Types of Printer Paper

There are a variety of types of printer paper available in most office supply stores. They're not created equal and they come in different weights, colors, sizes, finishes and brightness levels. Each type was designed with a specific purpose in mind and works best when used for that purpose. Here is a look at some of the types of printer available on the market today and how best to use each type.

The Finish

Printer paper comes in two finishes: matte and glossy. Matte paper is what's used for most daily printing needs. It has a special white coating that dries quickly. Glossy paper has a glossy finish. Glossy paper is designed to more efficiently absorb ink from the same manufacturer as the printer manufacturer. This means that Canon paper would work best in a Canon printer. Choosing a different glossy paper manufacturer from the printer manufacturer may mean that the ink is not as effectively absorbed so it may smudge easier or take longer to dry.

Glossy paper is used more often for photos or reports with a lot of images like pie charts and graphs. It tends to produce more vivid images and richer black text. Glossy paper tends to also be more expensive than matte paper. Most general purpose paper, meaning the kind that's used in standard photocopiers, is matte. Matte paper tends to withstand handling better and will not get damaged by fingerprints.

Weight and Density

Paper can come in different weights. It's one of the major ways paper is classified. Weights are assigned by how much a ream of paper weighs. A ream of paper is 500 sheets of varying sizes before the paper has been cut down to be sold.

The weight depends on the function of what you're printing and what your printer can handle. Generally heavier paper is better for high quality prints like business reports. A lower weight paper is better for general printing jobs or if you have a lot of material to print since they don't jam inside a printer as easily. The problem with heavier weight more dense paper is that their corners don't bend well making it more difficult for the printer to grab each sheet for printing which often causes the paper to jam and slow the printing process.

Examples of heavier weight, higher density paper you might use at home or in the office include business card paper and blank greeting cards.


Paper is designed to absorb a certain amount of ink. Laser printer paper is designed not to absorb as much ink because this isn't necessary to create crisp text and clear photos. Inkjet paper is generally designed to absorb more ink which is often necessary to create black text and richly colored photos.

It's important to consider the absorption factor when choosing printer paper and it's important to choose paper with the right absorption factors for print quality. Highly absorbent paper means that the tiny ink dots absorb and spread outside their borders on the paper which can cause text to look fuzzy and dull. Different types of printer paper are covered with different types of waxy substances which affects the paper's level of absorption.


Most countries have standard sizes of paper. In North America standard sizes include letter, legal, A5 or A4. Most printers can handle these sizes. Some manufacturers, like Hewlett Packard, create home or small business office printers that can handle other formats including paper as small as 3 x 5 inches or as large as a tabloid size.

Cotton Paper

Most paper is made from pulp gathered from trees. Some high-quality specialty paper contain fabric like cotton. Paper that's made entirely out of cotton fibers is more durable than wood pulp paper and is also much stronger. It doesn't deteriorate, fade or discolor as easily. Pure cotton paper is often used for archival copies of items such as theses or dissertations. It's also used in banknotes.

Most people won't buy pure cotton paper. It's too expensive and they won't have a need for it. But it's possible to buy paper with a percentage of cotton if you're looking for paper that'll last longer than wood pulp paper. Generally for each percentage of cotton in the paper, expect a one year of resisting deterioration. If you're printing legal documents, choose paper with about 25 percent cotton or linen.