If you’re looking for some tips on selecting the right paper for your printer, this article can help. It will break down all the different factors for selecting paper. Then clarify which paper is right for kind of printing you do on your printer.
If you’re looking for paper the two most important factors are the type of printer and purpose of the print job.
We could just recommend you premium inkjet paper for your inkjet printers and premium laser paper for laser printers, but why? Here’s a quick rundown for you on the differences and the benefits of each type.
To begin, general use paper (construction paper) is uncoated, has a rough surface, is dusty, and is the lowest quality type of paper. Due to its higher paper dust content and rougher surface it is not recommended for inkjet or laser printers.
Quality paper will benefit your printer in other ways. Better paper doesn’t jam as much. It won’t cause as much wear and tear on your printer over time.
How to Recognize Good Paper
Coated paper is easy to spot. A coating is added to the paper to make the surface even smoother and more uniform. Paper with a high gloss, semi gloss, or gloss appearance will have a coating. This improves the print quality and gives the print a glossy appearance. A coated paper will help an inkjet printer more than a laser printer though.
The difference between the uncoated types is hard to tell at a glance. I’ve been in the industry a long time and I hold them up to the light to tell. Copy, multipurpose, and bond paper will look blotchy. Good quality color, laser, or photo paper will look even. In the image below, the left side is multipurpose paper and the right side is premium color paper when held up to a light.
The difference between good and better quality paper can also be felt. While holding a sheet of paper in your hands, rub it between your thumbs and fingers. Better paper even feels smoother.
You can also feel the weight of the paper. Heavier isn’t necessarily better. Cardstock isn’t as smooth as photo paper even if they’re the same weight.
If only paper manufacturers would have samples in stores for everyone to see and feel. The next best thing is buying paper in the smallest ream available to test for yourself.
You could always go to a print shop and randomly grab their paper. Of course, they might give you a strange look and ask what the heck are you doing!? Just say you’re there to fix a printer, seems to work for me.
Types of Paper for a Laser Printer
Copy paper, aka bond paper, is better for printers than general use paper. It isn’t coated either but is smoother. This is the lowest grade recommended for laser printers or copiers. It isn’t recommended for inkjet printers.
Multipurpose paper is similar to copy paper. It will be brighter and slightly heavier. The fibers are uniform and smoother than Bond paper. It is uncoated but much better overall than copy paper. This is the lowest grade recommended for inkjets.
Premium color paper, sometimes called Laser paper, is ultra smooth, has little paper dust, and is more uniform. This paper is much better than multipurpose paper. It is refined more to make a smoother and more uniform surface. This paper will have good results for text as well as color images.
Photo paper is similar to the premium color paper, only it has a coating. Some coatings are specifically for inkjet printers and will not work in a laser printer. Other coatings will work in either type printer and should say so on the box. This shouldn’t be confused with multipurpose paper.
Standard paper sizes around here are Letter (8.5×11), Legal (8.4×14), Ledger (11×17) and Statement (5.5x 8.5). Something to note is the last two standard sizes are double and half the letter size. Elsewhere in the world A3, A4, and B4 are standard paper sizes. A4 is closest to Letter, A3 closest to Ledger, and B4 close to Legal. Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later. Just remember there are 3 major standard sizes depending on your country. The majority of copiers will use Letter (or A4 respectively).
A standard ream of paper is 500 sheets. Reams of special paper can vary. Paper also comes in reams of 25, 50, 150, or 250 sheets. Typically a case of paper will have 10 reams for 5,000 sheets of paper. Yet other cases will come with 8 reams for 4,000 sheets.
Brightness and Weight
When it comes to printing color, whether it be inkjet or laser, the higher the brightness the better. A higher brightness will really make the colors stand out. When printing color images weight is more a matter of preference, but I would recommend at least 95 bright for printing color images.
When printing something such as a resume or other important document I would recommend using 24 lbs paper or heavier. The difference between 20 lbs and 24 lbs paper is noticeable and will make any document stand out. Paper comes in a variety of colors now. Colored paper is a cheaper alternative to make a resume or flier stand out.
Inkjet Photo Paper
When it comes to an inkjet printer selecting the right paper will make a tremendous difference in quality. General use paper allows the ink wick into the paper much more than a laser paper. When the ink wicks into the paper it causes text to be fuzzy and colors to fade. Ink is too expensive to be printing it on general purpose paper. Multipurpose paper is fine for everyday printing but photo paper will have better results. Rather than printing an inkjet in econo mode on general use paper all the time, a basic black and white laser printer could pay for itself with the savings.
Inkjet printers are for printing high quality glossy photos which require better paper. For the best results a coated photo paper will prevent the ink from absorbing into the paper, such as these:
This paper is meant only for inkjet printers as the coating will melt in a laser printer. Coated paper will also require a few more seconds for the ink to dry. If your inkjet printer has a quality or speed setting, set it to high quality with this paper. If it doesn’t you may have to manually remove each sheet as it finishes so the next one coming out doesn’t smear it. For printing photos this paper can’t be beat.
To strike a balance between quality and cost for your inkjet select an uncoated premium paper. Since it isn’t coated it will work in laser printer as well. It isn’t as drastic a difference as photo inkjet paper in an inkjet printer, however premium color paper v general purpose paper does make a significant difference when printing color. It’s smoothed surface does an excellent job preventing the ink from bleeding into the paper. For everyday printing on your inkjet this is the paper to use:
Premium Color Paper
Selecting the right paper for your laser printer is a process. First assessing the traits of the print job. Whether its color or monochrome. If it’s just printing an email for reference. Or an important presentation to a customer. Then determining which paper will get the best results.
Most projects will be fine on the everyday use paper. For laser printers, the difference paper makes in quality can be readily seen with color images. When applying 4 layers of toner a smoother surface will allow the pile of toner to retain it’s original shape as much as possible. The image will have sharper edges and well defined colors the less the toner spreads. The benefit of a smoother surface for one layer of toner is not as noticeable, so this isn’t recommended for black & white printing. When printing in color the best results are from the smoothest paper, such as this from Hammermill:
When I was in the field many accounts used this paper for for their printers and copiers. For an economy paper it is surprisingly dust free and jam free. If you want a ton of paper that is easy on the wallet this is the paper for you. This is the economy paper I’ve seen used the most with the fewest issues. 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 is reliable.
When a laser printer gets special paper magical things can happen. Water proof paper. Tear proof paper. Transfer paper. Waterproof paper doesn’t work on an inkjet. But you can still write on it with a pen or pencil. Great for recipes, signs, business cards, or maps. Say goodbye to that laminator and save money by printing on your own waterproof and tear proof paper!
Thicker TerraSlate Waterproof Tearproof White Copy Paper. Great for business cards!
Waterproof & Tearproof Paper
Waterproof & tear resistant Paper
What would an article about paper be without mentioning labels? It rarely happens but when a label jams in a printer it is something special.
Labels come in many shapes and sizes. Of all the office printers I’ve worked on these are the most used, Avery 8160. Very reliable and few jams. Be sure to use Avery’s free design and print software. Never waste labels again by only printing where you want on the labels!
Paper is like a sponge and will absorb any moisture in the air around it. Basements or garages are not good places to store extra reams of paper. Although it is a good idea to store paper in its own container. In my experience, if the room is kept at a reasonable temperature and humidity it is fine to store the paper in a drawer or top of a cabinet.
Besides humidity, another issue is how flat the paper is stored. Paper will retain the shape it is stored. Leaving one corner hanging over the edge or laying the ream over an uneven surface will aggravate any natural curl present in the paper. Too much curl can cause jams.
Speaking of paper feed, some manufacturers will mark the ream of paper with an arrow ▲. This indicates which side of the paper should be printed on first. If there isn’t any mark usually the side which the seam of the wrapper is on is the “face” which will have the better results. If it isn’t in the documentation with your printer, mark one side with an X and send it through the printer to see if the paper is loaded face up or face down.
With this overview of the different paper types and traits, selecting paper for your printer should be simplified. Each printing project will have specific requirements and matching them to the right paper will save money in the long run. When choosing a paper for your printer remember to select the appropriate paper for the project. Copy paper is fine for everyday printing such as directions, drafts, lists, etc. Multipurpose paper is good for reports, invoices, forms, or some color documents. Premium color paper is great for photos, images, resumes, etc.
Another way to save on printing costs is to print only the color images on higher quality paper then inserting them post production into the rest of the document. Not every color inkjet project needs 50lb coated photo paper. On the other hand, a two sided project in color on 24lb paper may not be enough to stop heavy images bleeding through on 2 sided.
Having a good grasp of the differences in paper will help make decisions about what paper to choose. Hopefully you found these tips for selecting the right paper helpful and don’t forget to fan the paper before loading!
No they don’t require special paper. They can use multi purpose, copy, laser, color, construction, or cardstock to name a few. One type they can’t use is paper with a coating specifically for inkjet printers.
Yes. Construction paper is not the greatest quality but any laser printer will print on it.
Multipurpose paper means for multiple types of printers. It can be used in laser or inkjet printers.
Another term for premium color printing paper.
No. Copy paper is lower quality paper for B&W printing. Laser paper is high quality paper for color printing.
In the US letter (8.5×11), legal (8.5×14), and ledger (11×17) are the most common sizes. Standard sizes in the UK and elsewhere are A4 (210x297mm), A3 (297x420mm), and B4 (257x364mm).
Glossy can refer to a finish or coating. A glossy finish is fine for color laser printers. The glossy coating specific for inkjet printers doesn’t work in a laser printer.
No. Laser printers use a dry powder called toner.
For B&W printing copy paper is fine. Color printing should use laser paper. For inkjets photo paper is best.
FAQ for GSM
80 GSM. The difference isn’t enough to really have an impact though.
Yes. Standard copy paper is 75 GSM.
It’s thicker than standard copy paper at 75 GSM.
It depends on what you’re using it for. For regular printing, yes. For photo printing not so much.
180-250 GSM is best for ink.
The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on 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 of printer. As well as several types of printing processes.