moment, the most common type of paper used on home printers is called “bond.” You’ve probably purchased paper called 20# bond, or 24# bond. Bond papers are low in cost and are used when quality of print is not paramount.

In commercial printing we use what’s called offset paper. This paper is produced in larger parent sheets designed for large printing presses, and is designed to hold ink better and stand up to repeated use. 99.9% of the people in the world probably could not immediately tell the difference between bond and offset paper, and for comparison’s sake you can use the below numbers to see how your home printer paper will stack up to an offset sheet.

  • 20# bond = 50# offset
  • 24# bond = 60# offset
  • 28# bond = 70# offset
  • 32# bond = 80# offset

If you ever want to get really nerdy about paper please give us a call and we can tell you all about why it’s called bond, where these weight measurements actually come from and even talk your ear off about GSM and brightness ratings! Perhaps if you’re having trouble sleeping…

Probably all you really need to remember is that the heavier the paper, the thicker it is. You’ll be able to see through lighter papers more easily. Most books work just fine with 50#, though our default house paper is 60# as we think the quality justifies the very slight increase in cost.

Coated paper stock

We do not offer coated paper stocks in our instant quote calculator, as with nearly all book projects offset papers will suffice. However, they are certainly an option if that is your preference! Please contact us and let us know what you’re looking for – the options are nearly endless.

Standard coated stocks are 80# and 100#, and are similar in thickness to the offset papers we’ve been talking about. The difference is there is either a gloss or silk finish to the paper which is a nice option for colorful works like children’s books, photography books or cookbooks with lots of pictures. Glossy paper can have a bit of a sheen to it, so we often recommend a silk paper for books with lots of color.

Cover paper choices

The last consideration we’ll cover here is cover stock. There are a plethora of cover papers available, from 67lb index cardstock to 16pt (point) cardstock that’s used for business cards. However, as it pertains to books there are really only a few you’ll want to consider.

100# glossy cover is the least expensive option, though don’t be fooled by the word “glossy.” This means that the paper is a gloss coated cardstock, however if you were to choose matte laminate for your book, it will not have a glossy look to it. Keep in mind though, the inside cover of your book will look glossy, even if there is nothing printed on it. We’ve written a different blog article about coatings and their pros and cons if you’d like to read it here.

Most of the books you’ll pick up in a bookstore will have a cover that is C1S, which stands for “coated one side.” The outside of the cover is glossy, which is perfect for full color covers, and stands up well to lamination or uv coating. But the inside of the cover is uncoated and has a bit of a rougher feel. We offer a 10pt C1S and a 12pt C1S cover in our calculator – the 12pt cover being a bit thicker. 12pt is about equivalent to a 120# cover stock.

You can always get a sample pack

Hopefully your head isn’t spinning with all these options. It’s a lot of information to take in, and sometimes the best way to decide is just to feel the different types of paper. Please give us a call or contact us to request a sample pack of our available papers. Our team has packets with different papers available if you’d like us to mail you one. We’re even happy to send you a sample book that uses the types of paper you’re interested in.

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

If i was a rainbow

I can't say enough about everyone at Steuben Press and their help in bringing If I Was A Rainbow to life. Their dedication and artistic insights have helped me realize a life long dream.

– Timothy Imbriaco, Colorado

Learn more about If I Was a Rainbow and purchase your very own copy at www.ifiwasarainbow.com