FAQ: Paper

andreas.com FAQ: PaperFAQ: Paper

Paper, like printing, is an art. It’s a mix of the text, the paper, the purpose, the writer, and the audience. There are many kinds of paper, and many kinds of overlapping or inconsistent standards. Paper is judged by three characteristics:

  • Whiteness The whiter (or brightness), the easier to read.
  • Texture The more texture (or finish), the more pleasant to touch.
  • Weight The heft or thickness of the paper.

Here is a description of the various kinds of paper:

  • Standard paper (also called regular ) is sufficient for everyday printing. This is what you use in an office photocopier. It’s okay for cheap printing. It’s usually about $4 per ream.
  • Cotton paper is good for letters, presentations, and résumés. It’s acid-free and will last a very long time. Other kinds of paper will yellow after several years. Cotton paper is graded as 25%, 50%, or 100% cotton. The more, the better. You can check the grade by holding the paper up to the light and looking at the watermark. Underneath, the cotton percentage is stated. In general, if the printout itself will be given to the recipient, then cotton paper will produce a better printout than laser paper. The surface will hold the ink better. Laser paper is smooth and the ink may crack or flake off. 24-pound, 100% cotton paper is expensive at about $25 per ream. Cotton paper is also called ragged paper or cotton rag.
  • Laser paper has a slick surface. The ink will be crisper. However, the ink will also flake off easier. Laser paper is best for text which will be copied. Laser paper shouldn’t beused for letters or résumés. It doesn’t feel nice in your hands. It’s usually around $7 per ream.
  • Recycled paper is made with anywhere from 50% to 100% recycled paper. Recycled paper often has small flaws or spots. This becomes an issue only if you use the paper for photocopying. Recycled paper is slightly dusty, but this won’t matter for home users. If you print more than several thousand copies a year, then you should regularly clean the printer to prevent jamming. There is also environmental paper, which is also called chlorine free. This means that the paper was whitened with other chemicals than chlorine.
  • Rice paper has exotic and beautiful textures and colors. These can be used for invitations, etc. If the texture is not too rough, rice paper can be used in a dot matrix or bubblejet printer. Often you can buy it in single sheets, so you can test it in your printer.
  • Parchment or passport paper are other kinds of paper with special patterns.
  • Card Stock is cardboard paper. This is used for calling cards, covers, etc. This is 60-pound grade or more.
  • A ream of paper is 500 sheets.

The weight of a sheet of paper is not standard. Generally, the weight of a paper has to do with its stiffness and thickness. Bond paper is another meaningless term. You’ll often hear someone talk about bond or cotton bond, but that doesn’t mean anything.

There are different kinds of binding. A copyshop can bind your documents with spiral binding, saddle stitching (with staples similar to magazines), or cloth binding so that a book up to 200 pages can be opened flat. This will only cost a dollar or two per book.

You can get help and advice on printing, scanning, paper, and binding at any Kinko’s copy store. They use computers and scanners and know how to solve common problems. See kinkos.com

Special Paper

There are many different kinds of paper for your printer. With colorful borders or beautiful paper types, you can create letterheads, stationary, envelopes, mailing labels, name tags, door signs, calling cards, etc.

There are also sheets of calling cards. You can make just one calling card, or as many as you need. This lets you change your stationary set of letterhead, envelope, and calling card to suit the client or job. Paper Direct at or 800-A-PAPERS.

Use Less Paper

If you want to save paper, try smaller fonts and narrow margins.

Be careful about using recycled paper in your laser printer or photocopier. Some recycled paper is dusty and can clog the equipment. Other kinds of recycled paper are too limp or stiff and can jam the printer.

Store your paper at about 70°F (23°C) in a dry space. If the air is too moist, the paper can jam the printer.

Paper Sizes: American vs. European

If you get letters from Europe, you’ll notice that the size of the paper is different. American paper is short and fat. European paper is tall and skinny.

There are two standards: the American ANSI standard and the European DIN standard, which was adopted from the German DIN standard. The German sizes are based on the Golden Rectangle. In the USA, you normally ask for typewriter-sized paper. It’s actually called ANSI A. In Europe, you ask for DIN A4.

ANSI (American National Standards Institute)

  • ANSI A = 8.5″ x 11.0″
  • ANSI B = 11.0″ x 17.0″
  • ANSI C = 17.0″ x 22.0″
  • ANSI D = 22.0″ x 34.0″
  • ANSI E = 34.0″ x 44.0″

European DIN (Deutsche Industrie Normen, or German Industry Standard)

  • DIN A4 = 210 x 297 mm (8.26″ x 11.69″) Typewriter paper size
  • DIN A3 = 297 x 420 mm (11.69″ x 16.53″)
  • DIN A2 = 420 x 594 mm (16.53″ x 23.38″)
  • DIN A1 = 594 x 841 mm (23.58″ x 33.11″)
  • DIN A0 = 841 x 1189 mm (33.11″ x 46.81″)

Bar Codes and Postal Codes

You can create and print your own bar codes. Be sure to use the correct bar code! Each industry has its own bar code standard. If you’re going to export, then you’ll have to check with that country’s standards as well. Americans use the UPC, or Universal Product Code. That’s universal, but only in America, just as the World Series is only in America. Each country has it own universal system.

The post office will give you a bulk rebate if you print the postal bar codes on the envelopes and deliver envelopes already sorted by ZIP code.

Make Your Own Checks

You can also print your own checks. You can make up logos, illustrations, photos of your cats, or whatever. You can find blank check paper and magnetic toner for the bank account number at any office supply store.