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Home printers don’t seem that different on the surface. They use ink to produce images and text on a page – simple, right? So why must you be careful to match your photo paper to your printer? Is there any harm in using inkjet photo paper in a laser printer, or vice versa?
Yes. It can be harmful for your printer if you use the wrong kind of paper.
This blog takes a closer look at why you can’t use just any type of photo paper in your printer.
How do laser and inkjet printers differ?
Both home laser and inkjet printers provide color documents by mixing cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Both require refills that can be purchased in office supply stores. That is where the similarities stop.
Inkjet printers get their name because they spray, or jet, ink onto the paper. The ink is deployed in microscopic dots. With this method, inkjet printers are capable of creating high-quality, vibrant, photo-realistic images.
Laser printers, on the other hand, work by layering color over and over until the end result is achieved. The ink used in a laser printer is actually a very fine powder called toner. The toner is fused by heated rollers as your paper comes out of the printer.
Why does plain paper work in either printer?
Plain paper is typically used for text and fonts, therefore it works fine in either a laser or inkjet printer. You start to see the differences when you print more complex documents and photos that not only require design elements, but also require heavier or glossier paper. So, when it comes time to print on photo paper, you must ensure you match your paper to your printer to get the best results.
Laser photo paper
Since laser printers use heated rollers to “bake” toner onto the sheet, laser photo paper is formulated to withstand heat and rolling without melting or tearing. This brings us to one of the main differences between the two types of paper – laser photo paper is more heat resistant.
Unlike inkjet photo paper, heavy laser paper has fewer coatings. Again, this is because of the heat. Any type of coating that could melt and stick to the rollers spells disaster for your design – and your printer!
Have you ever had an instance where blobs of ink or smearing were on your printed page? This happens when ink is deposited onto the rollers because it is literally slipping off the page before it is properly fused. Cleaning the rollers and salvaging the design is difficult. Avoid this problem by never using inkjet paper in a laser printer.
But aren’t laser printers cheaper and therefore the better option?
For most types of photo-quality paper, there is no difference in the price (and if there is one, it is negligible). The cost to operate the printer, however, varies quite a bit. Laser printers cost less over the long term but they do not provide the value you need when it comes to high volumes of photo or color printing. Inkjet printers are inexpensive to buy, but the cartridges tend to be more expensive than laser printers.
Rather than letting price alone determine if you should buy a laser or inkjet printer, make your choice based on value. Both will give you great small runs of photo prints. If you will print mainly word documents, choose laser. If you will print mainly photos, choose inkjet.
Photo paper isn’t just for pictures you would frame or put into an album. Photo paper also includes transparencies for presentations, adhesive-backed papers for signs, and even magnetized papers for photo magnets.
When making projects that require other kinds of photo paper, it is even more crucial that you match your paper with your printer. Not only is the printable surface formulated for either laser or inkjet, the backing, peel-off paper, magnetized strips, protective sheets, etc., are also designed for one or the other. Nothing ruins an expensive printer faster than a melted sheet glued to the inner workings.
Can I print images without using photo paper?
There are times when you may want to run test sheets or want to print an image without needing it to be photo quality. You can never achieve photo quality results without photo paper, but for small personal projects, you can get good results and protect your printer by choosing the right bond.
“Bond” refers to the weight of the paper. Standard printer paper is 20lb bond. Avoid using this to print photos.
The next level is 24Ib bond. It feels slightly thicker than regular paper. You’ll see this used when a paper, like a menu in a diner, is frequently handled.
Next is 32lb bond. This is what you see for printed resumes and wedding invitations. It is thick, durable, and in most cases, you can see the textural weave. This paper can soak up inkjet droplets and withstand heat. For one or two low-quality images, it’s a good option that will hold up in either a laser or inkjet printer.
However, avoid the heaviest style of paper, which is cardstock. It’s not overly flexible and some have glossy coatings, which can make the ink slip right off.
Can I print photos on envelopes?
This is generally discouraged. Most envelopes are 20lb-32lb bond and not formulated for photo printing (unless you go to a professional printer). If you want to have photos on envelopes (for example, the grandkids on the envelope of a Christmas letter or a wedding portrait on your thank you letters), simply print your design on clear sticker vinyl, cut it out, and adhere it to a blank envelope. Sticker vinyl is a great way to print colorful stickers, and it is also formulated for laser or inkjet printers.
You should not use inkjet photo paper in a laser printer, or vice versa.
Laser printers use powdered toners and heat to set the ink. Laser photo paper is formulated to set the toner by use of heated rollers. Inkjet printers work by spraying ink onto a specially coated paper. This coating absorbs and sets the ink. The paper itself is formulated for vivid, high-contrasting images. While inkjet is superior for commercial grade, high-resolution photos, you still can get a great result using a laser printer.
Plain, 20lb bond paper is suitable for laser or inkjet printers, but this paper will not produce good photo results. If you absolutely must print a photo or two on plain paper, choose a heavy bond, like 32lb, to absorb the ink and/or withstand the heat.
Don’t forget that there are many other types of photo paper our there, like printable sticker paper or t-shirt transfer sheets. Always check to ensure you are using laser or inkjet paper accordingly when you choose these types of printer sheets.
Get creative! You can use photo stickers to decorate items, like envelopes or cardstock, that are not suitable for photo printing.
Royal Elements sells high quality photo paper and sticker vinyl for both laser and inkjet printers. Our paper is premium quality and guaranteed to provide outstanding results without damaging your printer. We have plenty of instructional information and design projects on our blog to inspire you.
Have you used Royal Elements photo paper? If so, we would love to feature your design. When posting online, show us your work by using the hashtag #royalelementsstickers.
Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements today to get your photo paper for laser or inkjet printers.