Is there really a difference in printer paper?

Question

When I go to the office supply store to buy printer paper, the selection is ridiculous and confusing. Is there really a difference in all those different types of paper or is it just a bunch of hooey?

- Veronica

Answer

This question was answered on August 15, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Believe it or not, the array of different types of paper actually do have a purpose, but only if you are printing with that purpose The two primary considerations are the kind of printer you have and the kind of print job you want to perform.

If you are purchasing paper for general use (mostly text output) and aren’t concerned about the sharpest, brightest colors in your images or how long the colors will keep from fading, buy the cheapest stuff you can find.

The main consideration for general use printing is the weight rating of the paper, which has to do with how heavy each sheet it (20 lb being the most common - the higher the number, the heavier the paper).

Be careful not to put heavy card stock paper (60 to 100 lb) into low cost ink-jet printers as this can cause damage in some cases The maximum recommended paper weight is generally listed in the owner’s manual or on the printer company’s website with directions on how to adjust the printer for the heavier paper.

If you care about the print quality, then you need to care about the paper quality Matching the paper type to your printer type (ink-jet vs laser) is a good first start Ink-jet paper will generally be labeled as such while laser paper may be called “laser paper” or copy paper (often with a reference to toner-based devices).

Since ink-jet printers are the most commonly used and have the most variations, they will be the most complicated to shop for.

Paper that is listed as “ink-jet stock” will generally provide crisper print jobs because the paper is smoother and less absorbent When an ink-jet printer prints to paper that is rough or fibrous, the ink will “run” down the fibers which is what causes fuzzy output, especially with photo printing.

You will likely observe that the widest variety of paper tends to be that which is labeled as “photo paper”.

When it comes to photo printing, you will want to be the most careful in making your selection based on what your overall goals will be.

If you want to print the sharpest, brightest pictures that will last the longest, look in your printer’s owner’s manual for the specific paper made by the manufacturer that is recommended for your specific printer.

You will always see that the printer companies claim that you’ll get the best results if you stick to the papers and inks that they make and in general they’re right There actually is some science involved in formulating the paper to match the printer and ink, so using photo paper that was designed for another brand of printer can provide mixed results.

The level of photo paper (usually denoted by the price) will generally have a direct impact on the color quality, sharpness and how long it will last before it starts to fade because of the special coatings that keep the ink from spreading and fading.

Some ink-jet printers use a special type of ink, which can often react different with the wrong type of paper, which is another reason to review the recommended products in your printer’s owner’s manual.

In review, if you plan to print photos that you care about, make sure you buy paper that is designed as “photo paper” This type of paper is significantly more expensive, so buying the various qualities in small quantities at first is the best way to find the best paper for your needs

If you can’t tell the difference when you print it your test images, the only difference in the cost will generally be how long the photos last before fading.

If you are trying to achieve the highest quality photo output, make sure to check in your printer’s Properties to see if the various paper types are listed by name If you don’t tell the printer that you are using the special paper, it may not print at its maximum level.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on August 15, 2008