How To Choose The Right Printing Paper: A Guide to Paper Types and Sizes
With the Variety of paper features available on the market, it can be a little overwhelming to decide which one will get the job done and suit your printer.
A lot of people think that you should be chasing the highest quality you can afford.
However, if you think about it, there is no sheet type that is suitable for every project.
In this article, we are going to talk to you about the different paper types you can come across and which ones are optimized for which purposes.
Also, I will be sharing some tips to help you make up your mind and level up your printing efficiency so, stick around!
How to Pick The Right Printing Paper Type and Size
The most commonly used is “A size”. Other types exist as well.
First, let’s take a general look at the A size paper. There’s a constant pattern by which the paper size increases or decreases with A0 being the largest size and A10 the smallest.
All paper sizes should have an aspect of 2:1 ratio.
The most commonly used size is the A4 measuring 210 mm x 297 mm. even for this one size, you can find so different coatings and weight available to rely on for different purposes.
Another A size that is widely used is the A3. It measures 297 mm x 420 mm i.e. it is double the size of the A4 paper. This is why it is used with large graphics pieces and images with high resolution.
If you are looking to print flyers or something that is considered to be small media then you should go for smaller A sizes like A5 or maybe A6 even.
Before talking about other sizes, I will leave you a table with all the available A sizes and the most common uses for each, in case you want to check them out.
A Series Paper Sizes Chart
Width x Height (mm)
Width x Height (inches)
841 x 1189
46.8 x 33.1
Extremely large posters
594 x 841
23.4 x 33.1
420 x 594
16.5 x 23.4
297 x 420
11.7 x 16.5
210 x 297
8.3 x 11.7
Standard printed sheet
148 x 210
5.8 x 8.3
105 x 148
4.1 x 5.8
74 x 105
2.9 x 4.1
52 x 74
2.0 x 2.9
37 x 52
1.5 x 2.0
26 x 37
1.0 x 1.5
Untrimmed RA and SRA sizes
A lot of times, ink bleeds during printing ruining the sides of the paper. That is why these sizes that are slightly bigger than the A size paper are made. They allow space for bleeding ink, in addition to gripping and trimming and are widely used for commercial printing.
The C Size Paper
This paper size is made in a similar way to the A sized paper but happens to be slightly bigger.
It ranges from C1 to C10 allowing the A size sheets to fit into an envelope which is the whole point of using this size.
C Series Paper Sizes Chart
Width x Height (mm)
Width x Height (in)
648 x 917
25.5 x 36.1
458 x 648
18.0 x 25.5
324 x 458
12.8 x 18.0
229 x 324
9.0 x 12.8
162 x 229
6.4 x 9.0
114 x 162
4.5 x 6.4
81 x 114
3.2 x 4.5
57 x 81
2.2 x 3.2
40 x 57
1.6 x 2.2
28 x 40
1.1 x 1.6
It is one of the most important aspects to consider when deciding which paper to use. Not only does it influence how your print looks and feels, but also, it affects its durability.
When we talk about the weight, we are actually discussing how thick your sheet of paper is and we refer to it in gram per square meter (GSM).
A standard day-to-day office paper is 80 GSM whereas most of the newspapers range between 35 GMS and 55 GMS.
If you are looking to print a good quality business card it should be more than 300 GMS.
As a general rule, the thicker your sheet is the more expensive it is which is why the thickest papers are used for industrial purposes and are not recommended for daily office printing.
According to the weight, different paper can be used for different purposes as follows:
- Bond Paper: These are used for everyday printing, as well as for letterhead and stationery and are known as writing paper. A bond paper can weigh 16, 20, 24, 28, 32 or 36 pounds
- Text Paper: Used in as brochures, letterheads, stationery, etc. Each can range from 50, 60, 70, 80 to 100 pounds.
- Book Paper (30-115 pounds): As the name implies, these are used in printing books and magazines.
- Cover Paper (60-120 pounds): It is also referred to as cardstock. It is extremely stiff which is why it is usually used for business cards, menus, invitations, postcards, etc.
- Index Paper: It can be 90, 110, or 140 pounds and is used in making index cards due to its stiffness.
- Tag Paper (100-200 pounds): Tag paper is highly durable and is used for retail signs, price tags, table tents, direct mail postcards, etc.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind when you are considering the weight of the paper is the point size. This refers to the smallest ink droplet that your paper can clearly print without being pixelated.
Paper Brightness and Color
The brightness makes a world of difference if you are a photographer.
Not only does it affect the sharpness of your texts and images, but also it influences your shades and tones.
A lot of people won’t choose a colored paper for printing and chase after a spectrum of white ones instead.
To better understand how the interaction between your paper color or brightness and the ink color works, think of what happens if you use blue ink on a bright yellow paper? It appears green right?!!!!
Similarly, you have to be keen on choosing the right tone for your printing paper especially if you are a photographer because you want to keep a good balance for your photos after all.
There’s a brightness scale for every stock of paper ranging from 0 to 100 (100 being the brightest) and most papers available on the market are in the 90's of this scale.
Paper Finish and Coating
It is no surprise that there are different types of coatings and each of which is more suitable for one purpose than the others and gives a unique finish to your print.
Some of the most commonly used coatings are:
This coating could be glossy, semi-glossy, or matte. It’s the least protective coating but it is the most affordable.
- The glossy finish leaves your print looking elegant with dynamic and sparkling colors as well as high contrast. It is highly reflective which is why it is used in formal portraiture printing.
The only annoying thing about this finish is that fingerprints can easily mark the surface so you have to handle it with caution.
- The semi-glossy coating is more popular among photographers because it gives a luster to your print and still keeps good strong contrast.
- Matte paper is my personal favorite. It doesn’t have that shiny finish like the two types mentioned above, yet it makes the color very rich. It comes in different textures starting from a soft velvety surface to dimpled rough one.
It is another type of protective layers against fingerprints and dust meanwhile adding a professional touch to your paper. It is water based and environment-friendly.
Ultraviolet (UV) Coating
It is much more protective than varnish or aqueous which makes the paper printed more durable.
Like varnish, it could be matte or glossy and can have a tinted finish as well.
It’s of a great application when it comes to book-covers or prints that are susceptible to wear.
You should be able to decide how transparent you want your paper to be. This will more or less related to the thickness of your paper, however, there’s a scale from 0 to 100 measuring the opacity of your paper.
A sheet measuring 0 is completely transparent and another measuring 100 is completely opaque.
A transparent sheet is efficient to use as a tracing paper yet you can’t use it to print a book or a notebook because it can’t be used on both sides.
Other Considerations when deciding the type of printing paper to purchase:
1. The recycled content
There are some misconceptions when it comes to using recycled papers.
In my humble opinion, it’s better to save high-quality paper for invitations and occasions where you need to leave a fancy gesture.
However, it’s more convenient to use recycled paper for everyday use.
The idea that recycled paper makes you face more technical issues during your printing process is not true and with the technological advancements we have today, this is not really an issue anymore.
2. Your printer and the printing process itself
There are a million types of printers out there and different printing techniques.
If your printer supports a specific technology then you need to make sure that the paper you are using is well-suited for this technology.
In the same manner, you can’t use a paper designed for digital printing for an offset printer or the other way around.
I personally recommend you take a quick look at samples printed on different paper types and see which one is your personal favorite.
3. The availability
There’s always a stock of even specialty paper somewhere around, yet it’s not always easy to get to it.
Of course, we all can easily get to the everyday printing house paper, but if you are someone who is running a business and intend to use a specific type or quality, I say it’s better to always be prepared.
The way I see it, if you already know it will take some time for your manufacturer to deliver your share of paper then you better order early and extra so as not to jeopardize your job or a source of income.
4. Specific Features
What I mean is, what do you expect from your print? Or in other words what impressions are you hoping it will give.
Every print should have a unique feature, at the end of the day, it’s not possible that each project is exactly similar to the one before and for sure the coming project will be different from the current one.
If you are printing a book then you should think more about the durability of the paper. If I were in your shoes, my priority would be the coating and the opacity of the paper sheets used.
On the other hand, if you work in an office then an everyday regular printing paper is just fine.
Maybe you are someone who is about to print their wedding invitations and hence you should be hunting down a high-quality luxury paper.
Same goes if you are applying for a job and so on.
If you are a photographer then you need to focus more on the shades and coloring of the paper and how your ink colors interact with it. Also, you need a protective covering so as not to ruin your images.
There should be the bigger picture that directs you towards the features you need to ensure your stock of paper has so that you’re happy with the end result.
With all that being said, I hope I cleared any questions you have regarding the different paper types on the market. And now that you are familiar with the aspects to consider before buying your printing paper, you can easily find the most appropriate paper for your printing project.