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Does it Matter What Paper I Print On?

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Oh, you want to know why? Well, there are good reasons for being aware of the quality and kind and even which blank side of the paper you print on. Let’s look at how your choice of paper makes a difference.

A white, blank sheet of paper may appear the same as any other white, blank sheet of paper, but appearances in this case are deceiving. Paper is actually more complex in construction than you think. There are differing types of paper, designed for specific use in inkjet printers, laser printers, copiers, or all three (multi-use). It is indicated on the packaging which machine the paper is intended for. Sound technologies go into creating these varying types of paper in order to guarantee the best performance in the machine as well as a great final product.

Did you know that laser printers can actually be damaged by using the wrong paper? Laser printers melt toner (a fine powder mix of pigment and plastic) onto a page. The challenge in creating laser-printer paper comes from the high level of heat generated by the fuser rollers; therefore, laser-printer paper is highly heat-resistant. It has few, if any, coatings since anything applied to the paper could melt in the printer and potentially ruin the printer.

Inkjet printers work by spraying tiny amounts of liquid onto the page which requires paper designed to handle moisture. With regular sheets of paper, liquid tends to seep in and spread, resulting in blurry or feathered images. Special inkjet papers have coatings that promote rapid drying and prevent ink from blurring, resulting in sharper text and images.

Specialty papers (labels, cardstock, iron-on sheets, etc) are also designed for use in specific machines; again, it is indicated on the packaging. Those meant for laser printers are designed to be heat resistance. For example, laser labels mask the waxy backing to prevent the wax from melting. Specialty paper meant for inkjet printers is coated to produce better print quality. Since ink is translucent, many inkjet papers are made to be bright, thus enhancing the vividness of the printed image.

Now you know, and you’ve purchased the correct type of paper for your printer. Good job! But it was placed into the feed tray to print on the wrong side. Ugh.
So what?
So what, you ask?

While it’s true both sides look nearly identical, in most cases they are not. Inkjet printing papers are coated on one side to prevent ink from seeping and blurring. Laser printing paper also has the upside treated for best results. The easiest way to make sure you’re printing on the correct side is to open the package with it face up. The printing side is then on top. If you already threw away the packaging and can’t remember which was up or down, take a look at both sides of the page; the printing side will be slightly whiter, brighter, and smoother than the other side.
If you don’t think it matters, the two pictures below show the results are quite different:

Paper side matters 2
Paper side matters

Lastly, it may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Never use torn or warped paper in your printer unless you love fixing paper jams. But that’s an entirely different blog post…

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