Unless you’re a paper buff, chances are you’ve never really had deep thoughts about the kind of paper you use in your copier. Maybe you “just buy whatever is on sale” each month or pick up a few cases of the “basic stuff” on your wholesale club runs.
A little known fact to many multifunctional printer (MFP) users is that paper type can drastically affect not only device performance and output quality, but also how often your machine breaks down. Here’s why.
To start, there are four things to consider when choosing a paper type:
- Paper Weight
- Paper Size
- Paper Type
- Paper Quality
Measured in pounds (lbs) or in grams per square meter (gsm), paper weight is, as implied by the name, the weight of the paper, aka 500 sheets of 17”x22”. So, basic copy paper, like Xerox Vitality Multipurpose Paper, is 20 lb/75 gsm. This type of paper is ideal in office settings with your traditional, run of the mill MFPs, laser, and inkjet printers.
If you want to get a little fancier, say for a special report or presentation you are printing, you can upgrade to a heavier weighted, 24 lb/90 gsm paper, such as Xerox’s Bold Digital Printing Paper. This stock is slightly thicker and smoother and can really make your images pop on the page. The weight alone of paper can really make an impression. What’s the first thing you notice when someone give you something they have printed?
All paper is manufactured into giant rolls where it is then cut into standard printing sizes. In the US, standard paper sizes are letter (8.5”x11”), legal (11”x14”), tabloid (11”x17”) or ledger (17”x11”), and statement (5.5”x8.5”).
Size matters when the printer cannot detect the correct paper size in a tray and a print job calls for a certain size. Loading paper and setting tray guides is most important in this case to ensure paper feeds properly into the paper path to prevent misfeeds and jams.
Beyond weight and size, paper types can include different types of paper grain, color, smoothness, coatings, and media such as envelopes and labels. All have unique characteristics that if not specified in use on a device can cause the paper to jam in the machine.
Like wood, the direction of the grain of a piece of paper is determined by which direction the fibers run within it—if the fibers run parallel with the longer edge of the sheet (Grain Long) or the shorter edge of the sheet (Grain Short). Most paper is not specifically labeled to denote the grain direction but can usually be determined by the second number listed on the paper size.
For example, 8.5”x11” would be “Grain Long” and paper listed as 17”x11” would be “Grain Short”. Flexing paper “against the grain” gives more resistance in the device than flexing the paper with the grain so it is best to always use feed paper with the grain to prevent misfeeds. If you’re not sure, test it out with a stack of paper and take note as to how easily the stack flexes in your hand.
Paper smoothness is measured on what’s called the Sheffield Scale where the lower the number on the scale, the smoother the paper is. Typical 20 lb/75 gsm paper (such as Xerox Vitality Multipurpose Paper) measures at 150. Premium, coated stocks can measure as low as 10. Keep in mind, smooth paper has its pros and cons—the smoother the stock, the more likely it is to jam as compared to a rougher stock, but smoother paper usually produces superior image quality especially with photos.
Coated paper is where raw paper has been treated with chemicals to change the characteristics of the paper either by weight, smoothness, sheen or how it absorbs the ink. Coated paper in MFPs can be tricky because the printing process involves a lot of heat and pressure, so be sure to verify whether or not you device can accept coated paper stocks. Many times, when using coated paper in an MFP, compatibility requires adjusting both paper tray and print driver settings to let the device know what kind of paper is in the machine. Be sure to check you device manual before using.
Most paper comes from trees, but some paper is made from cotton, or even recycled materials. Knowing what your paper is made of is important so you know whether or not it will be compatible with your printer.
To play it safe, always consult with the manufacturer recommended paper types for each device in your office. For Xerox products, you can search here for the Recommended Media List for you specific model.
If you’re still not sure what paper stock will work best with your printer fleet, contact your print partner for recommendations. Service professionals have seen it all, and can be the best resource for paper section over the “paper of the day” deal you see in your inbox. Don’t let bad paper affect your printer and its print jobs, contact us today.