Paper Characteristics

Successful inkjet printing requires the paper to have exactly the right degree of absorbency to accept the ink but prevent its sideways spread. There are really five main characteristics to consider when selecting inkjet paper for a project:

Paper Weight

Weight refers to the thickness of paper. Paper weight may be expressed in pounds (lb.) or as grams per square meter (g/m2). Different types of paper have their own weight scale. Most inkjet photo papers are found in the 24 to 71 lb. (90 to 270 g/m2). Terms such as heavyweight do not necessarily indicate a heavier paper than other comparable papers. Water colour paper used to print photos is usually thicker, with the average about 80 lbs.

Heavier, thicker papers feel more substantial and can lend visual weight to a project. Heavy weight paper can lend an aura of importance and seriousness not found in flimsier products, and they will give you crisper text and less ink bleed.

Paper Brightness

Contrast is a key element between the ink and the paper. The whiter the paper the better your prints will look. The brightness of a piece of paper is typically expressed on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the brightest. The multipurpose bond paper used in copy machines and desktop printers generally has a paper brightness in the 80s. Photo papers are normally in the mid to high 90s.

Paper brightness affects the images printed on the paper, especially the vibrancy of the colors. Photos appear brighter and colors clearer on inkjet photo papers with higher paper brightness ratings. With matte finish papers a higher paper brightness can make a greater difference than it does among gloss finish papers of varying paper brightness.

Even when the paper manufacturer supplies a paper brightness rating, the true test is how your images print on that piece of paper with your particular printer. The best way to determine brightness is simply to compare two or more papers side-by-side.

Don’t be fooled by the name a manufacturer gives the brightness. Manufacturers often use terms such as Bright White or Ultra Bright instead of numbers. These labels can be deceiving and not truly indicative of the brightness or whiteness of the paper. For top quality prints, get photo paper with a brightness rating of around 95 and above.

Paper Finish

Inkjet photo paper comes in various finishes. Which finish produces the most satisfying results is a matter of personal taste.

Gloss Finish Photo paper with a gloss finish has a high shine with the look and feel of traditional glossy photo lab paper. If you want the best possible results in terms of color richness, clarity and sheen then glossy inkjet photo paper is the way to go. This type of paper has several layers within each sheet. There are top layers to help with ink absorption, and intermediate layers to store the ink and prevent bleeding.

Matte Finish Matte photo paper has a smooth, almost velvety, finish. It is less shiny and has less of a glare than glossy paper. Any image printed onto a matte photo paper will have a richness of color, overall softness and will appear non-reflective but it won’t resemble a lab processed photograph. Matte finish photo papers are thicker and are specially formulated for photos. They are often used when prints are displayed under glass.

Paper Opacity

Opacity is a measure of how well a material prevents light from passing through it. Standard 20# copier paper is somewhat translucent, while heavier papers are more opaque. Inkjet photo papers have a relatively high opacity (94-97 usually) compared to ordinary inkjet or laser papers so bleed-through is less of a problem.

Paper Caliper

Photo papers are heavier and thicker than typical multi-purpose papers. This thickness, known as caliper, is necessary to accommodate the greater ink coverage typically found in photos. Typical inkjet paper caliper may be anywhere from a thin 4.3 mil to a thick 10.4 mil paper. Photo paper is usually 7 to 10 mils.

Paper Size Conversion

A SizesInchesMillimeters
 10 x 8254 x 203
A4113/4 x 8 1/4297 x 210
 12 x 10305 x 254
 14 x 11356 x 279
 16 x 12406 x 305
A3161/2 x 113/4420 x 297
 20 x 16508 x 406
A2231/3 x161/2594 x 420
 24 x 20610 x 508
 30 x 20762 x 508
 30 x 30762 x 762
A133 x 231/2841 x 594
 36 x 24914 x 610
 40 x 301016 x 762
A047 x 331189 x 841
 48 x 361219 x 914
 60 x 401524 x 1016
 48 x 481219 x 1219
 72 x 481830 x 1219
 90 x 482290 x 1219
 96 x 482440 x 1219