What are the Different Types of Printer Paper?

Mary Elizabeth

The term printer paper refers to any paper that is made for or characteristically used in a computer printer. Included in this category are papers made specifically for different types of printers, as well as a wide variety of sizes, weights, brightness, colors, purposes, and finishes. Without any specification, printer paper usually refers to what is usual and customary in the country and for the context and printer in question.

Glossy paper is best for printing photographs.
Glossy paper is best for printing photographs.

Certain printer types either do better with or require specialized types of paper. Ink jet paper and laser jet paper are two of the best-known types. There is also special paper for solid ink printers and for printers that take rolled paper.

Bond printer paper is appropriate for everyday print and copy use.
Bond printer paper is appropriate for everyday print and copy use.

Standard paper sizes vary in different countries, and may be Letter and Legal or A4 and A5, for example. Many printers can handle a wider range of papers, including sizes that are quite a bit smaller and larger. For example, a typical business printer might be able to print on paper as small as 3 x 5 inches, or A7, and as large as Tabloid or A3. Specialized printers can accept other formats, such as the paper size referred to as wide format.

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Using recycled printer paper is an environmentally friendly option.
Using recycled printer paper is an environmentally friendly option.

Printer paper comes in various thicknesses that may be referred to as weights or grammage and which are appropriate for different purposes. For bond paper, a thickness of 20-lbs or 75 gsm paper is economy paper. It’s on the thinner side but is appropriate for everyday print and copy use, as long as it works properly with the printer. A thickness of 24-lbs or 90 gsm is mid-weight paper. It provides crisper images than economy paper, and with less show-through, it is better for double-sided printing. A thickness of 40-lbs or 150 gsm is appropriate for signs and flyers where vivid color is required. Brightness of office paper ranges from 92 to 100, with the higher end providing crisper images.

There are types of printer paper available for a wide variety of purposes. Colored paper can add to the eye-catching nature of signs and mailings. Special photography paper provides a glossy surface for printing photographs. Acid-free paper assures the longevity of the document, which will not darken or crumble. Specialized papers are also available for stationery, brochures, printing awards and certificates, and pre-punched for assembling in binders. Recycled paper reuses paper, and therefore uses fewer new trees.

A printer.
A printer.

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Discussion Comments


Why do printers sometimes print blank pages?


@umbra21 - There is a new gadget coming out now that works as a portable printer and glides over any kind of flat surface, so I guess in theory the idea of paper being specifically made for printers might go away.

It's a lot slower from what I can see though, so I guess it would only really be ideal for specialty papers.


@clintflint - Not all printers are the same, although I would have thought one at a university was generally pretty heavy-duty. It might have been that the paper was meant for use with an inkjet printer and you were using a laser printer or something like that.

Or it might have been an ordinary paper jam. They happen often enough even when you use ordinary printer paper, so it's hardly surprising if they happen with specialty paper.


Don't always trust the packaging. I've bought specialty printer papers that were supposed to be able to go through printers but got completely stuck.

In one case it was a type of paper that would transfer an image onto ceramics and I managed to talk the tech guys at my university into letting me use the library printer. When the paper jammed it took nearly an hour to fix it and I wasn't exactly popular there after that. Which was extremely annoying, because it did say on the packet that the paper was safe for using in printers, and in fact was meant to be used in printers.

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