Best Printer Paper

Updated April 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
410 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best printer paper

Last Updated April 2020

You might think that printer paper is printer paper and it doesn't matter which one you choose. If that’s your buying strategy, you could be denying yourself the sharpest, most vibrant printing results. But with thousands of products on the market, how do you know which paper is best for you? This article can help you hone in on an answer.

Admittedly, there is an overwhelming number of options when it comes to choosing the right printer paper. Some decisions are aesthetic, while others are critical for achieving the best results. Aspects such as weight, coating, and brightness can make a huge difference in what the finished print looks like.

If you'd like to learn about the five key aspects of printer paper, as well as the best way to store it so you have no paper jams, keep reading. If you're looking for a quick link to some highly rated printer paper options, consider the products that we've spotlighted in this article.

Be sure to check the specs on your printer, because there is a maximum paper thickness that each printer can handle.

Key considerations

Five key aspects of printer paper

If you want to find the best printer paper for your needs, there are five important aspects to consider: size, weight, brightness, coating, and your printer.

Size: Size is the easiest factor to consider because most people use standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper for their printing needs. For legal use, however, you might need 11 x 14 inches, and if you're printing booklets, you might need to go as large as 11 x 17 inches (because this paper folds down to 8.5 x 11 inches). Choose the size that's right for the job while remembering it must also fit in your printer.

Weight: Just like it sounds, this is how much the paper weighs. Five hundred sheets (one ream) of 20-pound paper measuring 17 x 22 inches (the manufacturer’s standard size for copy paper) weighs 20 pounds. For general use, such as making copies or printing emails, 20-pound paper is fine. If you want better-quality paper for professional use, look at 22- to 24-pound paper for proposals or presentations. If you need something more durable, such as for signs or to print double-sided without the type showing through, consider 28- to 32-pound paper.

Brightness: Rather than getting into the science of how much a specific wavelength of blue light is reflected off the surface of the paper, all you need to know about printer paper brightness is the higher the number, the brighter the paper. Most often, a higher number translates into a sharper printed image with crisp, not muddy, colors. In general, you'll want to consider white paper that has a brightness between 92 and 100 for best results.

Coating: Depending on your needs, you might want to consider coated printer paper. As it sounds, this type of paper has a coating that affects how readily the paper absorbs ink. If you'd like your photos to appear crisp and glossy, for instance, that would require using coated paper. Before purchasing coated paper, however, make sure your printer can print on the type of paper you’re considering.

Printer: As we hinted at above, knowing the type of printer you have — inkjet or laser — is crucial to obtaining the best images. Many manufacturers have an all-purpose paper that is good for both types of printers. However, before using specialty paper, always check the owner's manual that came with your printer so you aren’t disappointed.

While it’s important to purchase the printer paper that is technically right for your needs, there is also a degree of user preference to factor into the equation.

Features

The following are six other elements to think about when purchasing printer paper.

Quantity

Although a traditional ream is 500 pages, manufacturers are offering less to keep the price down, giving the illusion that you’re getting more for your money when you really aren't. Be sure the printer paper that you’re considering clearly marks the amount of paper included in a package, so you know exactly how many sheets you’re getting.

Color

Along with brightness, printer paper also comes in a variety of shades of white, off-white, and other colors. If you’re looking for a special effect, choosing printer paper that is off-white or colored might be the best solution.

Texture

Some printer paper is heavily textured. While this may seem like a great idea, many printers have trouble printing a crisp image on uneven paper. If you’re considering textured paper, be sure your printer can accommodate it.

Eco-friendly

Recycled content: The goal of recycling is to protect our natural resources. Whether the printer paper you purchase contains post-industrial waste (unused material from manufacturing) or post-consumer waste (paper that has already been used by a consumer), every little bit helps.

Alternative fibers: If you’re looking to save trees, choosing a paper that is manufactured using renewable bamboo, cork, cotton, hemp, mulberry, or even recyclable stone (calcium carbonate), are all viable options, but they come at a higher price.

Acid-free

Ultraviolet light fades and discolors acidic paper. Acid-free paper is buffered to be alkaline, which means your printed documents won’t fade or become brittle or yellowed over time. Using this type of paper can help preserve whatever you print.

EXPERT TIP

When possible, print your work on different types of printer paper to help you figure out the paper qualities you prefer.


Staff  | BestReviews

Printer paper prices

Like anything else, the cost of paper increases as the perceived benefits and quality increase. If all you need is a lightweight paper for copies, something not too heavy or bright, you'll be able to find it for $5 or $6 per 500 sheets.

If you need a heavier or brighter paper, perhaps acid-free as well, you'll be looking in the $7 to $9 price bracket. Recycled paper or colored paper starts at around $11.

If you need something special like card stock, photo paper, or paper made from plant fibers instead of trees, you'll pay quite a bit more, from $20 to $50 per ream. If you use a great deal of paper, buying in bulk can lower the price per ream.

If you’re completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start, check the owner's manual that came with your printer. It will provide some suggestions for the right paper to use.

Tips

When it comes to printer paper, proper storage doesn't just protect the product and extend its usable life, it also helps to prevent other frustrations, such as jammed printers. Here are some storage tips to help you get the most out of your printer paper.

  • Purchase only what you anticipate using within three months.

  • Store printer paper at room temperature (roughly 68°F to 75°F).

  • Store printer paper in a room that has a relative humidity of between 45% and 55%.

  • Store printer paper away from windows, doors, and vents that may expose the paper to extreme temperatures, humidity, and bright light.

  • Store printer paper on a flat, even surface. (It’s okay to stack your paper.)

  • Keep unused printer paper sealed in the original packaging.

  • Load your printer with a full ream of paper, if possible, to help keep extra paper from getting bent or damaged.

  • Open the paper package carefully so it can be resealed if you don’t use it all at once. Tape it closed to provide the greatest protection.

Other products we considered

Since there are thousands of options available when it comes to printer paper, we want to give you a few more highly rated options. If you’re looking for budget copy paper, then a ream of the HP Paper Office20 Printer Paper is what you need. This affordable 8.5 x 11-inch, 20-pound paper with a brightness rating of 92 can handle your most basic printing needs with ease.

If you're looking to add a little color while helping to save the planet, the AmazonBasics Recycled Color Printer Paper is a soft pastel blue paper that’s manufactured using 50% post-consumer waste.

If you've got larger needs, however, the 11 x 17-inch Hammermill Fore Multipurpose Acid-Free Paper is designed to be jam-free and printable on both sides. Its Colorlok technology makes printed colors brighter and images sharper.

Just because a paper is more expensive, it doesn't necessarily mean it’s better for your specific needs.

FAQ

Q. I like the look of textured paper. Is that an option?
A. You must be careful when using textured printer paper. While a coarse texture may only slightly distort the image on an inkjet printer, it might not even work on a laser printer. A laser printer uses toner — a fine powder made of plastic, wax, and/or magnetic particles. This powder needs to be heated to a sufficient temperature so it melts into the paper. Textured or thick printer paper may produce undesirable results when used with a laser printer.
 

Q. What is acid-free paper?
A. Regular paper contains lignin, an acidic substance that is important in the formation of cell walls of wood and bark. Over time, lignin causes paper to turn yellow, become brittle, and deteriorate. During manufacturing, acid-free paper is treated to neutralize these naturally occurring acids to help extend the life of the paper.
 

Q. Why isn't recycled paper less expensive than virgin paper?
A. There are a couple of reasons why recycled paper costs more than virgin paper. The main misconception is that recycled paper is easier to make since it already was paper. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. The challenge with recycled paper is that it’s collected in small amounts from a large variety of places. After it has been collected and sorted, any contaminants must be removed, the paper must be de-inked, and, ultimately, bleached. On top of the additional manufacturing steps, the demand is not as great for recycled paper, which also affects the price. The best way to bring the cost down is to simply buy more recycled products to increase the demand.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
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    Web Producer
  • Steph
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    Web Producer

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