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Paper Buying Guide

Find the correct paper for your requirements every time.

Please check out the guide below to find the correct paper for your requirements every time. In this guide Viking Direct will explain the most common and important features or specifications of office and copy paper like paper size, paper weight, colour of the paper, degree of whiteness, single or double-sided printing and even environmental/sustainability claims.

Some central questions you need to ask yourself before choosing to buy a specific paper are:

›  Who will use the information you want to print? What information do you want to print?
›  Which paper format or size do I need?
›  What does the paper weight mean?
›  How can I use coloured paper?
›  What does the paper whiteness or CIE mean?
›  How to know whether print paper is for double-sided printing?
›  What sustainability or green claims are there?

Areas of use

When deciding which paper to buy, a few questions should be raised to guide you towards (a selection of) paper that is most suited to your individual printing needs. Before feeding your printer with paper, think about how and by whom the information will be used.

Who will use the printed information? What information will be printed?

Personal use - Viking Everyday

Personal use

This will be used for:
•  Drafts
•  E-mails
•  Internet Printing
•  Notes
•  Copies
•  Forms

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Internal documents - Viking Business

Internal documents

This will be used for:
•  Reports
•  Tables
•  Presentations
•  Memos
•  Newsletters
•  Contracts

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External Communication - Viking Colour Print

External Communication

This will be used for:
•  Presentations
•  Colour Graphics
•  Brochures
•  Catalogues
•  Flyers
•  Photos

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Ecological Reasons - Viking Recycled

Ecological Reasons

This will be used for:
•  All of the mentioned purposes

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Paper Specifications

When choosing the most suitable paper for your printing requirements, several features are important to consider. Below are specifications that will help you make an informed decision.

Paper format / Paper size

ISO 216 is a paper coding system developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), which is internationally renowned. The width-to-height ratio of 1: √2 allows the same proportions to remain when cut in half, meaning the prints are easily scalable. Each A-series code is equivalent to half of the next size up, and double the next size down. For example, A3 is as large as two A4 pieces of paper placed side by side, while A4 is twice as large as A5.

A4 paper is the most commonly used paper size. It is the standard format for most printers and, as a result, most documents, like letters, invoices, emails, reports and presentations are printed on an A4 format paper.
We also carry the A3 format at Viking. As already mentioned, A3 paper is double the size of A4 and is mostly seen in the likes of visual designs or documents that contain large, complex tables that require more space. Due to the larger format, some printers do not accommodate for A3 paper so please refer to your printer’s manual for suitability.

On top of A4 and A3 paper, Viking also stocks A5. These sheets are generally used for mock-ups, leaflets or even menus. Again, not all printers adapt to these formats.

Last but not least, we also have the SRA3-sized paper (320 x 450 mm). This paper is slightly larger than the regular A3 size but is frequently used by digital print machines for poster printing. The A3 poster can be printed on a SRA3 paper which will leave a white border that can be trimmed off after. This ensures a perfect result is reached.

ISO 216 SizeDimensions (mm)Dimensions (inches)Application Example
A0841 x 118933.11 x 46.81Technical Drawings, Posters
A1594 x 84123.39 x 33.11Flipcharts
A2420 x 59416.54 x 23.39Drawings, Large Tables
A3297 x 42011.69 x 16.54Diagrams, Large Tables
A4210 x 2978.27 x 11.69Letters, Forms, Emails
A5148 x 2105.83 x 8.27Menu Cards, Brochures
A6105 x 1484.13 x 5.83Post Cards, Flyers
A774 x 1052.91 x 4.13Promotional Materials
A852 x 742.05 x 2.91Business Cards
A937 x 521.46 x 2.05Vouchers & Tickets
A1026 x 371.02 x 1.46Tickets

Paper weight

What does paper weight mean and why is the paper weight of copy and print paper important in your search for the perfect product?

Paper weight is usually measured in gram per square metres (g/m ² or gsm) and can be seen as a measurement of paper density, and thus an indicator of quality. This means, the lower the gsm, the thinner and lighter the paper. However, in some special cases, paper with a lower gsm can be thicker than one with a higher gsm. This comes from the use of different fibres. For example, our 75 gsm Office Depot Eco-Performance, as well as the 75 gsm Discovery Printer Paper are thicker than most 80 gsm paper because of the different material. In Europe, 80gsm is generally used as everyday printing paper.

See the table below for a general guide on the quality required for different applications:
Standard paper weight details and their uses are included below for reference:
•  70-75 gsm paper – suitable for everyday printing needs, but more sustainable because less resources are required
•  80 gsm paper – suitable for everyday printing needs
•  90 gsm paper – provides better quality colour prints but is also suitable for general office use
•  100 gsm paper – a good quality paper for letterheads or executive mailings
•  120 gsm paper – again is suitable for letterheads as well as documents for presentations
•  160-300 gsm paper – for use in arts and crafts projects or for signs that are displayed on walls

Most printers can process paper weights between 60 gsm and 120 gsm but we recommend you check this with your printer as some struggle to push through the thicker paper.

Paper Colour

For most offices, white paper is the norm, however there is also a great demand in coloured paper for various purposes. At Viking, we stock a full range of coloured/tinted print paper to meet all your professional and personal needs. Our own brand range contains both A3 and A4 formats, several grammages (80, 120, 160 gsm) in pastel, as well as bright colours.

Where is tinted paper used for? Tinted paper can be a form of filing to segregate different document types. For example, emails, delivery notes, quotes and invoices are just a few that use a colour coding system. Additionally, coloured paper can be used as a form of marketing as certain colours grab the attention of by-passers and therefore, results in a higher impact. Such purposes include training and promotional material like manuals, leaflets, brochures, reports, flyers and posters. Most commonly, coloured paper is used for invitations, dividers, newsletters and menu or table cards.

Did You Know?
Pastel-coloured paper is better than bright white paper for people with reading difficulties such as dyslexia. The British Dyslexia Association recommends the use of soft coloured paper to help people comprehend printed documents. This is the reason why many schools use cream paper.

Paper whiteness / quality

Generally, the degree of whiteness of paper is measured and displayed in CIE. This number is an indication for the level of whiteness in the paper. Usually, the higher the CIE number, the whiter the paper.

In a standard A3 and A4 sheet of paper, the CIE lies between 145 and 153. For your everyday standard black and white office needs, this paper should be used. Some examples of (internal) usage of this day-to-day paper are emails, copies, notes and drafts.

Business paper on the other hand usually has a whiteness level between 153 and 165 CIE. This paper is ideal for mass-printing, copying and basic colour printing and is suitable for all inkjet and laser printers and copiers. As this paper has a higher level of whiteness, it is perceived as higher quality, and therefore used for more important (internal) practices like reports, newsletters, presentations and contracts.

The highest quality paper is generally referred to as premium paper and has a whiteness level between 167 and 170 CIE. This paper is used to impress the reading by offering a high qualitative paper and colourful print results, and for this reason is seen in important, external communication like printed images, graphics, presentations and other high-profile documents. At Viking, we have a wide range of premium papers in multiple grammages.

Recycled print paper has its own special paper segment, especially in terms of whiteness level. The criteria for paper to be categorised as recycled paper is that the pulp where the paper is composed of is made from material that was previously paper. We at Viking have 50% recycled paper, meaning that half of the pulp was formerly paper and the other half is “new” pulp, as well as 100% recycled paper. The whiteness level of recycled paper can vary from a low-white level of 55 CIE, also known as off-white, to a 161 CIE.

What should be mentioned is that paper with a similar CIE value can differ in perceived whiteness. Some papers have a blue glare, while others may appear more red. Which of these two are perceived as whiter differs per person, however, commonly is the bluer-looking sheet seen as more white.

Single or double-sided printing / Duplex printing

Duplex printing means you print on both sides of the paper, either automatically through a function on your printer or by manually flipping the sheets after one page has been printed. This functionality saves on paper and is therefore an environmentally-friendly option.

In order to print double-sided, your printer will need to have the functionality built in and not all printers can duplex print. Just like printers, not all paper is suited for duplex printing. It is recommended to use business or premium paper due to their characteristics of thickness and opacity, ensuring the best results without paper jams.

Sustainability / Green claims

Not only paper from our ecological range have sustainable claims, but almost all the paper we carry in our assortment have at least one environmental claim. This means, our everyday, business and premium paper can be a sustainable solution. Below is a short description to give you a better understanding of what each claim comprises of.

Environmental Claims

100% recycled: Contains post-consumer and/or pre-consumer recycled content. Contains 100% recycled content (by weight).
FSC: Forest Stewardship Council - International certification mark that proves that the paper you are buying comes from well managed forests and verifies that they’re not mixed with products from uncertified forests at any point in the supply chain.
PEFC: The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification. It provides evidence that timber products originate from certified, well managed forests and verifies that they’re not mixed with products from uncertified forests at any point in the supply chain
EU Ecolabel: European certification helps you identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their lifecycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal, compared to products without this certification mark.
CO² neutral: Having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. Must be third party certified, third party label must be available to use.
Blue Angel: An environmental label introduced by the federal government of Germany. It is awarded to products which are of considerable benefit to the environment and meet high standards of serviceability and health and occupational protection. Factors considered include: economical use of raw materials during production and use, a long service life and a sustainable disposal. Where 100% recycled content is verified it guarantees that 100 percent of the paper fibres are from recovered paper.
Nordic Swan: Is the official sustainability ecolabel introduced by Nordic Council. It encourages production methods that create the minimum environmental impact and contribute to sustainable consumption. The overall goal is to reduce the environmental impact from production and consumption of goods.

Quality or Production Type related Attributes:

ISO9706: Guarantees the performance of this paper in terms of documentation and archiving norms. It specifies the requirements for permanent paper intended for documents given in terms of minimum strength measured by a tear test, minimum content of substance (such as calcium carbonate) that neutralize acid action measured by the alkali reserve, maximum content of easily oxidized material measured by the kappa number, maximum and minimum pH values of a cold water extract of the paper. Is applicable to unprinted papers. Is not applicable to boards.
TCF and ECF: ECF (Elementary Chlorine Free) en TCF (Totally Chlorine Free).

Paper Production

The Paper Making Route

In principle is paper made from wood. Logs of wood are debarked and then ground into fibres. The wood chips are then cooked with chemicals to remove the lignin and reduced into smaller fibres where they will be washed, bleached and dried. At this point, the pulp is ready to be converted into paper: the wood pulp needs to be diluted with 100 times its weight before this fibre liquid is run through the paper machine.

The water gets removed during the wire section. There, the fibres will be spread and consolidated into a thin mat after which it will go through a press. This is where a lot of the water is removed, allowing the paper to be formed into its thin shape. It will go through a drying section before being gathered on large rolls.

To finish, these large rolls will be converted into smaller reels and cut into sheets.

Print and Paper: Myths and Facts


The Myth: European forests are shrinking
The Fact: Between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by 44,000 Square Kilometres - that’s an area bigger than Switzerland and amounts to over 1,500 football pitches every day!

The Myth: Planted Forests are bad for the environment
The Fact: Forests are essential for the transition to the green economy. Well-managed planted forests reduce the pressure on natural forests and can provide many other environmental benefits, like:
• Can be more productive and can grow faster than natural forests
• Can be independently certified
• Can provide new recreational facilities
• Can prevent soil degradation and erosion
• Provide new habitat shade and shelter for wildlife
• Contribute to rural development

The Myth: Paper is bad for the environment
The Fact: Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Paper is based on wood, a natural and renewable material. As young trees grow they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Furthermore, as a wood product, paper also continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime.

The Myth: Paper production is a major cause of global greenhouse gas emissions
The Fact: Most of the energy used is renewable and carbon intensity is surprisingly low. The paper, pulp and print sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters of greenhouse gasses, accounting for 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The CO2 emissions of the European pulp and paper industry reduced by 22% between 2005 and 2013.

The Myth: Only recycled paper should be used
The Fact: Virgin fibres from sustainably managed forests are needed to maintain the paper cycle. Without new fibres, from new trees, the paper cycle cannot be maintained. Recycled fibres degrade after several uses and the paper industry needs fresh fibre from responsibly managed forests to keep the renewable cycle going.

The Myth: Print and Paper is a wasteful product
The Fact: Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world. The European recycling rate for paper reached 72% in 2014 - that amounts to 2 tonnes of paper being recycled every second!

The Myth: Electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication
The Fact: Electronic communication also has environmental Impacts. Each year, the electronic industry - one of the world’s largest and fastest growing - generates up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste from goods such as computers and smart phones.

The Myth: Digital is always the preferred means of communication
The Fact: Many consumers still value paper-based communication. 84% of people believe that they understand and can retain or use information much better when they read print on paper. And 60% of citizens would not choose a company which does not offer a paper bill.

The Myth: Packaging is wasteful and unnecessary
The Fact: Paper-based packaging protects goods, reduces waste and is recyclable


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