Many surfaces, many choices; here's what you should look for
By Jon Sienkiewicz
December 22, 2005
The paper you use is just as important as the printer and ink. From exhibition prints to scrapbooks, learn to match the paper to the purpose.
The paper you use is just as important as the printer and ink. Bad paper can make a good printer look absolutely awful. There is a wide variety of papers available, both from printer manufacturers and paper specialists, including those in the photo above. All inkjet paper is categorized by the following set of specifications. Most inkjet paper brands indicate at least some of these specs on the package.
As the name implies, this is the actual thickness of the paper, and is calibrated in "mils" or 1/1000ths of an inch. A paper that is marked "8.3 mils" is 83/1000ths of an inch thick.
Brightness is an indication of how white the paper is. It's expressed as a percentage and is determined using a scale that has been established by the International Standards Organization, or ISO. When it comes to ISO Brightness, a higher number is better. A typical paper might be labeled "ISO 97 percent."
Opacity is also indicated as a percentage, and again, higher numbers are better. A paper in the 96 percent or 97 percent range is very opaque.
This one can be confusing because different manufacturers use different formulas--although if you work through the math it all comes out the same. Most companies list the Base Weight in grams per square meter, or "g/m2." A Base Weight of 250gms or higher is substantial. However, some companies choose to show Base Weight as pounds per ream. A ream is 500 sheets.
Common sizes range from 4x6 to 13x19, but if you're looking for something new to try, check out the pre-cut greeting cards, stickers and post cards. Some paper is also available in rolls for volume users (make sure your printer can handle roll paper). For business use or for scrapbook making, take a look at double-sided paper. You can print on both sides and bind the pages together to form a book. Beware this common source of confusion: 8x10 vs. 8.5x11. Ordinary copy paper is 8.5x11. Traditional photo enlargements are 8x10.
Glossy still rules supreme for most folks, but portraits and some other types of images look great on matte, canvas or satin surfaces. Best course is to buy a sample package that includes several different surfaces.
Water-resistant papers repel moisture--particularly fingerprints. They dry quickly and are easier to handle overall.
Don't be "printer-wise and paper-foolish." The paper becomes the print, so always buy the best you can afford.