Published: 22 Jun 2022

Printer Paper Types: The Ultimate Guide

Choosing which type of wide-format printer paper to use for any project isn’t as simple as choosing a brand. You have to consider other factors and evaluate your needs before making your final decision. Know the product you are buying before you buy.

This guide will explain the different types of printing paper available, including the best uses and tips on utilizing them to make your documents look their absolute best. Our tips will help you choose between laser, inkjet, and specialty papers so that you can get exactly what you need from your next print job.

A wide roll of black printer paper is unrolled to feed into the printing machine.
Paper printer is available in a wide range of sizes and qualities.

What Type of Paper Is Printer Paper?

Laser Printer Paper Types

Laser printer paper is good for basic documents, but it’s certainly not ideal for high-quality presentations.

This type of paper may be inexpensive, but you get what you pay for—in terms of print quality and crispness. Unlike other types of paper, laser printer paper is often textured and feels rough to the touch.

Text printed on it isn’t always as smooth as we’d like, and ink can sometimes bleed together at higher speeds or heavier print jobs.

Inkjet Printer Paper Types

Inkjet printers use a heat-sensitive transfer mechanism to print on special thermal paper, which is not readily available at your local office supply store.

This paper has a color-changing coating that turns black when heated so that inkjets can print color documents.

Instead, small dots of dye are applied to regular paper, creating an image. Inkjet printer paper types are varied, and one of them may be perfect for your project.

Photo Paper

This paper is best used for photos and similar purposes. It has a glossy finish that catches light well, making it perfect for photos and other images.

You can also use photo paper to print documents, but it’s not designed for printing text regularly. Instead, you can use it as a temporary solution until you can get more permanent paper installed in your printer.

The types of photo paper for printing generally cost more in price than other types of paper over other photo printer paper types. However, if you want something extra special for your photos or images, photo paper may be worth it.

Multipurpose and Copy Paper

These paper types are designed to be used with inkjet, laser printers, and copiers. As their names imply, they’re both multipurpose.

Copy paper types are lower-quality than multipurpose, so they may not work well with your printer if you need high-quality prints. Some people prefer photocopy paper over multipurpose based on their plan to use their printer.

Bond and Label Paper

Bond paper is relatively thick with a fairly smooth surface. It’s used to make labels and packaging. It’s often used for business cards, construction paper, report covers, scrapbooking, and greeting cards. Bond paper can also be used for printing flyers and brochures if you prefer a heavier stock.

But before you go ordering case after case of bond paper, consider that it doesn’t do well when exposed to water or oils because of its low rag content (it typically has 30-55% rag content).

A blank printer paper placed into a printer ready for printing a document.
Large format paper is used for special and detailed printing tasks.

A Detailed Look at Printer Paper Specifications

Size

There are many different types of paper for printing, but they all fall into three categories: letter, legal, and executive. So how big is printer paper?

Letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11) is for everyday use, such as printing recipes. Legal-sized paper (8.5 x 14) is ideal for printing contracts or other documents that require plenty of room on each page.

Executive-sized paper (7.25 x 10.5) works well when you need to print double-sided pages and still want to save space in your filing cabinet.

Weight

There are two different kinds of paperweights for printing: light and heavy. The weight specification for print paper represents how thick or thin a single sheet is (measured in pounds).

The weight specification tells you how heavy a ream of paper will be. The weight can vary depending on the type of paper, but generally speaking, a 20-pound paper is relatively thin, while a 24-pound or above paper is relatively thick.

Opacity

The opacity of a piece of paper refers to how much light can pass through it. Opacity is measured using a scale from one to ten, one being transparent and ten completely opaque. Most printer paper is somewhere between two and four on that scale.

In most cases, you don’t need complete opacity in your printing paper because the print on both sides allows for double coverage of ink—but you do want enough transparency so that text doesn’t look too faded or blurred.

Material

There are two main types of paper that can be used in a printer: coated and uncoated. Coated paper has a smooth finish, which is important when printing high-quality documents. The coatings also make it less absorbent, which results in fewer smudges.

Uncoated paper is less expensive but may result in lower-quality photos due to its porous nature. The coating helps absorb ink, which means smudging or fading isn’t as much of an issue with coated papers.

Color

Most standard printer paper is either bright white or slightly off-white. As such, it has a distinct color profile that should be taken into account when you’re looking to print on something else.

White ink on a bright white background will generally provide rich color, while black ink on a bright white paper can sometimes appear faded (since black isn’t as reflective as white).

Brightness

Although brightness isn’t something you need to worry about, it can help you gauge a sheet of paper’s overall quality. Brightness levels are measured on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 being pure white.

The higher a sheet of paper’s brightness number, the more opaque it will be. In other words, if you want your printed material to look as professional as possible, go for high-brightness paper. It’ll also make colors pop and images appear sharper.

We Have all the Different Types of Paper Printer You Need!

Choosing printer paper is just as important as selecting a printer for all types of paper. By understanding what each type of paper is best for, you can ensure that your print job comes out perfectly every time.

We hope that we have given you enough information to help you decide which paper would be best for your home or office printer. If not, or if you’re still confused about all of these varieties, feel free to contact us at (888) 484-9292 for more help!