I’m a gamer, and like most gamers I have a good understanding of what resources lead to what manufactured materials. You can’t have bricks without clay, or steel without iron, and you certainly can’t have paper without trees. Or can you?


The astute blog reader always look at the title before answering rhetorical questions, so the astute among you already know that “yes, you can”. If you couldn’t, this would be a very short entry about synthetic stock. Before we get into its uses, it’s important to understand what it is. Synthetic stock is made to look and feel like wood fiber paper, but there are no trees used in its creation; instead, it’s made using human-made polymers. Polymers are a type of molecule, but there’s no need to get overly technical about their classification here; know that human made polymers are everywhere, from your frying pan to the can of paint you use for the exterior of your house.


Synthetic stock being man-made means it can be imbued with a variety of properties that might be unavailable to you using tree fiber paper. The most important quality that is shared by all synthetic stock is durability; traditional paper is quite porous, meaning it’s easily damaged by water. Traditional paper can also tear and burn quite easily, and can suffer substantial damage as a result of aging and abrasion. Synthetic stock is much more durable; it can be tear, water, chemical and UV resistant. That means synthetic stock is better positioned for a variety of purposes; boating manuals, for example, might be synthetic because water resistance is important. Cookbooks and restaurant menus are often made of synthetic stock because it tends to be more stain-resistant than paper, due to the non-porous nature of the stock.


The properties of synthetic stock can vary substantially depending on how it’s made; different stock has a variety of different uses. Teslin, one of the leaders in synthetic stock manufacturing, compiled a list of considerations when choosing synthetic stock. Your print shop will be able to go over these considerations with you, but there are a few that are important to note. First, depending on the stock, your printer might have to use different inking methods; ink usually relies on paper’s porousness to be absorbed, so particularly impermeable synthetics will require different methods. That can change what can actually be printed. They’ll also evaluate how durable the stock needs to be; if it’s going to be outside in the sleet and snow, you’ll need particularly durable stock. Other factors like how quickly you’ll need the printing to be done and what kind of finish you want to have can affect which synthetic will be chosen.