All inkjet papers were not born equal. Not even all papers. Far from the surface quality, one of the characteristics easiest to evaluate and most important to appreciate a good paper is its weight. But quite often you will hear paper industry specialists and printing experts speaking about the paper’s hand.
What is this and why is it so important?
When many people speak about the weight of the paper, this is imprecise use of language. We use the indication appearing on the box of paper giving the surface weight of the paper (its weight for a given surface). For example, a 264g/mÂ² paper is one that would weight 264 grams for a single sheet of 1 square meter. Of course, A4 or Letter-size sheets weight much less. But this characteristics is quite handy in order to compare papers without being influenced by the size of the sheets (be it for an inkjet printer, a laser copier, drawing, or anything else).
Generally speaking, a 80g/mÂ² is near what we use commonly as office copier paper, or to feed our laser copiers. A cheaper/lighter paper (60g/mÂ², for example) tend to be more difficult to feed your printer. Furthermore, most people will notice that this looks more like a draft print.
The photo paper we commonly see is often over 200g/mÂ² (it exceptionnaly goes around 150g/mÂ²). I would never advise you to buy a paper of less than 150g/mÂ² for anything else than a screen print or some limited use technical printouts.
But, quite often, if you take two papers of the same surface weight, you will notice that they do not feel the same at all. This overall feeling is called the hand of the paper.
This is the firmness of the paper that not only comes from the quantity of cellulosic fibers (or plastic) but from:
- its rigidity
- its thickness
- its inertia when moved
- the sound it makes when handled
As a matter of fact, a paper may be very bulky and then thicker for the same surface weight. It is not immeditely perceptible, but a print house (and you) can use this characteristic to thicken a book or a booklet without changing neither the number of pages nor the overall mass of the book.
A specific paper may be very rigid (sometimes up to the point where it cracks or clacks when handled brutally). Most photo papers are very rigid. It is considered a necessary characteristic expected by all users. The more rigid, the firmer or more serious they look.
For example, the old Tetenal High Glossy Paper Special 264g inkjet paper was extraordinarily firm (even for its high weight of 264g/mÂ²). A print on this glorious paper always seemed to stay up by itself.
A more recent paper from Ilford, the Galerie Smooth High Gloss Media, while its surface weight is just a little lower (235 g/mÂ²) is undeniably thiner, easier to roll and feels like much less professional, even if its print quality is often more subtle and finer.
When buying a paper for your quality inkjet prints, always ask to see, touch and feel a sample of the paper itself. Not to check the print quality (it could be unprinted), but to perceive the difference and evaluate the look and feel of the paper. No need to be an expert to know the difference.