Inkjet and laser printing remain two popular technologies used in home and small-business printers. But this creates a complicated market for their papers. The two technologies use different inks and therefore require different characteristics in their printing media to provide the best results.
Inkjet printers work by firing tiny dots of liquid ink at the paper through nozzles in the print head. Laser printers use electrostatic charges to transfer toner, a dry ink stored as a powder, from the toner cartridge to the paper. These differing ink characteristics work with most kinds of paper, but for minimal paper jamming and highest resolution, each printer should use a paper designed for it. Some types of paper appropriate for one printer can even damage another type of printer.
Printing paper is typically divided into inkjet paper and laser paper, which are designed to maximize the absorption of each type of ink into the fibers of the paper. Paper is also rated based on certain qualities, including weight and brightness. Weight refers to the actual weight of 500 sheets (one ream) of paper at its original size, 17 inches by 22 inches; 8.5 inch by 11 inch paper is made by cutting this size into fourths, so a ream of this paper is one-fourth the weight of its rated weight—a ream of 8.5 inch by 11 inch, 20-pound bond paper weighs 5 pounds.
Multipurpose paper is generally only suited to text documents, as text typically covers less than 20 percent of the page with ink. Larger prints, such as photos or graphics, saturate the page with ink, and as such require a paper specifically made to handle the weight of the ink, as well as proper absorption characteristics to ensure that the image is not blurred or distorted.
Inkjet and laser papers come in a variety of brightness levels, indicating the amount of light that the paper will reflect; high-brightness papers are considered higher quality and are more expensive. Papers also come with a range of matte or glossy finishes, which should be selected based on their suitability to the final printed product.
Many people purchase paper based solely on cost, and this strategy works for low-volume prints of moderate quality. For higher-volume prints where speed is an issue, matching the paper to the printer is crucial to obtaining the printer's maximum speed without jamming; it is also necessary when the visual quality of the final product is important.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of F Delventhal