Paper Wisdom

Paper Choices!

We live in an exciting age where there are many paper options when selecting the perfect sheet to convey your printed message. At Commerce Paper, we have a deep understanding of our products and how our papers react to ink on paper. We can provide suggestions, samples and pricing information that will simplify your task and save valuable time.


In the beginning...

Ts’ai Lun, a eunuch in the imperial court of the emperor Ho Ti announced the invention of paper in the year AD 105. For centuries, the Chinese guarded the art of papermaking as a trade secret, however, by the 8th century the Arab world had acquired it. A paper mill was established in Baghdad as early as 794 AD. The first papers were made from rags, fishnets, hemp and bark. By the middle ages paper reached Western Europe and books were copied by hand, one-at-a-time. Books were extremely rare and valuable during this period. All this changed with the invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s first printing press in 1439. Demand for paper grew exponentially.


Remarkable events in PAPER history

  • A.D.1251 The Magna Carta was written in ink on parchment
  • 1298 Marco Polo reported that during his trip to China he witnessed the printing of paper money.
  • 1309 Paper was first used in England
  • 1450 Book printing was initiated in Germany with the publication of Guttenberg’s 42-line Bible.
  • 1570 The first extra-thin papers were introduced in Europe.
  • 1609 The first newspaper began publishing in Germany.
  • 1638 Stephen Daye set up the first printing press in North America at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • 1690 Paper money issued for the first time in the Colonies by The Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first “greenback” paper money didn’t appear until 18862.
  • 1744 Benjamin Franklin bought and became editor of the influential Pennsylvania Gazette.
  • 1780 Steel pens were first used to write on paper.
  • 1796 John G. Hancock received a patent for embossing.
  • 1847 Postage stamps were introduced.
  • 1866 The last commercial mill in the United States to make paper by hand closed down that part of its operation, marking the end of an era.
  • 1900 The discovery of offset printing.
  • 1903 Corrugated cartons replaced wood boxes.
  • 1907 Paper towels were first marketed.
  • 1931 Commerce Paper Company was established by Edgar Kuesthardt and two other partners, who eventually sold their share to Kuesthardt. Edgar Kuesthardt was the Grandfather of Commerce Paper’s current President, Craig Roberts.
  • 1941 The birth of the American tree-farm system.

Flash Forward...

Advances in technology have made paper and print almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings from over 2000 years ago. We are living in an age of lightning fast electronic, digital communication and marketers are faced with the challenge of budgeting for a marketing platform that combines print with electronic communication to best promote and build their brand needs. Fortunately for print, there is compelling evidence that print delivers a powerful cocktail of attention, influence and effectiveness resulting in a positive return on investment!


Now more than ever,

making the right paper choice can greatly impact your finished product. It’s more important than ever to make sure your paper will draw an audience to your printed message, retain the information that is communicated, and move the viewer to respond. Paper is the subliminal effect. It’s a vehicle that drives the message. Paper has power and that is something the Chinese knew 2000 years ago.


Spec it right

by knowing your options. By relying on a dusty swatchbook you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Most mills update their color palette to reflect the trends in graphic arts, fashion and interior design. Providing swatchbooks and samples is an important component in the Commerce Paper business model and we encourage you to use these tools to assist in your design and printing projects.


Paper knowledge….

we look forward to your inquiries, and strive to be your number one resource for paper information. We hope this introductory primer will serve to enhance your knowledge and provide insight into the wonderful world of paper.

Common Terms

Finish: The finish describes the surface contour of the sheet which offers varying degrees of texture from super smooth to rough and rugged. The “finish” of the sheet provides the distinguishable characteristics and aesthetics to a grade’s brand. Some examples of finishes:

  • Coated: Gloss, Dull, Matte, Silk, Cast coated
  • Felt: During the paper making process the pulp comes in contact with a woven felt “blanket” which is wrapped around a cylinder. This “dandy roller” pressure squeezes water from the pulp and creates a felt texture that remains when the paper is dried. There are a variety of felt brands with varying degrees of felt texture.
  • Linen: Unlike Felt papers, Linen sheets are made after the paper is completely dry. This is known as “off-machine” finishing. Two embossing die cylinders simultaneously smash the sheet leaving a distinguished finish that resembles a linen cloth.
  • Laid: A Laid finish is traditional to Writing papers, a category of paper used for letterhead stationery. Its distinctive pattern with lineal lines is created by a wire dandy roll that disperses the fibers just enough to leave a lasting visual impression in the finished sheet.
  • Wove: Wove finished paper was invented by the Chinese and was used for hundreds of years before the Europeans rediscovered it in 1757. Wove finish is characteristic of a slightly rough, toothy surface. Its elegant touch resembles an expensive cotton fiber paper, yet Wove sheets can be made with 100% wood pulp.
  • Stipple, Techweave, Woodgrain, Columns: All are finishes that are proprietary to Neenah Paper. It’s impossible to ignore the beauty and aesthetics of these papers. They truly create a lasting impression and we encourage you to request samples and experience the tactile effect.

A word about...

  • Grain Direction All wood based paper has a grain direction. This is established in paper making when the pulp is 99% water and 1% wood pulp. Much like shuffling a deck of cards, the pulp travels on a wire screening and shuffles left to right, aligning the fibers.

    When determining sheet count for ordering it’s important to know where a fold may exist on the finished piece. With this information, the sheet count can be based on the number of sheets needed for folding with the grain.

    It’s easy to determine the grain direction when ordering. It’s always the second dimension on the size chart.
  • Paper Categories Paper mills make a variety of different papers for various end uses. Driven by demand, these papers are divided into categories or “types” of paper. With each category, the paper is made to meet a weight specification. Common categories are:
    • Bonds (basic size: 17x22)
    • Coated/Uncoated text (basic size: 25x38)
    • Cover (basic size: 20x26)
  • Basis Weights 500 sheets of a basic size will weigh the basis weight. (For example 500 sheets Mohawk Via 80# Cover weighs 80 lbs.)
  • Specialty Papers have an intended special end use. For example, Synthetic papers are made without the wood pulp fiber and are usually polyester or vinyl. They are waterproof, tear proof or tear resistant, and perfect for outdoor use. They are made with and without adhesive and many have a digital counterpart making them suitable for dry toner (high heat) laser printing. Sampling is recommended and Commerce Paper can assist with your selection, based on your printer and end use.
  • Digital Papers Commerce Paper offers digital papers with digital sizes from virtually every mill we represent, and every brand of paper. Digital papers are ream wrapped at the mill and come in sizes that match the requirements of digital printers.
  • Envelopes Are you looking for an envelope to match your invitation, catalog or brochure? There is a vast assortment of available colors, brands, finishes and sizes, many of which are on the Commerce Paper warehouse floor. Understanding the style options will give you more latitude in selecting.
    • Social Envelopes End uses may be for cards and invitations
      • Baronial – pointed flaps
      • Announcement – A-sizes
      • Square envelopes - 5x5 (increasing .5” up to 8.5x8.5)
    • Commercial or Business Business correspondence, Remittance, Stationery
      • Commercial Flap
      • Square Flap
    • Oversize (larger) Commercial Business
      • Booklet – opens on the longer dimension (example 9x12)
      • Catalog – opens on the shorter dimension (example 9x12)