Searching for the best paper for a laser printer? If you need help navigating the sea of paper brands and types we can help. Before I worked on printers I thought paper was just paper. But now I’ve learned paper really matters to get the best results from a laser printer. Choosing the right size, type, and brightness for the job will ensure a great outcome. After clearing perhaps thousands of printer jams in my lifetime. Paper and me are good friends now. After working on many color printers you learn to love them.
When it comes to paper the two most important factors are your printer and purpose of the print job. Whether you’re printing out a resume or just printing an email for reference. It will impact the right paper to load in your printer. One could recommend premium laser paper for everything, but why? We’ll go over a quick rundown on the differences and the benefits of each type. Inkjet printer paper, copy paper, and transfer paper are covered elsewhere.
Usually the choices for the two extremes, highest photo quality and economy paper, are simple. Bond paper is a good choice for email, directions, lists, etc. While high quality color paper is great for printing photos. The other jobs, such as resumes, ads, or presentations, the choices might not be as simple.
For example, some presentations might have better results on the high quality photo paper. Yet some presentations with little or no color would be best on premium paper. If the choice isn’t obvious I would err on the side of higher quality paper. Your printer will thank you for it. Bond is cheapest. Premium and premium color are close in quality and price. But typically premium color is slightly better and costs more.
One way to save on printing costs is to print only the color images on higher quality paper. Then print the monochrome documents on the cheaper stuff. Finally, combining them into one document. Be sure to note the brightness of the paper if you do this. The brightness should be within a few points.
The smoothest paper will have the best results when printing in color. To illustrate this imagine using transfer paper to transfer an image. One is transferred to burlap, another transferred to silk. The uneven surface of burlap will distort the image. While silk would take the transfer with little distortion.
At this point you may ask yourself, what kind of idiot does a transfer to silk ? You got me, nobody would. It was just to illustrate why smoothness matters for quality. A smoother surface will distort the transfer of toner less than a rough one.
When it comes to paper the differences may not be as obvious as those materials. Since paper surface is measured in microns. However, copy paper is the roughest. While a coated offset paper is the equivalent to silk.
The basic types of paper are based on their purpose. Offset/text paper works best for color images. Bond/copy paper is cost efficient everyday printing. Cover is the heavy stuff. Still not many printers spec for cover stock.
As long as I’ve worked with paper it’s still hard to tell the difference before printing. One way to tell the difference is to hold up a sheet of paper to the light. Offset paper will look consistent. The light will show evenly, with no clear lighter or darker areas. Bond paper will look blotchy. Lighter and darker areas will be apparent. A sign of good paper is the fibers homogeneity.
Another way is to tear the paper in half. Good paper will tear fairly straight and even. While lower quality paper will tear erratically. Those are the ways to tell before loading paper. After an image is printed the differences are more obvious though.
When it comes to weight laser printers may have specs for some heavy paper. However, for best results I would avoid pushing a laser printer to its max weight. A paper weight of 32lb and under is recommended for best results. Of course many laser printers can print fine on 120lb cover. But in my experience using heavier stock regularly will prematurely wear out fusers and feed rollers.
A quick check of the specs will tell you the limits of your laser printer. Note the duty cycle and max paper weight. Note that 150gsm converts to 40lb copy paper.
Another best practice is to break up longer runs with some cooldown time. Give the printer 20-30 minutes rest for every 250 continuous pages printed (or 500 for a larger duty cycle).
One thing I’ve noticed is many printers are limited to Letter or Legal size paper. Check the documentation that came with your printer to tell what sizes it accepts. In my experience many printers do better with the smaller sized papers. Be sure to take advantage of this when printing marketing materials. Not everything has to be an 11×17 booklet. Smaller sizes with full bleed (or trimmed) are very effective marketing materials. Even the standard 8½ x 11 can make a booklet.
Brightness is a measure of how close to a certain standard of white the paper. When choosing a papers brightness for your laser printer consider the job. Printing an email or directions for reference 90 or 92 bright is fine. For color documents 96 or higher is recommended. For a resume or communications to customers you could go with 94 bright. Although higher is generally better.
In my experience off brand paper isn’t as good as brand names. That isn’t always the case. Groceries or tools, for example, don’t always live up to the brand names. Yet for paper they do. Hammermill, HP, Epson, Boise, and Domtar brands are top notch. Who but WB Mason also makes great paper (and a catchy slogan). The office brands of paper are not very good in my experience. Neither are the off brand papers. They are cheap, have lots of paper dust, and non necessarily acid free.
Best Photo Quality
For the best color images and photos it’s all about the smoothness. Not all brands list its numerical value but the highest quality paper will have the smoothest finish. Glossy finish is also a must for great photo quality. Great for restaurant menus, certain ads, or photos when you need the best. Here are the papers I’ve discovered are best for photo or color images:
Best Premium Paper
When you want to make a great impression this is the paper for the job. In my experience colors and text look vibrant with this paper. The paper is smooth for great color images but not coated. Perfect for advertising, presentations, resume, or letterhead. Great for monochrome printing as well. Your printer will thank you for using this paper.
Best Economy Paper
When I was in the field many accounts used this paper for for their printers. Still for an economy paper it is surprisingly dust free and jam free. If you need a ton of paper that is easy on the wallet this is the paper for you. If you can find cheaper paper than this I would not recommend it. The cheapest paper money can buy will have issues. This is one step above that and in my experience is the most reliable.
What would a post about laser paper be without mentioning special paper. This paper doesn’t work with inkjets and most copiers run too hot for it. So it is just right for a laser printer. Further, toner is waterproof. Once cured this transfer will fare better than ink. Print your own decals. Customize mugs, model cars, plates, or ornaments.
Our goal was to provide a good understanding of the different types of paper for your laser. As well as the strengths and limits of a laser printer. Lastly, that you would be able to get the most from your printer. By matching your print jobs with the right paper for your printer.
Hopefully this article has helped you pick the best paper for your laser printer. Don’t forget to fan the paper before loading!
The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on scanners, printers, copiers, and faxes over 23 years. When I’m not fixing them I’m writing about them. Although, I’m probably better at fixing them. I’ve worked with every major brand. As well as several types of printers. If it uses paper I’ve probably worked on one.