Printer paper isn’t typically something we think too about – until – we need it. Then suddenly we’re standing in a store aisle or searching online like a deer in headlights wondering why there’s a multitude of choices. In that moment, most of us aren’t confident in our ability to make the right choice and they all look similar so, we naturally default to price as the differentiator.

When armed with a little knowledge, choosing the best paper for your situation isn’t as daunting as it might seem. It all starts with understanding why paper is a critical element in printing.

Paper quality matters

Sure the expensive name brands cost more but there’s good reason. They save time and money in the end. Cheap paper isn’t always cut to exactly the right size for standard paper trays. When that’s the case, even if it’s off by a minuscule 1/16th of an inch, it can throw a printer’s alignment off and cause it to stop working. Low quality paper also produces more dust during printing, which accumulates in the printer causing it to require more service calls. And if you experience a lot of paper jams, low quality paper might be the culprit because it retains moisture, curls and you guessed it, creates the perfect storm for a paper jam.

Color, black & white, inkjet and laser printers – does paper matter?

Short answer, yes. Color printing and black and white use two different methods for distributing toner. In the case of black only prints, the toner is pressed into the paper and fused into it. Color printing involves mixing the inks from the CYMK toner cartridges then distributing colors on top of the paper instead of fusing. This allows the colors to remain bold.

Tip: If the color on your prints looks splotchy, it might be the toner cartridge running low but it could also be the quality of the paper.

Now, what about paper for inkjet and laser printers, does that make a difference? Yes, inkjet printing is a cold process where ink is sprayed onto coated paper. Laser printers use heat in the printing process. Avoid the coated paper in laser printers for that reason, when the coating is exposed to the heat, it can damage the printer.

A few extra tips from PDS and Xerox

When printing one color on a text-only document or the document has text and a minimal line drawing or image such as flyers, invoices, and letters, readability is the goal. In this case choose bright-white paper with a blue-white shade to ensure reflectance, which results in better detail for one-color text and images. If you’re printing a document with many pages and the reader will be staring at the page for longer periods, do them a favor and select cream or true white. They might not take note of the difference, but their eyes will appreciate the lack of strain.

When printing color graphics, photos, charts, graphs or illustrations, understanding the main color tones in the document will help you make the right paper choice.
For a balanced color palate, true white will showcase the full spectrum of colors and help graphics achieve the, “pops off the page”” effect you might be looking for. If there’s a dominant color theme, blue-toned images look best on bright white and yellow to red tones are better served by cream white.

Understanding the outcome you want for your document and the equipment you have will help you make the right choice for your situation. When in doubt, sticking to the type of paper for your printer (inkjet or laser) and a high-quality brand is the safest option.

Visit our blog for other tips to save time and money on printing costs, plus learn how to go paperless, print from your pocket and recycle toner cartridges.