What Are the Different Types of Paper for Printing?

what are the different types of paper for printing

Printers and businesses have used different types of paper for various purposes for centuries. Newsprint was designed to be cheap and disposable, while paperback book covers used cardstock that could hold up for dozens of readings.

Printing in your home or office is more flexible than ever before, thanks to vast improvements in printing technology. Instead of relying on a professional printer for printing on different paper types, you can often do it on your own.

There are many cardstock and photo paper varieties to choose from which makes creating family and professional projects a breeze. Even specialty papers like vellum and label paper are easy to print on if you’re careful to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Laser Printer Paper

Laser printer paper is a basic printing paper good for everyday use. It is generally uncoated due to the high temperatures used in laser printing. Since laser printing uses toner instead of ink, the paper does not have to be very thick or absorbent. 

epson printer cartridges

Most laser printer paper has a smooth surface that shows lines as sharply as possible. However, the fast printing inherent to laser technology means the lines still won’t be as crisp as inkjet printing can be.

Bond paper is commonly used as a laser printer paper. It has a smooth surface and is lightweight, making it ideal for laser printers to process quickly without jamming.

Inkjet Printer Paper

Inkjet printers produce high-quality, detailed prints. Home and general office printers use pigment-based or dye-based ink, both of which technically work on most kinds of paper. Like laser printer paper, inkjet paper is available in 20 lb., 24 lb. and 28 lb. weights, with heavier weights typically providing better durability.

You can use laser printer paper in an inkjet printer and vice versa, but you will typically see crisper prints and fewer paper jams if you use the correct paper type. Specialized inkjet printer paper is slightly coated to help hold the larger amounts of ink used in inkjet printing. 

Although the differences are slight, they can be important when printing detailed images or printing documents for clients and customers.

inkjet printer paper

The difference between paper types is primarily due to the difference in printing technologies. Major brands like Epson printer cartridges sell specific inks and toners tailored to work best in either laser or inkjet printers. Matching your paper, ink and printer type appropriately makes a big difference in your printer’s lifespan.

Resume Paper

Resume paper is slightly thicker than standard office paper and is used for important documents like resumes. Some companies and individuals also print formal letters on resume paper pre-printed with the company letterhead or individual’s address. It commonly comes in ivory shades instead of standard white.

Your printer should be able to handle resume paper without any issue. However, it is typically uncoated and so may not deliver sharp results in an inkjet printer. 

Since resume paper is more expensive than everyday printer paper, you should save it for occasional, specialized documents. In office settings, consider keeping the resume or letterhead paper separate from other types of paper to avoid mix-ups and wasted materials.

Cardstock and Paper Board

Cardstock is commonly used for small signs and cards that may take significant wear and tear while in use. Information and promotional materials for customers and clients are often printed on cardstock––and sometimes families will use cardstock to print their own holiday or greeting cards.

Cardstock is usually categorized by weight, although some printers also measure thickness in points (pt). The thinnest cardstock is 60 lb. Most home printers can handle up to 65 lb. (8 pt) cardstock, but check your owner’s manual to be certain. Heavier weights, including 80 lb. (10 pt) and 92 lb. (12 pt) cardstock, are typically only safe to use with inkjet photo printers.

cardstock and paper board

Anything over 100 lb. thickness is considered paperboard, which is the type of cardboard often used in food packaging. Paperboard is almost always too thick for use with home printers, so stick with thinner cardstock to avoid jams and damage to your printer.

Recycled and Eco-Friendly Paper

Most basic types of printer paper and cardstock are also available in recycled versions. This paper is usually slightly textured in appearance and may be a very light shade of gray, but it’s perfect for everyday printing and works in all printer types. It’s also ideal for printing draft versions of documents or coloring book pages for kids.

You can also find paper that isn’t recycled, but is left unbleached or uses earth-friendly chemicals for dyeing or bleaching. Chlorine bleach has bioaccumulative effects on humans and wildlife, and although many paper mills have become more careful about their bleach usage and disposal, it can be avoided altogether in some cases.

Newsprint is often available in inexpensive and earth-friendly varieties. Generally, newsprint is strong enough for use with home printers. However, it doesn’t hold up well to long-term use and the colors will fade in time, making it inappropriate for essential documents.

reycyled paper on blue background

Because of its texture and low weight, ordinary kraft paper does not work well in either laser or inkjet printers. Some companies make slightly thicker kraft paper designed for printer use, though. This paper is a nice choice for craft projects and specialized marketing efforts, but is not commonly used.

Gloss Options

Nearly every size and weight of paper is also available in a glossy or semi-gloss option. Glossy paper is fantastic for full-color posters and other major projects. Most inkjet printers can handle glossy paper, although they may require a little extra time to dry.

Gloss options include high-gloss and soft gloss, both of which create vibrant prints with excellent contrast. However, they may show fingerprints and dust more easily than other types of finishes, and they work poorly with some pigment-based inks. When using either type, update your printer settings so it knows you are printing on glossy paper and can automatically adjust its print methods for better results.

Semi-gloss finishes have some shine to them, but are halfway between a gloss and matte finish. These include satin, lustre and pearl finishes. These finishes are most common in photo papers, but may also appear in basic cardstock as well.

Like with glossy paper, adjust your printer settings so your printer can apply the appropriate amount of ink for better prints. Both semi-gloss and glossy papers may be inappropriate for use with laser printers due to the higher temperatures involved, so check your printer specifications closely before use. HP inkjet printer ink is especially good for printing glossy images with an inkjet.

Matte is the gloss-free standard that includes most basic printer papers and cardstock. It also tends to be less expensive than glossy paper and generally works with all types of ink.

looking at photo prints

Photo Papers

If you’re interested in scrapbooking or even just want some photos to post in your office, photo papers are a better option than regular glossy or semi-gloss cardstock. Photo papers are typically archival-quality, meaning they will continue to show colors without fading for at least 15 years. Some very high-quality photo papers claim to be colorfast for up to 100 years.

Read the instructions for photo papers carefully, as some require a particular type of ink or require extra time to dry after printing. Some ink cartridges, such as Canon printer cartridges, print photos using a combination of seven or more ink colors instead of the standard four. For maximum durability, get archival-quality inks, as merely using archival-quality paper isn’t always enough to preserve the quality of your images over time.

Specialized Surfaces

Vellum is a type of plastic sometimes used in scrapbooking or printing art books. It’s possible to print on vellum with most inkjet or laser printers as long as you are careful to let the ink dry before handling it. 

Not all inkjet and laser printers can print on transparencies, and this technology is slowly becoming obsolete due to the declining popularity of transparency projectors. However, some schools still use this older technology when a digital projector or computer is not available. 

Many home crafters wonder: Can you print on construction paper? While this paper type has a similar density to cardstock, it’s not as durable as cardstock and does not provide a smooth printing surface. It works excellently in scrapbooking projects and classroom craft activities, though, so try it if you’re feeling creative.

Labels and Stickers

Label and sticker papers are popular for everything from home projects to special events. You can easily label items with custom-printed labels to help advertise your business better or make name tags for marketing events.

Labels may look like a challenge to print, but they’re actually easy to format if you use the right templates. Most label and sticker paper companies now have templates available online. Choose from rectangles, squares, circles and ovals of varying sizes arranged on standard 8.5 by 11 sheets.

labels and stickers

Although these papers are slightly thicker than traditional paper, they usually work with both inkjet and laser printers. However, they may smear more easily than other papers, so let them dry for a minute or two after printing.

Brightness and Color

In addition to all the paper options, you also need to consider the brightness and color. Highly-bleached papers can attain a bright white that’s appropriate for printing bright, accurate colors. However, less-bleached papers are just fine for everyday text printing.

Shade refers to the hue of your paper. Some papers are available in a slight ivory shade, but most are closer to the standard blue-tinged bright white common for office paper. You can choose a more yellow-heavy shade if printing photo portraits, invitations or anything else you want to have a warmer feeling.

Colored papers are common for regular printer paper and cardstock. Neon and pastel colors are popular options for attention-getting notices and flyers, but they may not display all colors accurately. Bold colors like red and blue are only appropriate for black ink since any other colored ink will not show up accurately once they are soaked into the paper.

colorful construction paper

Although white seems like the easiest paper color to use, keep in mind that colored papers convey emotion and can help with color-coding. Keep a supply of pastels on hand for a wide range of printing projects like cards, letters and signs.

Size Options

Most types of paper are available in different sizes ranging from half of a letter size sheet (5.5 by 8.5 inches) all the way up to 12 by 18 inches or even larger. However, many home and office printers can’t handle papers larger than legal size (8.5 by 14 inches). Very small sheets of paper can also cause jams in printers, especially if they are inserted without making adjustments to the paper tray first.

Photo printers can print standard sizes like 3 by 5 inches and 4 by 6 inches. Some can print larger 8 by 10 photos, but only high-end home photo printers can handle 11 by 14 inches.

Usually, you can print a huge variety of sizes and styles if you check your printer’s instructions first. Irregularly-sized or shaped papers are difficult to feed through the printer correctly. If necessary, you could also print on a larger piece of paper and then cut it down to size––or tape two printed pages together to make a larger poster. 

Explore All Your Options

Printing projects for your home, office or school take a huge variety of forms. Since printers have gotten easier to adjust and troubleshoot, you can handle every printing need at home without relying on an outside printing company.

Inkjet printing remains slightly more expensive than laser printing in terms of cost-per-page, but you can create beautiful flyers, photo prints and reports with a basic inkjet printer. Laser printers deliver phenomenal speed and sharp results even on basic bond paper.

laser printer analytics paperwork

Once you explore vellum, cardstock and other unique papers, you’ll find a variety of new ways to use your printer. If you ever reach the limits of what your current printer can do, research a new one that meets your budget and your goals. Your printer is an asset that can help you in both work and leisure, so use it with the right papers to keep it working for you in peak condition.

If you want the sharpest images possible at an affordable price, explore the range of remanufactured ink cartridges available online at Inkjet Superstore. 


Image Credits


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