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What's the best paper for home printing?

24 Oct,2018

In most cases this entirely depends on exactly what you're looking to print, be it high quality photos to display around your home, or more general word documents to file away. Whatever the purpose there's a paper type that will suit you best.

Common paper terminology

The first challenge for any perfect paper choice, is understanding exactly what the difference is between types. Here are some common terms that you need to understand to make an informed choice.

Understanding the terminology can help you to pick the best paper for your purpose. 

1. Weight and thickness

Paper weight and thickness, like it says on the tin, gives you the exact measurements of the paper in question.

  • Weight is usually given grams to square meters (gsm) and ranges from the lowest quality at 80gsm to 170gsm. Anything over 170gsm is classified as board.
  • Paper thickness can be measured in mils, mm or calipers (the thickness of a paper in thousandths of an inch).

Be slightly cautious when checking theses figures as there's not an exact correlation between paper weight and thickness.

2. Paper brightness (OBA)

The brightness of your paper, or to put it more accurately, how white your paper appears, varies across paper types. Paper in its natural state is a creamy or off-white colour, but can be made to appear pure white by adding Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs) during manufacture. OBAs are fluorescent chemical compounds that trick the eye into seeing a brighter white than would naturally appear. They do this by reflecting blue light off the paper, an effect created by absorbing ultraviolet rays and then releasing that energy over time as visible bluish light.

Brighter white paper is often favoured by photographers to create clear and precise images, however it's worth noting that OBAs break down over time. This means that while the ink itself won't degrade at all, the paper will eventually revert back to its natural off-white state.

You should be able to tell whether paper contains OBAs by looking at how the colour is described. Anything listed as bright-white will likely contain them whereas those listed as natural colour will be OBA free.

Paper brightness and DMax value can help your photos appear more vivid.

4. DMax

The DMax value of paper refers to refers to the shade of black that your paper is capable of displaying. Higher DMax values can render higher densities of black making your text or images more striking.

Paper designed specifically for photos should have a DMax value of 2 and over to allow for more varied shades. Matte paper, traditionally used for inkjet document printing, will typically have a DMax value of less than 2. This is because it's more absorbent and ink tends to spread out reducing the dot density.

4. Surface texture

This tends to only be relevant to those looking to print artwork. There's a great range of textures available from rough, textured to highly glossy.

Types of paper and their uses

Let's have a look at the paper types preferred for printing photos and documents.

Paper for photos

Printing photos is one of the more specialised printing tasks that you'll be doing with a home printer, and one where paper quality really makes a difference. Photo papers are designed to give you the highest quality image and bring to life the subject. There are various finishes that can help you to achieve this:

  • Glossy finish: The most commonly used finish for photo paper. The glossiness is created by developing a shine from a specific chemical coating which delivers a smooth finish helping to distinguish details for great looking photos and projects. It's ideal for creating brilliant photo quality colour and lifelike images. There are often scales of glossiness so you can choose from ultra glossy to more normal coatings.
  • Satin finish: A middle road between glossy and non-glossy finishes, satin provides some of the feel or gloss without the outright shine.
  • Matte finish: The opposite of glossy, matte photo paper offers no finish and is therefore often a cheaper option. It's also a good choice for darker photos such as black and white images due to its ability to produce deep, sharp colours and text.
What sort of finish do you want for your photo prints?

Paper for documents

Paper for documents is a slightly more straightforward business. This is largely because your choices will be within the matte spectrum and any variations will be on account of weight and brightness.

  • Brightness: The brightness of the paper can dictate how vivid colours and letters appear on your paper. The higher the brightness the clearer the quality of your print.
  • Weight: Paper weight is best matched to the printer type you have. Finding your printer's normal or ideal weight helps prevent jamming and makes your printing more economical. For double sided or more professional documents, heavier weights are good to prevent 'show through'.

If you're looking for a high quality paper for your home printer, find your nearest Genuine Epson supplier For Australia | For New Zealand

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