When it comes to paper, formation refers to the distribution of fiber and fillers in a sheet of paper. The uniformity or even distribution of the fibers reflects the quality of the paper.

Good formation is sometimes also referred to as  “close formation.”

Why should you care about formation?
Formation is a key property in paper and dictates the quality of a print job. Think of it as even versus uneven pavement. It is easier to drive or ride your bike on an even pavement – and it is equally easier to lay down ink on a sheet of paper that has even fiber distribution. Sheets with good formation accept ink  uniformly, which reduces the risk of mottle and overall enhances image clarity.

Unfortunately there is no such things as a formation rating system, so make sure to visually check when deciding between two papers.

How do you check for formation?
Take a plain paper sample and hold it against the light – or use a light table. The distribution of the fiber is easily visible. Poorly formed sheets will have dark and light patches. What you are looking for is an even distribution.

A note on price
Well-formed sheets are manufactured more slowly and this – not surprisingly – increases cost.

However, there is a use for all papers. Use well formatted papers for higher end projects with a longer shelf life and the less expensive ones for inexpensive flyers or direct mail pieces.

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