Paper Perplexities: What You Never Understood About Buying Paper

Routine printer papers may look the same at a glance, but there’s a lot to learn when it comes to weight, brightness and best uses, and all of that information can get confusing. To help you select the right paper for your needs — whether you’re an individual or a large corporation — we’ve pulled together tips and terminology to educate you on all things paper.

What Type of Paper Should You Buy?

There are four basic types of printer paper — color copy paper, laser or inkjet paper, multipurpose paper, and copy paper. All four are designed for different printing jobs and they vary in weight, brightness, opacity and smoothness.

· Color copy paper — Color copy paper produces brilliant, vivid color documents with professional results. This paper is brighter and heavier than a copy or multipurpose paper and should be used in laser printers for full-color flyers or brochures, client proposals with color charts and graphs or external communications.

· Laser or Inkjet paper — For documents that contain color graphics, choose a laser or inkjet paper. These papers print crisp and vivid colors and are optimized to bring out the best in your printer. These papers are best used for charts and graphs, documents with photos, reports, certificates or announcements.

· Multipurpose paper — Multipurpose paper is ideal for impressive client- and customer-facing documents, such as reports, proposals and flyers. Multipurpose paper is the best buy for offices with several different types of printers, or offices that frequently print color in large quantities.

· Copy paper — For everyday, black-and-white printing or copying of emails, internal memos, forms or bulletins, choose a lighter weight, 20 lb. multi-use copy paper with a lower brightness. This paper is most efficient for mass printing.

Paper Terms to Know

Paper is categorized by a variety of properties that affect printer or copier performance and determine the quality of the finished product.

· Weight — Paper is available in a range of weights, from bond to card stock. The heavier the weight, typically the thicker and stiffer the sheet. The majority of everyday printer paper is 20 lb. Heavier weight papers, such as index, tag and card stock, provide more durability, stiffness and opacity for printed material. Choose a heavier weight paper for reports and presentations. Before running any of these papers in your equipment, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the correct weight of paper to use. This will help alleviate jams and damage to your equipment.

· Opacity — Opacity is measured on a 100 point scale. The lower the number, the more translucent and see-through the sheet. A higher opacity number is desired for printing in offices — especially when printing doubled-sided pages. If the opacity is too low, ink will show through from the other side.

· Smoothness — Paper smoothness is measured by the Sheffield test, which assigns a number indicating the roughness of the paper. The lower the number, the smoother it feels to the touch. For example, newsprint paper is on the low end of the Sheffield spectrum, while paper such as cardstock is on the high end of the spectrum. Paper with a lower Sheffield number is desired for printing in offices.

· Brightness — Brightness refers to the percentage of blue light that is reflected from a piece of paper. To the untrained eye, brighter paper makes colors crisper. That’s because the higher the brightness, the greater the contrast between the printed image and the paper. Most papers range between 92 and 98 on the brightness scale. Using a brighter paper makes colors more vibrant and appealing — giving graphics and images the appearance of “popping” off the page.

· Eco-Friendly Certifications — Certain third-party certifications, like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Fiber Certification or the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) Chain of Custody certification, guarantee that the fiber in the papers comes from sustainably managed forests. Sustainably managed forests ensure the health and longevity of forest systems and result in more trees for a better ecosystem.

· Jam-Free Guarantee — Paper jams can easily be avoided by keeping your printers or copy machines cleaned, buying a good quality paper and properly storing the paper prior to use. Find an office-grade paper that is regularly tested by a third party, such as Buyer’s Laboratory, to guarantee performance and check for misfeeding, curling and jamming. Look for labels with a 99.99% jam-free guarantee to minimize paper jams.

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