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In-Depth Guide to Printer Paper

Have you ever been bemused by the complex process of choosing printer paper, and the seemingly endless paper types, sizes and weights?


In this guide, we are going to explain the different types of paper, their qualities and benefits, and break down the jargon and confusing terms – helping you choose the right type of paper for your needs and your printer.

Paper Features

The humble sheet of paper is made up of a series of features and facets, which can make it ideal for one job and completely unsuitable for the next. Here we explain what Coating, Opacity, Weight, Smoothness and Brightness means in printer paper terms and for your printing jobs.


Various types of printer paper are coated in different surfaces – most commonly matte, dull and smooth. Smooth surfaces are most commonly used to create a glossy effect – ideal for printing photography.


The opacity of a sheet of printer paper indicates how much the print will show through on the opposite side. Opacity is measured on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing transparent sheets and 100 representing completely opaque sheets. Heavier papers are traditionally more opaque.


Although hard to discern manually, printer paper comes in a range of weights – the result of the thickness of each individual sheet. The weight will be indicated on the printer paper’s packaging and is calculated in both pounds and grams. The weight of the paper often determines the job it is intended for. Below is a quick summary:

Weight Type of Paper Use
20 Pounds/75Grams Bond Paper Everyday Print and Copy Tasks
24 Pounds/90 Grams Mid-Weight Paper Crisper Images and Double-Sided Printing
40 Pounds/150 Grams Poster Paper Signs, Flyers and Promotional Prints

The paper weight is not signified by the weight of an individual sheet, but rather the weight of a 500-sheet ream of 17×22” paper.

The thicker the paper weight, the more durable it is. However, thicker paper goes through the print process at a slower rate.


Different printer types can benefit from different levels of printer paper smoothness. Laser printers utilise heat and toner when printing, so often require smoother paper to produce the best results. Printers which use water based inks benefit from textured papers as these are better suited to absorbing the ink.


Although the vast majority of printer paper sheets come in a white tone, they are spread across a scale of brightness levels. Traditionally labelled on the printer paper packaging, brightness is indicated by a numerical value – with higher numbers providing sharper images. The brighter the paper, the better a print will look. Most printer paper range between 80 and 100 on the brightness scale.

Types of Paper

Different types of paper have been developed to aid with the printing process and benefit the wide range of different print jobs undertaken throughout different industries. Understanding the qualities and features of different types of paper can make it easier to select the perfect sheets for your printing obligations.

Inkjet Paper

Specifically used with inkjet printers, inkjet paper refers to photo paper, glossy paper, business card paper and greeting card paper which have the qualities to go through inkjet printers.

Laser Paper

Similarly, laser printers can benefit from specially designed laser paper. Laser paper is most commonly used when printing cheques, address labels and mailing labels.

Matte Paper

Commonly used for everyday printing tasks, matte paper has a white coating which allows the ink to dry quickly.

Advantages: Quick drying times reduce the risk of smudged or blurred images and text.
Disadvantages: Images are often not as sharp as when printed on other types of paper.

Glossy Paper

Glossy paper is traditionally used when printing photographs due to its ability to produce sharp, vibrant images. The glossy surface accurately absorbs the ink, creating images of high clarity and accuracy.

Advantages: High quality, high clarity prints.
Disadvantages: Ink can be smudged or blurred with fingerprints. Glossy paper sheets can stick together or to other surfaces – often making them unsuitable for use in scrapbooks.

Photo Paper

Similar to glossy paper, photo paper is designed primarily for printing photography. Available in a range of different sizes and weights, photo paper has a glossy finish and a specially-designed texture which allows ink to dry quickly, producing high clarity prints.

Advantages: Perfect for printing photography.
Disadvantages: Can be expensive.

Bright White Paper

The smooth, non-textured surfaces of bright white paper sheets make them ideal for double sided printing. The brightness of the paper ensures that both sides of the paper are printed on without the print affecting the other side.

Advantages: Can help halve paper usage with double sided printing.
Disadvantages: May require a double sided or ‘duplex’ printer.

Resume Paper

Heavier and with an off-white appearance, resume paper really stands out from other types of printer paper. With a subtle ivory or cream tone, resume paper is often used for CVs or important forms or documents to indicate the importance of the information.

Advantages: Can add a professional touch to printed output.
Disadvantages: Can be expensive.

Card Stock Paper

Typically used to print business cards, post cards and scrapbooking, card stock paper is significantly thicker than other types of printer paper.

Advantages: Strong and sturdy.
Disadvantages: Goes through the printer slowly.

Paper Size

Size is vital when selecting the correct reams for your printer and the jobs you are looking to complete. Here is a short guide to paper sizes and the jobs for which they are most commonly used.

Paper Size Type of Paper Use
210mm x 297mm A4 Size Everyday letters, files and document
297mm x 420mm A3 Size twice the size of A4
320mm x 450mm SRA3 marginally oversized A3 allowing room for grip, bleed and trim

It is always important that the correct printer is used for the paper size to ensure it supports your demands.

For a full range of printers and consumables, visit the Printerland homepage or call our dedicated team on 0800 840 1992.

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