Characteristics and Uses of Newsprint Paper

Light, cheap, but strong enough

Newspapers stacked on top of each other

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Newsprint is an inexpensive paper made primarily of groundwood pulp. It is most recognizable for its use in newspapers, although some comic books and trade magazines use it, too. It has a shorter lifespan than other papers, but it is cheap to produce in bulk and is the least expensive paper that can withstand the normal printing process. 

Newsprint paper is available in four grades:

  • Standard news: Used to print most newspapers. 
  • Improved newsprint: Has greater brightness, heavier basis weight, and smoother surface than standard. It's used specifically for printing color photos. Some newspapers use Improved on some pages that carry color images and Standard on the other pages.
  • Specialty news: Used for advertising materials, such as coupon inserts.
  • Colored news: Pastel-tinted newsprint typically used for tabloid inserts.
  • Directory paper: Used for telephone books and catalogs.

Characteristics of Newsprint

A few variables set newsprint paper grades apart:

  • Brightness: A perfectly bright paper is rated at 100% brightness. Newsprint brightness ranges from 56 to 59, which is on the low side. 
  • Weight: 30 pounds for most newsprint. This is based on the actual weight of 500 sheets in its basic size of 24 inches by 36 inches.

Designing for Newsprint

Newsprint is rarely printed on offset sheet-fed presses because it is thin and flexible. Instead, it's manufactured on large rolls and run on a web press. Typically, it's collated, folded, and trimmed as it comes off the press. Most local commercial printers don't have a web press; only those that specialize in web printing are likely to use these enormous pieces of equipment.

Printing press
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Design pieces for newsprint as you would any multipage document. Check with the printing company for any special requirements. The company will likely handle the necessary imposition to deliver the publication with all the pages in the correct order.

Newsprint Trivia

Here are a few interesting facts about newsprint paper:

  • Newsprint is more desirable for garden and composting use than other papers because it degrades so readily.
  • Recycling one stack of newspapers about 6 feet tall saves the life of one 35-foot-tall tree.
  • Demand for newsprint is declining along with the rise of digital news platforms. In 2018, U.S. newspaper circulation dropped to its lowest levels since it was first tabulated in 1940.
  • More than 70% of newsprint in the U.S. is recycled. The most common use of recycled newspaper fiber is the creation of new newsprint.