Most people walk into the store and pick up the first ream of all-purpose copy paper they see. Sometimes, they look specifically for the least expensive paper. This can cause problems. Maybe the printer jams often or your printed projects just don’t look the way you expect.
The best damage control is to use the right paper for the job. Remember that all paper is not the same; the thickness, weight, coating, and other factors are more important than you might think.
Determining Paper Weight
The paper’s weight has an impact on your project. There are several types of paper, but the two most commonly used are cover and text stock. Usually, you’d use thicker cover stock for postcards, business cards, and other projects that requires stiff and heavy paper. Text stock is used for flyers, booklets, and other projects needing thin paper.
Paper manufacturers label the paper’s weight in pounds. When they weigh the paper, they do so in stacks of 500 sheets, but the sheets are larger than your average 8 ½ X 11 sheet. Usually, the weight correlates to thickness. You’d use lower-weight text stock for regular copy paper, higher-weight text stock for flyers or brochures, and high-weight cover stock for postcards and business cards.
Thickness is measured by caliper, usually in thousandths of an inch. A higher caliper means thicker paper. As far as the printer jam, the best measurement to use is GSM, or grams per square meter, which measures density. Your printer’s booklet lists recommended paper GSMs. Use that to reduce paper jams.
Read more: When to Consider Switching Paper Brands
Using Coated or Uncoated Paper
Some paper is coated with a hardened clay material. With coated paper, text and images print with more detail and denser color. For certain projects, like brochures, this allows your project to have a better visual impact. Coating ranges from matte to high gloss, so choose the paper you need based on how you want to convey the project.
If you will need to write on the paper, you probably want to use uncoated paper. It is easier to write on, even though images won’t have the same impact.
Measure Other Specifications
When choosing the right paper, you probably also want to consider paper color shade and opacity. Color shade really impacts the contrast and readability of the printed text. Double A is the only sheet that has a bluish shade. This acts as a natural fluorescent and tends to give a brighter appearance than the lab measurement.
Opacity is measured as a percentage. 100% opacity means that you can’t see the print on one side of the paper when you look from the other side. Tracing paper is 0% opaque, so you can clearly see print through the paper (allowing you to trace the image). Opacity also prevents color bleed through, which impacts color prints and double sided printing. Especially if you will print on both sides of the paper, you should use higher opacity.
The most important thing to remember when choosing paper for your project is that the same paper will probably not work for every project. Also, your images will look different on different papers, and a lot of the choice is based on opinion. It is usually a good idea to test print a project on different papers to see exactly how it will look before you make a final decision.