When we graduate, we get handed a piece of paper. When we buy a house, we sign a piece of paper (well, more like several pieces of paper). Even when we’re born, we have a piece of paper to document our birth. Imagining a world without paper is almost impossible, but most people don’t know the difference between paper types, and all of their specific needs.
I didn’t even know how many different types of paper existed before I started working in the copier/printer industry, and now I’ve seen just about every type, and how important selecting the right one is. You’d be surprised at how easily your print job can be either absolutely brilliant or a complete disaster, depending on the type of paper you use.
Many contributing factors go into what kind of paper you use in your copier/printer, and paper has a lot of other names, like media, or stock. We’ll break down for you all the different types of paper you might encounter, and which works best for certain print jobs, so you can feel confident in knowing exactly what you’re printing on.
Different Types of Paper
Knowing the different types of paper is crucial to getting a good print job. You wouldn’t want to print a photograph on just any regular paper, or else it’ll turn out dull and muted, just like you probably don’t need to print out an entire leasing contract on glossy paper. There are 5 main types of paper to know and understand.
Regular Matte Paper
Regular matte paper is the classic “copy paper” that you’ll find in most stores and can suit most basic print jobs. 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. It’s best to only print with a laser printer for this type of paper.
Bright White Paper
Now I know regular copy 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 we might consider “fancy copy paper”, and it delivers a stunning presentation, perfect for documents that have photos that you’d like a vibrant finish for without a glossy shine.
Photo paper, like the name suggests, is designed for printing photographs. 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 most people have heard of. However, there are several different weights of paper that you can choose from, which means it determines the thickness of the paper. When you think of paperweight, think of a piece of paper that’s really 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.
You might hear about inkjet paper from time to time, but it really isn’t anything other than paper designed to specifically work with inkjet printers. Inkjet printers use liquid toner as opposed to laser printers that work with a dry (powder-like) toner. For more info on the differences between inkjet and laser, read our article Inkjet vs. Laser: Which is Right for You? (+Costs)
Paper is usually categorized by its different features, which are Coating, Brightness, and Weight. Coating is referencing a type of polymer, or synthetic substance, that’s layered onto the paper to make it glossy and bright. You may notice a coating if a paper has a sheen to it.
Brightness is exactly what it sounds like, which is a way to measure how white and bright a page is. The 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 job.
Weight is referencing 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 20lbs. Cardstock is the most commonly 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 come into play, so we suggest you read this article to find out more.
Want to Learn More?
Now that you can see there are several different types of paper, you can understand which paper is right for your specific job. Whether it’s regular matte or bright white, there’s a specific type of paper for almost every print job, and now that you know the different types, you can feel confident that you’re always using the correct paper. For more information on printing, read our articles on multifunction printers and the difference between A3 and A4 printers.