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Types of Printing Paper

Updated: Feb 23

Paper is one of the epitomes of the printing process. The choice of printing paper plays a key role in the outcome of the printing project. When faced with the different types of printing paper, it's easy to become confused without prior experience in printing. However, even with some experience, you should know that every printing activity depends on the printing material at hand.


This article will evaluate the most common printing papers and their uses and will tackle some of the printing paper factors clients should consider before making a final decision.


Types of Printing Paper
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: pogonici

Types of Printing Paper


A common mistake clients make is assuming their printer supports all print paper types. Printing devices usually come with instructions on which paper types they use. Overlooking these and using the wrong type of paper may result in poor-quality print and possibly in paper jams and malfunctions.


Understanding specific types of printing paper and their uses is essential to the success of a printing project. Below, you can find a rundown of the most common types of printing paper and how to create a more effortless commercial printing process.


Inkjet paper


As its name implies, inkjet paper is specifically designed for inkjet printers. We may say that inkjet paper is more of an umbrella term as it encompasses all types of paper that work with inkjet machines. This type of paper is specifically designed to absorb ink without distorting the image or text. It is preferred for greeting cards, business cards, and photo printing.


Laser paper


Lasser paper is the typical paper that you might find in office environments. It comes with a brighter white color, which helps add contrast to the final print. Laser paper accepts color ink well and usually comes with a matte finish. The matte coating reduces smudging and effectively speeds up drying time.


This type of paper is perfect for documents such as presentations and proposals. It's also a staple in the daily printing of standard workplace documents such as invoices and memos.


Bond paper


Bond paper is made from cotton fibers and textiles, which feature a thicker structure than other types of paper. It offers enhanced durability and is regularly used in printing important business documents such as contracts and agreements.


Its use dates back to the 1800s, when it was used for printing government bonds and other official documents. It can be used both with laser and inkjet printers and is ideal for printing fine-detail images.


Bond paper
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: smolaw

Cardstock


Similarly to bond paper, cardstock also has a sturdy structure that offers amazing durability. These properties make it an excellent choice for scrapbooking, printing flyers, postcards, trading, and business cards. Due to its strong design, cardstock is almost impossible to damage when printing.


However, it's not compatible with most printers, and a specific printer is needed to use this paper efficiently. We should note that cardstock paper must be used responsibly, as putting this in an unsuitable printing machine will likely cause device damage or malfunction.


Photo paper


Photo paper is dominantly used in inkjet printers to produce high-quality images. It has a thicker design than inkjet and laser paper and is considered a costlier alternative. While it's one of the most expensive types of printing paper on the market, it offers the highest quality image printing.


We distinguish between two types of photo paper: glossy and matte. But, what is the difference between glossy and matte printing paper? Glossy paper is preferred because it offers sharp imagery and vibrant colors. It is regularly used in promotional materials and photographs. In comparison, matter paper offers a more classic and elegant visual narrative, and it is mostly used in artworks and luxury catalogs.


Copy and multipurpose paper


This type of paper is adaptable and can be used for different types of printing, including laser printing and inkjet printing. It comes in various sizes and weights and is considerably cheaper than other printing paper types. Being an affordable substitute, you will often find multipurpose paper in office environments.


Though practical, copy paper fails to deliver quality results when heavy ink is involved in printing. It lacks accuracy, and it is unsuitable for image printing.


Fine Art Paper


Even if you’ve never held fine art paper in your hand, it won’t take much to learn that this type of paper is of very high quality. Some claim it feels similar to watercolor paper which is commonly used in darkroom photography printing. Fine art paper is usually made from cotton and alpha-cellulose. It is used in inkjet printers and high-resolution large-format printers to reproduce images and designs into print.


It is preferred for professional photograph prints, which are later displayed in museum galleries. This type of paper comes with one coated side that accepts the ink, which must have specific characteristics to ensure the ink is properly preserved. Being acid-free, this type of paper offers the greatest durability, ensuring the print doesn’t lose its color or become yellow over time.


Printing Paper Features


Print styles vary, and this is determined mainly by the different qualities of each paper type. In addition to the type of paper, other elements that influence the choice of paper include size, weight, opacity, and coating.


But how does the weight of the printing paper affect the print quality? Consult the sections below and find how the weight of printing paper affects the print quality and other considerations that can help you shape your decision.


Weight


Paper weight is used to measure the thickness and weight of printing paper. In the U.S., it is measured in pounds (lbs). Printing paper weight is measured on a scale from 20 lbs to 100 lbs. The thickness of the paper increases with its weight. Each paper weight has a specific purpose.


For instance, cardstock, which measures 64 lbs, is mostly used in projects such as scrapbooks and greeting cards. Copy paper is considered the lightest at 20 lbs. It is widely used in everyday printing and poster and flyer printing.


Size


Similarly to paper weight, sizing is also a wide subject that is difficult if not impossible to capture in fewer words. Clients should remember that the different types of printing paper sizes are compared in ranges A to C.


These two sizes are further separated into series, so you will often find sizes as C3 or A2. It's worth noting that the size of the paper increases as the numbers get higher. We usually think of A4 paper size when referring to standard printing paper. The C series is less common and mostly used in envelopes.


Coating


The paper also varies by coating. In the printing industry, both uncoated and coated papers are used. Coated paper has a smoother feel and a shiner glow due to the extra substances on its surface.


In printing, there are three main types of coating: varnish, UV, and aqueous. Aqueous coatings are mostly used in printing materials that will be passed through multiple hands. This water-based coating protects the paper from damage and fingerprint marks.


Varnish coating is the most standard coating option you can expect to find in office documents. UV coating, on the other hand, is used in high-level level applications. It is used to achieve high-quality imagery prints and is the most expensive out of the three.


Opacity


Paper opacity is measured on a percentage scale from 0 to 100, with 0% being fully transparent and 100% being entirely non-transparent. The most see-through materials on this scale are tracing papers.


Naturally, heavier paper weights come with increased opacity. This factor is especially important in double-sided printing, and clients should know that in papers with lower opacity, the ink is likely to pass through.


Paper Opacity
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: mikeledray

Conclusion


Looking through the different types of printing paper, we should always keep in mind that each comes with a given purpose. While some paper types are compatible with several types of printers and can be used in different printing projects, others have a more restrictive nature and are used for specific printing purposes only. For instance, photo paper is used in inkjet printers to achieve the best results; however, copy paper can be used in both inkjet and laser printers.


Other paper considerations such as weight, size, opacity, and coating are also important to stand out in the printing market. These factors influence paper properties and dedicate the overall success of the printing project.


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