How to Choose the Right Paper and Look

Taking Control

Printing your own helps lower your costs and, more significantly allows you to prepare materials that have a much greater impact on their reader. The most basic letter can become a simple and elegant document. You can accomplish startling results by mastering a few software basics using a P.C. and a laser or inkjet printer. Your choice of paper, envelope and presentation materials can dramatically enhance the look and feel of your finished document.


To get started, you should have a word processing package already installed on your P.C. that gives you access to different fonts and a laser or inkjet printer. This gives you the capability to create your own documents including graphics, charts and tables. You can produce virtually any kind of document with easy to use templates, even print envelopes and labels. You can draw logos and illustrations to make your point stand out.


Easy to Use

The templates are preformatted and you use them by simply dropping in text in the spaces provided. They can be modified to suit your needs or you can easily create your own. For example, using a letterhead template, you can create your letterhead, with or without a logo, and insert repetitive text such as your greeting and your usual close to a letter. Once this formatted template is saved, you use it to then drop in the text for a letter. When you print it, all the elements of your template are printed along with the text you just inserted. This approach will

save you time and money. Specially formatted templates for our card and cover stock products can be download here.

Choosing Paper

Once you've created your masterpiece, the next decision you need to make is the paper you feel will best present you, your company and your message. Regular copy paper works just fine and it's very inexpensive. When your message is particularly important, though, you'll probably want it to look its best.

You should choose the paper products appropriate to your printer that will give you good print quality and are equipment safe.

When choosing paper, look for:

Laser and Inkjet Certification

To avoid the need to become a technical expert, look for products that are clearly identified by the supplier as laser and inkjet products. Statements such as "laser or inkjet compatible" may be misleading and you should, in any case, rely on a reputable Office Products Dealer who will stand behind these products.


A smoother printing surface will provide a better output quality. The toner may not bond correctly over uneven surfaces and characters may be distorted over imperfections in the paper.

Papers traditionally chosen because of the "feel" will produce undesirable results.


A physical texture is undesirable. A number of papers, especially those that are recycled, provide a very attractive visual texture even though the paper is very smooth.


Most lasers can easily handle paper up to 7 thousands of an inch. Paper, however, is described by its basis weight and that can get very confusing. A 24 lb bond is the weight of 500 sheets of paper that measure 17" x 22". As a rule of thumb, the thickness, or caliper of 20 lb bond 4.0 mils (thousands of an inch); 24lb, 5 mils; 28 lbs, 6 mils. You may also see paper weight ratings as xx lbs. Offset, Cover or Text weight. These measures are quite different and imply a different thickness of paper. Ask your Office Products Dealer for its equivalency.

Recycled Paper

High quality recycled paper provides excellent results.


Labels and envelopes contain adhesives that deserve special mention. They are the most serious contaminant of a laser printer and the damage they cause is very expensive to repair. Envelopes and labels must use an adhesive which can withstand at least 200 degrees C. Otherwise, they begin to seep and attach themselves to the rollers and other mechanisms inside the printer. Envelopes

will also seal prematurely inside the printer due to the heat of the fusing roller. The high heat either activates the adhesive directly or the moisture in the paper is evaporated with similar results. If you enjoy the challenge of tinkering with your laser printer cheap labels will keep you busy either by pre-dispensing inside the printer or by leaving sticky deposits on their way along the paper path.


Inkjet printers apply ink in liquid form to the paper. The ink needs to dry to the touch before the second sheet is printed to avoid smearing and ink transfer to the second sheet. The drying process is affected by the porosity of the paper used. The more porous the paper, the more rapid the drying time. If the paper is too porous, dot gain occurs and the characters swell and distort in size. The paper acts as a blotter. When the paper is less porous, the ink is not absorbed quickly enough and smearing occurs.

Most paper made to xerograpic standards will produce acceptable results; recycled paper may cause uneven printing if the porosity of the recycled pulp is different than that of the virgin pulp. You will need to try different papers before you can settle on one that provides you with acceptable results. Most inkjet printers will accept up to 28lb bond papers. Heavier stock will stress the components and may cause jams.


Laser Printers

Laser printers are the preferred printing option. A wider variety of paper types will produce excellent results and you can more easily print on different sized papers, envelopes and labels. Similar to photocopiers, laser printers form characters by applying toner to the paper. In the final stage, a fusing roller permanently bonds the toner under very high heat. Laser printers usually run much hotter than copiers and are more sensitive to moisture content, paper coatings and adhesives (in envelopes and labels).

The road ahead

We have encountered just about every printing problem with paper and labels. Most lasers we have tested are tolerant of mild abuse; knowing the basics will allow you to do some amazingly creative work with little risk to your equipment or pocket book. The cost of specialty papers including envelopes and labels is relatively high on a cost per sheet basis. The investment in quality and appearance means everything if your proposal is accepted or if the rÈsumÈ you sent results in an invitation to an interview. Please take a moment to fill the brief questionnaire.Your input helps us deliver the new products you need.

Neat Ideas!


Self mailer

You can save an envelope and the time/cost of insertion by producing your message on 8 1/2" x11" sheet, 24 lbs or heavier, which is then folded twice to the size of a #10 envelope. Seal it with a round sticker or staple it. Apply an address label on the back and stamp and you've created an exciting mailer that isn't hidden from view by an envelope. You can even mail merge it to have the computer address on it and also save on the cost of a label.

Greeting Card

Using any software that can rotate text, you can produce a greeting card or invitation artwork on an 8 1/2" x 11", You then fold it in half, fold it again the other way and, Presto!, a professional looking greeting or invitation that fits in an A2 invitation envelope that you can send to 1 or 1,000 people.

Thank you note

Using a 38lb bond (70lb text), print a note on each of the top and lower half of an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet which you then cut to 5 1/2" x 8 1/2". Fold it to 5 1/2" x 4 1/4" and it fits into an A2 envelope. For a very dramatic appearance, you can print your outside message on one page of a 24lb Bond and the inside message on another same sized sheet of a different colour of finish. Once printed, and using a spray adhesive, laminate the two sheets together. You'll be very pleased with the result. Remember to laminate the sheets after you print them; your printer may get indigestion from the adhesive.

Business Cards

If you are really adventurous and doubt the caution raised in your laser printer manual, use 80lb Cover stock; otherwise, use 70lb Text stock or 65lb Cover stock (equivalent to 47lb bond). In some cases, you can buy it with micro perfs to the exact business card size. Once printed you tear along the micro perfs to get instant business cards. Many companies have to re-assign staff to new and sometimes temporary roles. It always seems to take forever to get business cards. To avoid this, sheet stock can be pre-printed with standard colour logos. When needed, they can be overprinted for the individual with his name, title, location and phone/fax numbers. At 6 pages per minute, the laser printer will produce 500 of them in less than 10 minutes.

Bar codes

A variety of business applications require the use of Bar Codes such as UPC-A, I 2 of 5, Code 39, etc. Software is available from a number of sources to generate this symbology. For small runs, printing these on laser printer is very cost efficient, practical and fast. If you are applying a label over an existing bar code, ensure that the label is very opaque. Some laser scanners are smart enough to read the first and the second label simultaneously. 9 x 12" and 5 7/8x9"

Choosing acceptable papers based on thickness

The most important factors in selecting a laser paper are smoothness, for print quality; thickness,to avoid paper jams and moisture content,to avoid curl caused by the heat of the fusing roller.

Inkjet papers are selected for controlled ink absorption to reduce dot gain and ink smudges, and thickness to reduce jams.

Paper mills use different methods of establishing a basis weight for their papers based on the finished sheet size for its likeliest application.

As a result, basis weights are very confusing. We have converted all weights in the chart below to their bond or "writings" equivalent.

Some laser printers are very forgiving of the mild abuse of intermittent use of thicker paper stocks.Please use the straight through paper path for more trouble free printing.

You may encounter problems with papers above 24lb. bond in your printer. The best approach is trial and error; remember that heavier stock will create more stress on the mechanical components of your printer.

Thickness Chart