Choice of material

A wide variety of papers and boards are stocked by H.M. Stationery Office to meet most of the normal requirements of departments. These papers range from those of high quality to withstand much handling and storage over long periods of time, to the cheaper papers which have a more limited life.

All papers etc. must be selected with regard to the use that will be made of the finished document. Whilst it is uneconomic to use a paper which is of better quality, and thus more expensive, than is justified for the job, it is equally uneconomic if the qualities of the paper are not suited to all the conditions of use; the main factors to consider for most documents are as follows:

  1. Writing or Surface Quality. When forms are to be completed in pencil it is necessary to use a paper with a matt or rough surface to give ‘bite’. When pen and ink is used for entries a calendered or more polished surface is desirable, on both sides if needed. Coloured writing inks should be tested on the proposed paper, since they tend to penetrate some papers quickly, blurring the entry and spoiling the back surface of the paper. Papers with too rough a surface tend to cling together and impede handling. If entries are to be made with ball pens the paper should be ‘engine sized’ and have a smooth finish.
  2. Erasing quality. The possibility of erasure must be borne in mind either to give a good surface for ink etc. entries after erasure with knife or rubber, or to make erasure difficult for security reasons, e.g. for instruments of payment.
  3. Opacity. The degree of ‘show through’ may be important if forms are to be printed or entered on both sides of the paper.
  4. Thickness, bulk, weight and toughness. Flimsy papers impede handling operations such as sorting; but thin paper is needed for carbon copying or air mail purposes; if the paper is very thin a backing sheet will be required for copying. Loose leaf documents normally require a tough paper to resist tear at the punch holes. To minimise the weight and space for filing and storage it is desirable to keep the thickness or bulk of paper as small as possible.
  5. Permanence. Forms which must be preserved as important records need a good paper of lasting quality. Some records may exclude the use of certain inks and require the use of official ink specifically purchased for its non-fading and permanent qualities.
  6. Translucency to ultra violet light. See section on ‘Use of translucent paper and dyeline copying’.

H.M. Stationery Office should always be advised of any special requirements arising out of the use of documents; these cannot be assumed by the printer or supplier who has no knowledge of the problem or job associated with the document and if there is any doubt about the suitability of the material to be used a practical test under realistic working conditions and with sample material supplied by H.M.S.O. is advisable.