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50 Shades of White

Trish Witkowski guides you through a blizzard of white paper choices.

This article appeared in Issue 84 of InDesign Magazine.

White paper is like poetry without words. It’s a blank canvas that comes in many shades, each with its own personality.

As someone who has studied thousands of creative printed materials over the past two decades, I can tell you that the beauty of white is in its subtleties. Often we don’t even realize these almost indistinguishable details until we set that white sheet next to, well, another white sheet. It’s then that we’re reminded that all whites aren’t created alike.

Think about your favorite brochure or invitation printed on white paper. It’s probably printed off of a desktop laser printer on 28 lb. bright white laser paper, right? What? It’s not?? As a matter of fact, I’m going to bet that your favorite printed piece is on a medium-to-heavy weight sheet—possibly a gorgeous white dull or matte coated sheet, or a toothy uncoated sheet. As to which it is, well, that’s a matter of preference, and that’s the beauty of it. A gorgeous white sheet of paper engages the senses in many ways—through sight, touch, sound, even scent. The more senses we can engage, the greater the experience. Some of my personal favorites are enhanced with letterpress printing, or stamped with foil, blind embossed, or even digitally printed with an extended gamut color range.

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Trish Witkowski is Chief Folding Fanatic at; a world-renowned educator, author, and speaker; and an award-winning designer.