Domtar: How to Read a Swatchbook

Here a tips on getting the most out of a paper swatchbook. To keep your resources up-to-date, request the most recent Cougar®, Lynx® or Husky® swatchbooks at or scan below. 



A swatchbook is a valuable tool for both print newcomers and industry veterans that not only displays a paper line’s entire offering, but also provides the right information to solidify your paper decision. They are the ideal starting point in the creation of any dynamic printed piece.

A swatchbook has several components: printed samples, unprinted samples and tabs. Each section has a different role in informing your decision about what type of paper to use. While useful as an introduction to a paper mill’s brands, offerings and specifications, swatchbooks also allow customers to grow more familiar with paper over time. The more that you use your swatchbook, the mroe knowledgeable you will become about your paper options.



Printed samples are a series of images printed on various paper offerings. They help you determine the impact different papers will have on a printed piece, such as how an image will appear on a white shade of paper versus a cream shade or how much show-through the specific sheet allows. When reviewing the printed samples, look for elements like:

  • Printed SamplesEven solids and rich blacks
  • Lifelike skin tones and vibrant color
  • Excellent detail reproduction

These elements can help you evaluate paper formation, brightness and shade, which are all indicators of a paper’s quality and can affect the overall mood and message from one printed sample to the next.



While printed samples showcase how the paper will enhance or complement an image, the unprinted samples (waterfall) serve as an easily accessible look at the entire grade line’s offering. The waterfall is the standout feature of a swatchbook. Without the distraction of a printed image, it displays the range of an offering and focuses on its components–such as brightness, shade, formation and weight–making inconsistencies and comparisons across lines easy to notice.

Both printed and unprinted samples are important, especially when choosing white, uncoated paper. Although they may look very similar at first, no two white, uncoated paper lines are alike. Different mills produce slightly different shades, at different brightnesses with different formations and these variations produce unique results once ink is added to the paper.



Swatchbooks also feature several staggered tabs along their pages that define the various sections of the swatchbook, usually by finish or suggested equipment usage. If you flip to each respective tab, you’ll notice that this is where the stocking charts are featured.



Paper Qualities Shown


Basis Weight

Refers to the weight in pounds per ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to its basic or standard size.

GE Brightness

Measures the ability of a sheet of paper to reflect blue light on a scale of 0-100. The higher the number, the brighter the sheet.

GSM (grams per square meter)

Refers to the actual measure of a sheet’s weight. The heavier the paper, the higher the number of grams per square meter.


The measure of the evenness of a paper’s surface. Smoothness is important for ink absorption.


The level of “show-through” in a sheet of paper.


The thickness of a single sheet of paper.

Stocking charts provide the specifications of various basis weights and contain information printers use every day to make informed decisions about what paper to order for a specific job. In a Domtar Paper swatchbook, the specification chart features qualities of the paper for each basis weight listed. Some basis weights offer more size options than others, so check stocking charts for varying sizes across different basis weights beforehand and after any changes to ensure your chosen basis weight matches the needed sheet size.



Your printer is your best resource (next to swatchbooks) for your print projects, so include them in the conversation. Their knowledge is extensive, and they can provide advice and guidance on whether an option is suitable for your needs and goals based on their experience. When working on budget-conscious projects, coordinate with your printer to plan your printed piece around what’s available to get the most out of your sheet and maximize potential cost savings without compromising print quality. Remember, swatchbooks only represent paper mill plans, not local merchant stock. To prevent project delays or redesigns, collaborate with your printer to confirm the availability of the required sheet size in your chosen bases weight, meeting project timeline requirements.


Suppliers will update their swatchbooks every few years, so be sure that your swatch cabinets are up-to-date. Visit to request the most recent Cougar®, Lynx® or Husky® swatchbooks.

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