Printer Paper Buying Guide
While there are many sizes of printing paper, some of the common ones include:
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Taken together, the paper weight and thickness reveal how sturdy a stock is, with thicker, heavier paper providing greater durability than a thin, light one.
Paper thickness is usually considered when looking at cardstock and, in most cases, measures the thickness of paper in points, where one point (pt) equals one-thousandth or .001 inches. So, 10 pt paper is .01 inches thick, 20 pt paper is .02 inches, and so on.
In the United States, the weight of paper stocks is usually done in pounds, which is the actual weight of 500 sheets of the “basis size” of the paper in question. Since the basis size may vary, comparing paper weights can be hard to do. For example, a 28-pound multipurpose paper is probably not the same weight or thickness as a 28-pound premium or cardstock paper.
In most cases, the thicker the sheet, the heavier it is, although there are cases where a dense paper can be heavy without being thick.
The weight and thickness of the paper used in a printing job can make a big difference in its quality and cost. For example, mailed pieces are usually charged by weight, so lighter, thinner stocks may work well. Professional presentations, resumes, and correspondence often call for heavier, thicker stocks, as do jobs that aim for archival quality.
Brightness refers to the amount of light that reflects off a sheet of paper. When selecting paper brightness, think about what is going to be printed on it. Images printed on a bright paper appear quite vibrant.
However, images of so-so quality may look washed out when printed on a bright paper. Black text tends to stand out on most paper brightness levels, so text documents only need an ordinary level brightness in the 80s and low 90s when measured on a scale of 100. A colorful design or fine-art reproduction may require the highest level of brightness.
Opacity measures transparency, or how much can be seen through a sheet of paper. It ranges from 100% opacity (such as greeting cards, with no light shining through) to 0% opacity (such as see-through tracing paper). Opacity becomes important when printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. Printing that shows through from one side to the other can detract from legibility.
On the other hand, some creative designers might want a see-through paper to combine images printed on both sides of the sheet to make a single intended effect.