In order to get the most from your printer here’s some tips for selecting the right paper. When it comes to selecting the right paper the two most important factors are the type of printer and purpose of the print job. An obvious recommendation would be premium inkjet paper for inkjet printers and premium laser paper for laser printers, but why? Here’s a quick rundown on the differences and the benefits of each type.

There is a huge variety of paper out there. This article will just cover a few basic types for everyday use in printers. Laser paper, copy paper and Transfer paper are covered elsewhere. To begin, general use paper is uncoated, has a rough surface, is dusty, and is the least expensive type of paper. Due to its higher paper dust content and rougher surface it is not recommended for inkjet or laser printers.


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 may 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 so may have a multipurpose label. They shouldn’t be confused with multipurpose paper.

Spotting the differences

Paper with a high gloss, semi gloss, or gloss appearance will have a coating. Coated paper is easy to spot. A coating can be added to the paper to make the surface even smoother and more uniform. This does improve the quality slightly but mainly 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 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.


right 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, 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 may vary. They may come in 25, 50, 150, or 250 sheet reams. 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.

Laser Paper

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 may not be 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:

Economy Paper

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.

The Copier Jam


Special Paper

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!

Waterproof & Tearproof Paper

copy paper
Photo Credit Terra Slate Paper

Label Paper

What would a post about paper be without mentioning labels? They come in many shapes and sizes. Of all the offices I’ve been in these are the most used, Avery 8160. Very reliable. 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!

right paper

copier guy

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.

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