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A Guide to Print Media

HP 8.5 x 11 inch Premium Plain PaperWhat is Print Media?  Print media consists of paper, envelopes, cardstock, overhead transparencies, and labels that are used with printers. Basically, Print Media is anything you print on.

Printers are characteristically required to handle print media of various paper types. When it comes to choosing the right media (paper) for the job, consider two key factors: the type of document you plan to create and the technology you plan to use. Image and overall document quality depends on using the correct paper type for the particular printing job and the equipment to be used.

Media Preparation

For absolute best results, you need to prepare print media for use after purchasing it. Print media requires some time to stabilize in a new environment. To prepare print media, keep it in its protective packaging and store it in the environment in which it will be used. For small quantities, like one or two reams, store the print media for a couple of days. For bigger quantities, or if the shift in the environment is significant, you may have to wait one week or more for the print media to stabilize (the media manufacturer's package instructions will specify this time period). If print media is not properly ready, the edges in the ream can become crimped or the sheets might curl soon after the package is opened.

Choosing The Proper Paper

Print media for use with printers are purposely designed for different uses. Whether printing is to be done using a laser printer, an inkjet printer, or a dot matrix printer, choosing the right print media then becomes essential if the best results are to be expected. Make sure that the print media you choose is something which works well with the printing technology you intend to use.  Almost all printer paper or media specifies what kind of printer it is compatible with.  Using print media which is not designed for the particular printing technology can yield very unsatisfactory results.

Laser Printer Paper

Laser paper, for example, features unique qualities not found in other print media. Laser paper is designed to withstand the high temperatures it is subjected to and the toner formulations that are associated with laser printing technology. Good laser paper should also not exhibit any curling after printing.  High Quality laser printer paper is also designed to retain the toner for longer archival periods of time than other paper.

Inkjet Printer Paper

Inkjet paper, as well, is a special type of paper. Inkjet paper has a special surface that prevents over-penetration of the ink droplets. Inkjet paper is also designed to resist color mottling or the appearance of uneven color distribution. The special coating also helps enhance the inks used in inkjet printers giving the printout more vibrant color or sharper text.

General Purpose Paper

While general purpose paper can be used for Inkjet and laser printers, their only advantage is that they are less expensive than the specialty papers required for laser printing or inkjet printing, but the results are far less. General purpose paper on the other hand works well with dot matrix printers.

HP Advance Glossy Photo PaperSpecialty Paper 

Some print jobs require paper that exhibits a more impressive look or feel. Letterhead paper commonly has a watermark and often use cotton fiber. Unlike copier paper or plain paper, letterhead paper has a rougher surface.

Be cautious to avoid using tremendously heavy or light paper. Use paper that is within your printer’s specified basis-weight range, as shown in the support documentation that came with your printer.

But other than the different types of paper made for each printing technology, there are other types paper which have been developed for special uses.

  • Photo Paper
    Photo Papers are heavyweight papers ideal for framing and for professional quality prints. These are surface treated to be smudge and water-resistant. They are available in glossy, luster, semi-gloss and matte finishes.

  • Presentation Papers
    Presentation Papers are used ideally for printing newsletter, flyers, reports or special presentations containing photos or graphics.

  • Archival Photo Papers
    Archival Photo Papers for photo albums are acid free and lignin free. Some archival photo papers can be stored for more than 100 years without fading.

  • Greeting Card Papers
    Greeting Card Papers are pre-scored cards which are printable on both sides.  Care must be taken with thick folded paper as they can become jammed in the printer - always make sure you are using a paper within the limits of your printer's paper path.

  • T-shirt Transfers
    Iron-On Transfer Papers are ideal for customizing t-shirts, cotton placemats, tote bags and more. Images are printed on a special coated paper which can then be transferred via a regular household iron.

  • Self Adhesive Printer Papers
    Self Adhesive Printer Papers are used for creating signs and labels.

  • Business Cards and Postcards
    Photo Quality inkjet Cards are designed to be used for post cards, invitations, and announcements. They are printable on both sides and are made of cardstock that meets the minimum weight requirement for mailing.

  • Office Document Papers
    Office Document Papers are like regular inkjet papers but are specially coated to produce vibrant colors. They can be used for presentations as well.

  • Transparencies
    Inkjet Transparencies are used for overlays and overhead projectors. The film comes with a special coating that produces vivid color and clear, crisp text.

Paper Types

  • Archival Paper is acid free and lignin free paper that lasts longer than other papers and holds color well.

  • Bond Paper or Letterhead is a high quality durable writing paper similar to bank paper but having a weight greater than 50 g/m2. The name comes from it having originally been made for documents such as government bonds. It is now used for letterheads and other stationery and as paper for electronic printers.

  • Coated Paper is paper which has been coated by an inorganic compound to impart certain qualities to the paper, including weight and surface gloss, smoothness or ink absorbency.)

  • Colored Paper consists of file folders, glossy paper, magazines, books, facsimile paper.

  • Copier Paper/Plain Paper is basically the same as Bond Paper.Embossed Paper is a paper on which a raised and/or depressed design has been produced by pressure, generally between an engraved or otherwise patterned steel roll.

  • Glossy Paper is quality paper designed to make printed photos look sharp, vibrant and more like a traditional photograph. Handling of glossy paper is important as the paper can quickly and easily be marred by fingerprints and dirt. Glossy photo paper comes in several varieties including a specialty color protect or color life paper, semi-gloss and premium (professional) grade.)

  • Heavy paper/Cover Paper/Cardstock is a heavy, stiff paper with a basic size of 20" x 26". Some cover paper may have matching book paper with the same colors and finishes.

  • Laser Paper (a smooth paper, with low moisture content, mostly manufactured in sizes that allow for use in laser printers and other office equipment.

  • Preprinted Forms and Letterhead (Any sheet of paper reproduced in some quantity with some amount of constant data, to which variable data can be added. Invoices, with constant company name, address, etc., and variable charges, are examples of preprinted forms.)

  • Recycled Paper is a paper product consisting of 100% recovered fiber. Recovered fiber includes pre- or post-consumer sources or both.

So the next time you are buying paper, pay careful attention to the specifications and uses to get the best results from your particular printer.

Tags: Printer media, printer paper, transparencies, inkjet printer, laser printer