On paper, you’d think that choosing the right material to print on would be easy. However, with so many different paper types and sizes available on the market, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Using our guide, we will go through each of the key attributes to consider when choosing the right paper. From types to sizes to weights, prepare to be an expert in all things paper by the end of this article.
Paper comes in many different shapes and sizes. The type that is right for you depends on what it is you are looking to print, and the printing equipment you have available to use.
Let’s take a look at the different types of paper there are to choose from:
Inkjet Printer Paper
Designed specifically for use with inkjet printers, inkjet paper is more of an all-rounder. This is because it comes in different forms depending on what it is you’re looking to print (i.e. photos, business cards, greeting cards, etc). Get it here.
Laser Printer Paper
Laser printer paper works best with, you guessed it, a laser printer. The paper is better equipped at printing more business-related documents, such as cheques and postage labels. Get it here.
Glossy paper is most popularly used when printing photos. This is due to its glossy surface being able to absorb ink and produce brilliant colours. Get it here.
One of the most frequently used types of paper, matte is suitable for all everyday printing tasks. It’s a great choice for businesses where documents are needed quickly, as the paper has a white coating finish to help ink dry faster. Get it here.
The perfect choice for high-quality double-sided printing, bright white paper has a smooth, non-textured surface which prevents ink from showing through from the other side. Get it here.
Resumé paper has an off-white appearance, and is slightly heavier than normal paper. It is most commonly usually used when printing CVs, degree certificates or other important documents. Get it here.
The thickest of the paper types, card stock paper is a lot longer-lasting. It is most commonly used to print business cards and postcards, or when printing out photos or documents for a scrapbook. Get it here.
As you are already probably aware, printing paper is available in a range of sizes, often in some sort of ‘A size’. These typically range from the large A1 size to the much smaller A10 size, with A4 being the most widely used choice.
In fact, out of all the ‘A sizes’ available, A4 paper is available in the most variety of types and finishes, meaning there is a suitable A4 paper for pretty much any printing job.
A3 paper is another popular choice. Twice the size of A4 paper, this larger sheet is more widely used when printing photos, posters, or documents that require more of a visual impact.
It’s not just the A scale you have to think about though – there are B and C paper scales as well.
B size paper is effectively the same scale as the A size range, but approximately 1.5x the size. Meanwhile, the C paper scale is used exclusively for envelopes, ranging from 1 to 10 in size (C1 being the biggest, C10 being the smallest).
Another paper size worthy of mentioning is SRA (supplementary raw format A) paper. This paper range is slightly bigger than A size paper, which makes it a better option for commercial printing where extra room for bleed and trim lines is required.
Paper weight is generally measured in GSM, which stands for ‘Grams per Square Metre’. The higher the GSM value, the thicker it is, and the heavier it weighs. Contrarily, the lower the GSM value, the thinner it is, and the lighter it weighs. Pretty straightforward really.
Thicker, heavier paper tends to be a bit more durable, so different paper weights offer different uses. As a general guide:
- Most everyday newspapers use between 35 GSM and 55 GSM.
- Day-to-day office matte paper uses between 80 and 100 GSM.
- Most internal magazine pages use between 90 and 115 GSM.
- Promotional adverts and posters use between 130 GSM and 170 GSM.
- The front/back cover of a magazine typically uses between 180 GSM and 250 GSM.
- Good quality business cards and premium flyers tend to use paper of 300 GSM or more.
Different types of papers are finished with particular coatings, each focused on enhancing specific qualities within the print. Here are some of the main coating options to think about:
A UV coating is initially applied to paper as a liquid. This then hardens under ultraviolet light, meaning the thickness varies depending on this process.
Using a UV coating will not only give printed sheets a much higher level of protection, but it will also enhance the sharpness of the colours within the print.
An aqueous coating is water-based and quick to dry. The main benefits of this coating is that it protects prints from fingerprints, marks and other forms of damage, and is more environmentally-friendly than other coating options.
Varnish coatings come in satin, gloss or dull finishes, and are especially good at give photos a professional feel. They offer less protection than other coating choices, but are a much more affordable option.
Another consideration you will need to make when choosing your paper is how opaque you would like your sheets to be. For example, would you prefer a more transparent sheet that lets the light pass straight through and feels slightly lighter? Or, would a denser sheet that weighs a lot more be preferred?
A sheet’s opacity is measured on a scale between 0 and 100, with 0 being basically see-through and 100 being as dense as brick. Different opacities give different uses, so you need to take this into account when choosing your paper. Want to see how thick your paper is? Click here to try out a free opacity test.
There are several attributes to consider when it comes to choosing the right paper. What do you want the prints for? How big do you need them to be? Do they need to be double-sided? Will they feature high-quality images? By asking yourself each of these questions, you’ll help ensure that the decision you make is sensible and well-informed.
Photo credits: Pixabay