Understanding Paper Differences Saves You Time and Money

Understanding paper differences will help you make the best choice for the type of document you want to print, copy or scan.

Paper, Productivity

There are a dizzying number of variations in copy and print paper — colors, thickness, coatings, sizes and manufacturers are just a few on the list. Paper differences affect how well the paper you've chosen will meet your needs and how much it will cost. To produce the best-quality printed product at the lowest possible price, it's important to be clear about which type of paper is best for the job at hand.

Copy Paper

Copy paper, or multi-purpose paper, is the perfect choice for text-only documents that you're printing, faxing or photocopying. A 500-sheet case of copy paper generally weighs 20 pounds. It's also the least-expensive paper option. Due to its low cost, copy paper is the best choice to print out reference materials and documents to be filed, for example.

Inkjet Paper

Made specifically to be used in inkjet printers, inkjet paper is typically a slightly heavier weight than copy paper — around 22 to 24 pounds for 500 sheets. It's also coated, so that it can dry fast to avoid smears. Inkjet paper is better for double-sided printing or copying, because the ink shows through less than on copy paper.

Laser Paper

Also heavier than copy paper, laser paper has a slightly smoother finish. It's treated to accept lots of color ink and is often a brighter white, which provides more color contrast. Laser paper is best for documents that will be presented to customers, such as proposals or presentations.

Card Stock

Card stock is the heaviest paper and is generally used for business cards, presentation covers and postcards, because it is so durable. Its thickness guarantees that ink on one side won't show through on the other side. That thickness does come at a slight cost, however, as card stock is more expensive than copy paper.

Fine Paper

Resumes are generally printed on more expensive fine paper, which can also be used for art projects. Fine papers often have more visible fibers than copy paper, as well as a watermark. They are designed to catch the reader's attention, rather than to simply reflect printed words and images. 

Photo Paper

What copy paper is to text-based documents, photo paper is to photographs and images. Photo paper is glossy paper with an extra coating, which absorbs printer and copier ink better and dries faster. For that reason, it's most effective for photo-heavy brochures or marketing materials.