Paper Brightness Versus Paper Whiteness

Maybe you’ve never thought of it up until now, but paper brightness and paper whiteness are different.

Paper brightness versus paper whiteness can be compared through the measure of light. Paper brightness refers to the papers ability to reflect light while paper whiteness refers to the quality of light -that is, the shade of the paper. Paper is a resource we use on a daily basis and unless you work in the printing industry, they may be no different to you, until now.

Such a versatile material like paper has many different uses including packaging, decorating, printing, writing, cleaning and is even valuable in construction and industrial processes. Depending on the desired use for paper, you’ll be looking for a specific kind of paper. The visual perspective of a printed sheet is affected by 5 main optical properties:

  • Opacity
  • Color
  • Finish (Smooth, Vellum, Gloss, Satin, Silk, Matte, Dull etc.)
  • Brightness
  • Whiteness

Opacity refers to the amount of light that is allowed to pass through the paper as in how translucent it is. Color and finish are pretty straightforward. Brightness and Whiteness though, are 2 concepts that can be overlooked if you aren’t aware of the difference. Selecting the right paper for your documents or projects plays a big role in creating the credibility your business is looking for at the end of the day. Superior quality paper tells a story long before your client has gotten down to the details of the proposal you’ve handed them. It is not abnormal for these 2 properties to be misunderstood or confused and therefore, overlooked. At the end of the day, it’s about aesthetics.

What is Paper Brightness?

The general understanding of brightness is the amount of light reflectance, usually based on a scale of 0-100%.  The higher the number, the more “bright” a sheet is or that is to say, the higher amount of reflectance of blue light refers to the brightness of a sheet of paper. For example, paper with a higher measurement on the scale will reflect more blue light than a sheet of paper measuring less on the scale. This light reflectance is measured against specific wavelengths as opposed to all wavelengths of light like whiteness.

Within the industry, there are 3 standards that measure paper brightness. Each standard uses different techniques and different equipment to achieve their brightness result and measurements are not interchangeable with one another.

  • TAPPI/G.E Brightness: The North American standard that measures the brightness of paper as visible in an environment consisting of a mixture of cool-white fluorescent and some filtered daylight. The light will only hit the sheet of paper from one angle which means that this standard will always be lower than other standards. The UV of TAPPI brightness is also the lowest of all the measuring standards.
  • ISO Brightness: ISO brightness is a European measuring standard that measures brightness in an environment with cool-white fluorescent and some unfiltered daylight. The light will hit the sample sheet from all different angles. Measurements can exceed 100% but not by a significant amount. Paper samples with the more fluorescent present will likely measure higher in brightness on the ISO scale compared with TAPPI.
  • D65 Brightness: This measurement uses outdoor light because of the levels of UV present to interact with the fluorescent in the paper. Considering this, brightness levels can easily record over 100% making D65 scales much higher than TAPPI and ISO.

What is Paper Whiteness?

Paper whiteness refers to the amount of red, blue, and green reflectance that the eye can see when looking at a sheet of paper. Paper whiteness can be warm white if reflectance comprises of more reds; and cool white if it consists of more blues. The environment in which you view the sheet of paper will affect the amount of whiteness visible. In attempting to achieve more whiteness, OBAs (optical brightening agents) are added to a duller sheet of paper. In outdoor lighting, this sheet will appear much whiter than when viewing it indoors. The reverse applies. A sheet of paper that has an appropriate white base and low levels of OBAs will appear whiter indoors and duller outdoors. It is then fair to say that using different types of paper for one document may affect the aesthetics and quality of the final product, depending on when/where the document will be viewed.

The Difference and Why It Matters

Now you’re left wondering what the actual difference is for you as a business owner or supplier. This might not be your sort of interest. At Woodland Paper we speak the language of quality paper and we’re passionate about providing your business a solution perhaps you didn’t know you needed. If you’re looking to give your proposals and documents that extra attention we believe is necessary, Woodland Paper has the industry knowledge to advise you.

Printing and copying in black and white leaves you an option of either whiteness or brightness and based on the function of your documents, this will come down to personal preference. Characteristics such as the contrast between black toner and white paper will come into play. Color printing requires consideration of the shade and whiteness of paper you select.  This, along with the contrast of color toners will affect the final outcome of natural colors and how they appear versus how you would expect them to appear. If you’re looking to print images with blue tones such as oceans, a blue-white shade of paper will further enhance the blue tones in the paper. If you are printing flesh tones, a more neutral white shade is preferred for optimal color reproduction.  If your document contains plenty of text, it is less tiring on the eye to use a warmer white paper.

Paper whiteness and paper brightness are only 2 factors to consider when selecting your ideal paper. Elements such as the finish will play a role in the quality of printing and therefore the overall quality of your documents.