Paper Perplexities: What You Never Understood About Buying Paper

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Boise Paper defines common paper terms and releases tips to help offices and individuals #BePaperSmart in 2016

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Routine printer papers may look the same at a glance, but there’s a lot to learn when it comes to weight, brightness and best uses. To help everyone – from individuals to large corporations – learn how to choose the perfect paper for each project, the experts at Boise Paper compiled the following list of useful tips and terminology.

“Paper isn’t complicated, but there are options for a reason. Each paper is designed for different uses, and picking the right paper can have a big impact on your project,” said Sarah Yedlick, spokesperson for Boise Paper. “Armed with a few definitions and tips from Boise Paper, the paper buying process can be a breeze for anyone – and printing on the right paper is the first step in making your projects shine.”

Paper Terms to Know
Office paper is categorized by a variety of properties that affect printer or copier performance and determine the quality of the finished product.

  • Weight refers to the thickness and sturdiness of each sheet. The majority of everyday printer paper has a 20 lb. weight. Heavier weights, such as 24 lb. and 28 lb., provide more durability, stiffness and opacity for printed material. Choose a heavier weight paper for reports and presentations.
  • Opacity is measured on a 100 point scale. The lower the number, the more sheer and “see through” the sheet. A higher opacity is better for office printing – especially when printing doubled-sided pages. If the paper is too sheer, ink will show through from the other side.
  • Smoothness is measured by the Sheffield test, which assigns a number to the roughness of the paper. The lower the number, the smoother and softer it feels to the touch. For example, newsprint paper is on the low end of the Sheffield spectrum, while color copy paper is on the high end of the spectrum. Paper with a lower Sheffield number is better for office printing.
  • Brightness refers to the percentage of blue light that is reflected from a piece of paper. The brighter the paper, the greater the contrast between the printed image and the paper. Most office papers are between 92 and 98 on the brightness scale. Using a paper with a higher brightness makes colors more vibrant and appealing – giving graphics and images the appearance of “popping” off the page.
  • Environmentally-Friendly paper typically means the paper is made from either recovered recycled paper or wood that has been certified by a third-party – like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) or the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) – guaranteeing the fibers came from sustainably-managed forests. Recycled paper typically contains at least 30 percent post-consumer fibers.
  • Jam-Free Guarantee – Many office paper manufacturers will guarantee the performance of select papers. Look for third-party tests, like those performed by Buyers Laboratory, Inc., on misfeeding, curling and jamming. “Sometimes printers are at fault, and sometimes it’s the paper,” noted Yedlick. “If you’re having issues, try switching to a 99.99% jam-free guaranteed paper, like Boise POLARIS® Premium Multipurpose or X-9® Multi-Use Copy. If the jamming continues, it may be time to invest in a new printer!”

What Type of Paper to Buy
There are four basic types of printer paper – color copy paper, printer-specific (laser or inkjet) paper, multipurpose paper and copy paper. All four are designed for different printing jobs, and they vary in weight, brightness, opacity and smoothness.

  • Color copy paper, such as Boise POLARIS Premium Color Copy, produces brilliant, vivid color documents with professional results. This paper is brighter and heavier than a copy or multipurpose paper and is best used for full-color flyers or brochures, client proposals with color charts and graphs or external communications.
  • For documents that contain color graphics, choose a laser or inkjet paper, like Boise POLARIS Premium Inkjet or Premium Laser. These papers are designed to ensure crisp and vivid colors based on your specific printer type and are best used for charts and graphs, documents with photos, reports, certificates or announcements.
  • Multipurpose paper, such as Boise POLARIS Premium Multipurpose, is designed for high-quality printing and copying in any printer and is best used for reports, proposals and flyers when quality, look and feel are important. This paper is ideal for impressive client- and customer-facing documents. Multipurpose paper is the best buy for offices with several different types of printers, or offices that frequently print color in large quantities.
  • For everyday, black-and-white printing or copying of emails, internal memos, forms or bulletins, choose a lighter weight, 20 lb. multi-use copy paper with a lower brightness, such as Boise X-9 Multi-Use Copy. This paper is most efficient for mass printing.

Boise Paper manufactures a full line of quality papers for the office and home, including Boise POLARIS Premium papers and Boise X-9 Multi-Use Copy paper. Ask your supplier about the best Boise Paper products for your office.


About Boise Paper:
Boise Paper is a division of Packaging Corporation of America, headquartered in Lake Forest, IL. Boise Paper manufactures a full line of quality papers including imaging papers for the office and home, printing and converting papers and papers used in packaging, such as label and release papers. Through its Paper with Purpose® promise, Boise Paper commits to delivering excellent value while sustaining environmental, economic and social resources for future generations. Keep current with news and events at

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Ellyse Orndorff
L.C. Williams and Associates
+1 (312) 565-3900
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