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What’s The Difference Between Printer Papers?

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 by | Filed Under: I've Always Wanted To Know...

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:

What’s The Difference Between Printer Papers?


Printers come in two basic varieties inkjet and laser, but print paper can fill aisles at your local office supply store. What’s the major difference and which type is best? Is there a reason to go with the same manufacturer of printer paper as your printer, or is it all the same? Let’s dig through the differences between printer papers page by page and find out.

Terms To Know

  • Weight: This measurement in lb (pounds) is how heavy the paper is. The higher the number the heavier the paper.
  • Brightness: This measurement in numbers is how reflective the paper is. The more reflective the higher the number.
  • Finish: This term refers to the style of the coating of the paper. Popular finishes are glossy, luster and matte and uncoated.
  • Opacity: This measurement refers to how likely something printed on one side is to show on the opposite side. From 0 to 100 where 0 is completely clear and 100 is completely opaque. Opacity numbers may not be availible for many consumer papers.  They will be listed as opaque or medium/high/very high.
  • Inkjet or Laser: Paper can be formulated to allow inkjet ink or laser toner to adhere better. Paper that is not designed for the printing technology can result in ink that won’t stick to the page, bleeding or other printing defects.

Types Of Paper


General Use / Copy / Multiuse Paper: This paper group has many names and is usually 20 lb weight. It can vary in brightness from 80 to 100, has no finish applied and is medium high opacity. This paper is usually universal working on both inkjet & laser printers. This paper costs the least per sheet of all the types.

Premium / Business / Choice Paper: This paper group has many different names but generally refers to paper 24 to 28 lb weight, brightness over 92, has no finish applied and is high opacity. This paper can be used in both style printers but there may be specific formlations optimized only for one. This paper costs more per sheet then mult-iuse paper but is often feels better and more substantial.

Resume / Stationary / Linen Paper: This paper group is generally 24 to 32 lb, has no finish, and is usually made of cotton or linen. It has a brightness of 80 to 100, but may not list a brightness on the packaging. This paper is very high opacity. It can be used in both style printers, but there may be specific formulations optimized only for one type of printer. This paper costs quite a bit per sheet and feels very different than traditional copy or premium paper.

Card Stock / Cover Stock Paper: This paper group is generally 65 to 120 lb, may have a finish or none at all, has a brightness from 80 to 100, and is the highest opacity. This paper does not generally work as well in lasers as it does in inkjet printers, so verify the printer type is listed on the package before buying. This paper varies in cost but is generally at least 2-3x the cost of multi-use paper.

Photo / Imaging Paper: This paper is generally 32 to 65 lb, has a high gloss, glossy or matte finish applied, has a wide range of brightnesses from 75 to 110 and is high opacity. This paper is most often single-sided and must be purchased to match the type of printer being used. This paper costs the most of all the papers.

Should you buy your printer manufacturer’s paper?

The printer manufacturer may have paper available for your printer which has been “tested” and “optimized” to work with your specific printer’s ink or toner formulation. The results of many independent tests and the general consensus of users is that the manufacturer paper is no better than other good-quality papers.

 One point of disagreement is photo prinig. Because of the amount of ink and the variations in the color, drying time and coatings, manufacturers can tailor their paper to produce optimal results with their ink blend. This isn’t to say that third party paper may not produce results that are equally good or better, depending on your preferences. Some photographers will swear by the manufacturers paper, saying it provides the best results.  Others will swear the prints don’t look as good, while some will say they are the same and you’re just paying for a name.

What Do I Recommend?

Home/Low Volume Small Business: Xerox Multipurpose Plus Paper. Heavy enough to feel good in the hand, good print quality and can be found in 750 sheet packs for ~ $7.00. (~ 1 penny/sheet)

Photo Paper: Kirkland Signature Photo Paper. Beautiful results, regularly ranks very high in terms of quality and can be found at Costco priced at 150 sheets 8.5×11 for $18.79. A close second to manufacturer’s papers which are more expensive but usually produce very nice results. ( Kirkland paper 12.5 cents/sheet versus 30 or more cents/sheet for manufacturer-specific paper)

High Volume: Store brand general use paper. If you need to print thousands of pages (for example packing invoices) then go for whatever costs the least per page. Last purchase I made was at Costco for 5000 sheets of copy paper for $35.99. (~ 7/10ths of a penny per sheet)


Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here.

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