The Right Paper for the Perfect Print
When striving to achieve the perfect print, many factors are crucial to acquiring the
desired result. Yet, the weight of achieving the right print for the right situation is
generally perceived to rest on the shoulders of the printer and its ink. Although the
capabilities of a printer can limit or expand the scope of printing outcomes, it's the paper
that ultimately determines the quality and longevity of a print. One could print graphics
at the highest resolution with premium inks in a high-end photo printer, but if using
standard multipurpose paper, the print will be soggy, wrinkle and the image may bleed
So, before printing an image or presentation, consider the paper that you are using and
ask yourself if you should be using a different type of paper for that particular job. Your
printer will usually have a selection for different paper settings, within the advanced print
settings, which can act as a guide to discovering which types work best with your printer.
With that in mind, let's briefly review some of the most commonly available types of
papers, their characteristics, and their common applications, so that in the future, you too
can achieve the perfect print.
Multipurpose (Copy) Paper:
This is the standard type of paper that is widely available and is probably the type of
paper you have in your printer right now. Used for laser or inkjet printers, this type of
paper is lightweight (usually 20lb), uncoated, and is fit for the majority of daily printing
jobs. Although not suited for presentation quality prints, most text and simple images
should print clearly, and it should serve most intra-office, home, and school needs.
This paper is usually a little bit thicker than multipurpose paper (24lb-32lb), but not as
thick as card stock. It may sometimes be textured and is generally suited for resumes,
invitations, or other important letters or announcements that demand a finer appearance.
Generally, card stock is a heavier stock (60lb -110lb) paper with a quality similar to
multipurpose paper. One advantage that card stock has over multipurpose paper is its
ability to resist wrinkling when your print involves images that tend to saturate normal
papers. Yet, keep in mind that, in some printers, thicker paper may require that you load
the page into the bypass port to prevent jamming or damage.
High Resolution Coated Inkjet Paper:
This type of paper is generally about the same thickness as resume paper (28lb-32lb).
As a coated paper (either one or both sides), higher resolution prints are possible while
retaining a high quality, unlike multipurpose paper. The coating on this paper basically
captures each droplet of ink and prevents the bleed you normally experience with
multipurpose paper. This aspect results in a presentation quality that is essential for
maintaining a professional image without having to break the bank and buy a color laser
Photo papers typically have a multilevel coating that acts like a high resolution inkjet
paper coating but usually dries quicker and protects your images against the elements
a lot better. There is a wide variety of photo papers that vary in image longevity and
water resistance, and as one would expect, their prices vary with their features. They are
generally thicker (28lb-76lb) than high-end inkjet papers, but thinner than card stock and
come in a variety of finishes. Matte photo paper has a subtle luster which allows vibrant
colors to be expressed but does not have the shine of a glossy photo paper. Satin photo
paper has a more present sheen than matte paper, but falls short of glossy; it has a silky
surface texture and is reminiscent of the 35mm photo hut prints that fill most of our photo
albums. Glossy photo paper generally has a brilliant luster and serves as an eye catching
medium for your most cherished memories.
These papers include a wide range of specialty papers intended to produce artistic prints
of all types. For example, canvas paper imitates a painted canvas, and watercolor paper
creates the illusion of a watercolor painting. There is also a wide variety of textured
papers that imitate wood, cloth, leather, and many more.
When you are out looking for paper, you will see each will have different properties on the packaging. The following are what you should focus your attention on when looking for the right paper
Refers to the light reflecting property of paper. The brighter the paper the better your prints will look. Most papers will have a brightness rating of 80-100. A brightness rating of 90-92 will be right for most jobs. Using the brightest papers will give you brighter colors but it's not the only factor to consider when printing. The colors you are using and the paper finish will determine how the final print will look (light colors can appear washed out on the brightest of papers.) Your best judge is not the numbers on the package but your eyes. Try different samples to find the best brightness that will fit your needs
Paper weight is not determined by a single sheet of paper but of the weight of a ream of paper (500 sheets). The heavier the paper, the thicker a sheet of paper is. The thicker paper will give your printed documents a professional feel that you won't get with thin paper. There will be less bleed through when there is heavy ink coverage. Check your printer specifications on what thickness your printer can handle.
Look for paper with the weight of 20lbs for everyday printing. For business printing, try looking for paper around 24lbs. Most personal laser printers are monochrome printers. They work best in printing text and simple graphics.
Opacity is measured by how much light is passed through the paper. The more fillers in a paper the more opaque it will be. The thicker the paper the less see through the paper will be. The higher the opacity level the less ink will bleed through to the other side of the paper.
You should remember two things when you are out shopping for paper -- the brightness and weight. The whiteness of the paper will affect the image being printed -- especially with the colors. Colors will look vibrant and will "pop" more on the page. You want to use heavier paper because no matter how great the text and images on the page, you will loose some credibility if it's printed on flimsy paper.
*Printing Tip: Your printer has different settings for the various types of papers. Depending on the setting, the printer shoots out different amounts of ink and prints at different speeds. To get the best images possible match the setting with the paper you are using. If you choose the wrong setting, you may be using too much ink that will overload the paper or using too little ink can cause your prints to look washed out.