When you think about it, paper signifies almost all our most monumental moments in life.
From birth (birth certificate) to graduation (diploma), to marriage (marriage certificate), there is one commonality: You will get a piece of paper to document the occasion.
While somebody who just got married may not give one thought as to what type of paper their certificate is, as a business, it’s crucial to know the type of paper you need to print/copy documents on your machine.
This is because using the wrong type of paper on your printer can cause paper jams or poor-quality prints, as well as wasted money when you discover that you bought the wrong type of paper and need to purchase the right one.
We’ve learned a lot (probably too much) about printer paper during our almost four decades in the printer/copier industry and want to fully inform you on what you need to know about the different types of printer paper and the features you need to be aware of.
After reading this, you should have a solid idea of the type of paper you need for your machine, so you won’t be left guessing when you need to go out and purchase printer paper.
Need a printer/copier? Download your free copy of the Complete Guide to Purchasing or Leasing a Printer for Your Business to make sure you get the right machine in place the first time.
Printer Paper vs. Copy Paper
Printer paper is simply paper that is designed for printing, and there are six common types, which will go over in detail in the next section.
However, some people get confused about if printer paper is the same as copy paper, and if they can use copy paper to print documents or not.
There are a couple of differences you need to know when it comes to printer and copy paper. They include:
Printer paper is usually around 24 pounds and copy paper is around 20 pounds, according to Office Ink Blog.
Printer paper is usually slightly more expensive than copy paper.
Copy paper is mainly used for everyday printing and printer paper is typically used for printing documents with images or documents that need to be a little higher quality.
The 6 Different Types of Printer Paper
Now that you know the difference between printer paper and copy paper, let’s go over the six different types of printer paper you need to be aware of:
Regular Matte Paper
Regular matte paper is the most common type of paper used to print documents and will suit most basic print jobs.
You can think of this paper as the classic “copy paper” we discussed in the previous section. It’s not shiny, and the smooth matte texture helps to absorb ink and quickly dry so that you can avoid smudges and smears.
This is the shiny stuff. Glossy paper is coated with a polymer that gives it that smooth shine and allows it to give a richer color output that’s more vibrant than regular paper.
This paper can be used to print photographs or vibrant images, but it does have a much longer dry time than regular paper, so you might experience some smudges if handled incorrectly. As a best practice, it’s best to only print glossy paper with a laser printer.
Example of glossy paper, courtesy of Hygloss Products:
Bright White Paper
Now I know regular paper might seem white, but this paper has specially formulated features to give it an exceptionally smooth surface, and a brilliant white coating.
It’s what you can consider “fancy copy paper”, and it delivers an aesthetic presentation, which is great for documents that have photos that you’d like a vibrant finish for without a glossy shine.
Photo paper, as the name suggests, is designed primarily for printing photographs or pictures.
If you think of the last time that you held a photograph printed on photo paper, you can probably remember that the front and back have very different textures and appearances. It usually has a high-gloss sheen on one side, and a matte on the other side, and is thicker than most other types of paper.
The most common type of heavyweight paper is cardstock, which you may have heard of before since it is a common paper term among print consumers.
However, there are several different weights of paper that you can choose from, which will determine the thickness of the paper. When you think of paperweight, think of a piece of paper that’s thin, or thick and hard to bend.
Pro-Tip: When selecting heavyweight paper, you need to be careful about the paper your copier/printer can handle, and which tray is recommended for such paperweight.
The last common type of printer paper you need to know about is inkjet paper, which is simply paper designed to specifically work with inkjet printers, which are smaller desktop printers.
Inkjet printers use liquid toner as opposed to laser printers that work with a dry (powder-like) toner. Read our blog on the differences between inkjet and laser printers to learn more.
3 Different Printer Paper Features
Now that you’ve seen the six different types of printer paper, let’s go over one more thing you need to know about printer paper—its features.
Printer paper has three primary features: Coating, brightness and weight. What do these three features mean as it relates to printer paper? Let’s go over them:
Coating refers to a type of polymer, or synthetic substance, that’s layered onto the paper to make it glossy and bright.
If you’ve ever seen a piece of paper that looks like it has a sheen to it, the coating of the paper is the reason behind that.
Brightness is exactly what it sounds like: It’s the way you measure how white and bright a page is.
The brightness scale usually goes from 0-100, with 80-100 being the sweet spot for quality prints. The general rule of thumb to remember is that the brighter the paper, the better the quality and look of the overall print job.
Weight refers to the thickness and weight of the paper and is usually measured in grams.
While paperweight can vary drastically; the most common paperweights are regular paper at 75 grams or 20 lbs (like the copy paper mentioned in the first section.) Cardstock is the most frequently used “thick” paper and is usually around 176 grams or 65 lbs.
Understanding why grams and pounds are used to measure paper can get confusing, and other weight definitions like cover paper, bond or GSM can also come into play, confounding your confusion.
Read Paris Corporation’s Paper Weight Guide if you’re interested in learning more about the weight of paper and how to choose the right one for your project.
What Else Should You Learn About Your Printer?
Getting the right printer paper for your printer will be far from the most important task you undertake during your daily workday.
However, if you get the wrong kind, it could become an issue that causes both frustration and annoyance because buying the wrong printer paper can lead to paper jams and wasted money.
To help figure out which type of paper is right for you, buy the smallest sample size of the type of paper you’re interested in and test it out to see if you like the results. If not, try out a different one and keep looking until you’re satisfied.
As a long-time print vendor, we know that there is a lot that goes into making sure your machine is properly maintained so it’ll last in your office for the long haul.
And we’ve learned over our years of dealing with customers that the most important thing to having a sustainable office machine is education and choosing the right printer paper is just one aspect of owning a printer.
Read our blog on the eight tips to increase the lifespan of your copier/printer to learn more about the ways you can get the most out of your machine, and ultimately, make it last longer.