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Headlines keep trying to tell us print is dead, and yet it persists. We still trade business cards and get postcards and flyers in the mail. There are still racks of magazines to choose from, and if you’re in Indianapolis, an entire shop dedicated to the most artfully crafted rags.

True, lots of people are taking their marketing online because shuffling pixels around tends to be cheaper and more convenient than print. Since there’s less competition, a well-designed and thoughtfully printed piece can really stand out and leave an impression. The emphasis is on well designed. If you are going to spend the money on print pieces you want to be sure it doesn’t end up on top of the garbage bin. Here a few suggestions to make your piece stand out in the mailbox. 


Printing Techniques


Designers love to feel paper. We know it’s super weird and we don’t care. It’s because we have a strong belief in subconscious messaging, and the type of paper you choose goes a long way in supporting that message.

There’s a reason newsprint has its own category among papers: here today, gone tomorrow. Newsprint is the cheapest, thinnest stuff that will actually hold ink. Unless you’re putting together a newspaper-style promotion, stay away.

Beyond that, papers come in weights. Each pound is relative to 500 sheets, or a ream, of paper. The type you put in your printer is called bond stock and weighs in between 16-24lb. The higher the weight, the thicker the paper. Sort of makes sense, even if it is a vague indication of thickness when you’re standing in an aisle at the office store.

For your print project, consider a higher-weighted, coated paper (different from gloss, we’ll get to that). This piece of paper is important and will be touched even before your copy is read.

Special Effects

Here’s where your promo can get nice and shiny, literally.

Glossy Paper & Spot Gloss

Usually gloss is associated with a quality of paper that’s good for printing pictures on. In the printing process, gloss can be applied to give your piece a nice professional finish, like an upscale laminator. It also produces a much higher quality image, which is why we print pictures on it. On uncoated paper, the ink sinks into the fibers, making for a denser image. If your service is dependent on great photos to showcase what you do, varnished and glossed paper is a great option.

If you want to get fancier, the spot gloss technique kicks it up a notch. Do you want your customer to FEEL those raindrops or the bumps on a football? Printers can apply gloss in such a precise way that it can mimic a texture. Arguably more satisfactory than a scratch-n-sniff of your product.


I see this one the most on business cards and wedding invites, where letters, or an image, is pressed into the paper and creates an indent. A deboss is when the print is applied on the back and creates a raised surface on the front. Like gloss and spot gloss, an embossed piece immediately conveys a level of quality without having to say it. I’ve also seen postcards that successfully used both embossing and spot gloss to give the impression of embossed leather on a piece of paper.

Die Cut 

This is a pricier option than the others we’ve discussed, but die cuts give you the option to have a shape that is unique, or at least not a rectangle. You’ve probably been handed a business card that was a weird shape and didn’t fit in your wallet; someone paid extra money to make sure you didn’t keep it. Die cuts are a great way to get creative but use discretion.

With all of the print options and processes available, it’s easy to get lost. Always, always, always start a dialogue with your printer at the beginning of a print project. They’ll let you know what will best suit your needs and how to do it in a cost-effective manner.

There’s an abundance of examples online of clever promotional pieces to give you some ideas to get you started and your piece in the hands of your future customer.

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