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Selecting the Perfect Large Format Paper

Selecting the perfect large format paperWe understand that selecting the right paper for your needs can be a bit of a minefield. With the help of this guide we hope to arm you with the knowledge to confidently select the perfect paper for your next project. For the purpose of this guide we are only going to be concerned with wide format inkjet printers and the media suitable for these inkjet printers.

It is really important to select the correct paper not only for your project, but also paper that is suitable for your printer. Not all large format printers can handle every type of media. Large format printers are often made with a specific job in mind, so whether that is for printing CAD plans and technical drawings or whether you are printing Fine Art and Photography you no doubt will have selected a printer for the intended end use you had in mind. The printer will be manufactured within the parameters of its intended use and as such, you will never be able to feed a heavyweight canvas roll through a CAD printer for instance.

When you come to ordering your paper, knowing the make and model of your printer can go a long way in helping you to know what paper can go on your printer. You can all to easily end up in the position of having ordered rolls that are too large to load on your printer, or having media that is too thick to load or causes printhead strikes. Knowing a few of the basics can really help you to make a good selection for your printer.

We understand that some people have older printer models that just keep on going - and this is a good thing. However it can be tricky to know what papers will fit on these printers. Here at GDS we have been in business for over twenty years now. We know our printers and we have been trading long enough now, that we also know these older printers too and what fits on them.

We also offer recycled medias and eco-friendly materials from responsibly managed forests. These products do not require a compromise on how good a print looks or feels and they can help your company to meet their environmental goals. You can use the Search Bar on our website to find products such as these.

Paper Specification

To help you in the process of buying paper for your printer, here are a few things that you will need to understand to make this process much easier.

 Thickness  Or caliper as it is sometimes called. Often measured in microns or millimetres (mm). You need to check the spec of your printer to see the media thickness that your wide format printer is able to take. When a paper is too thick for the printer, you can get printhead strikes (when the printhead touches the surface of the paper), which can damage the paper and even your printhead. Using a paper that is too thick or too thin can cause the paper to feed incorrectly.
 Weight  Is expressed in grams and is derived from how much a square meter of the material would weigh. A lightweight paper would start at 80gms, which is like that found in a copier for instance. A heavyweight art paper will start at 200gms up to 500gms. Not all printers can take the heavier weight papers. There is no direct correlation between paper thickness and paper weight.
 Width  Typically expressed in millimetres (mm) or in inches. So for a printer that is 24" wide you would typically buy media that is 610mm / 24" in width or smaller. You will not be able to fit a roll larger than 24" on a 24" wide format printer.
 Roll Length  Roll length is expressed in metres (mt). The higher the number - the longer the roll (larger amount of paper on the roll). Not all printers can take a longer roll length as the roll diameter can become too big to fit the printer.
 Core Size  This refers to the diameter of the core (cardboard tube) inside a roll of paper. If your printer has a 2" spindle you can fit a roll on with a two inch core. You can get core adaptors so that you can load three inch cores onto a two inch core media spindle, however not all printers will be able to take the diameter of a 3" core. Some printers can take a 3" core, however some will only take a certain length of media on the roll, otherwise the diameter will become too big to load.
 Opacity  Is a measurement of how much light is blocked from being transmitted through the paper. Paper that has a high degree of opacity does not let much light pass through it, while paper that has a low degree of opacity is more translucent, or allows more light to pass through it.
 Brightness  Refers to the measurement of light reflectance of a specific wavelength of blue light. Brightness represents a narrower measurement of light reflectance than whiteness. Paper with a brightness greater than 100 will have optical brightening agents (OBAs) in them.
 Whiteness  Is a measurement of light reflectance across all wavelengths of light comprising the full visible spectrum. On a scale of 0 to 100, the higher the number, the brighter the paper. Some papers that have OBAs in them go off the scale and will record readings above 100.
 Shade  Refers to the colour of the paper and does not take into account any reflected light. There are three main groups of white shades – True White, Blue White and Cream White.


Why Are You Printing?

Now that most things are created digitally, some people think that there is little reason to print anymore. However there are still many good reasons to print:

  • Clients love something that they can hold and keep.
  • You can preserve documents for the future.
  • For proofreading purposes. Often it is easier to go over a piece of paper, rather than stare at a screen.
  • To better enable on-site communications. It is handy when 'everyone is working off the same sheet', so to speak. 
  • Print has both longevity and authority. No other media channel has this combination of qualities.


There are many reasons to print as you can see and it has been found to be preferable and more effective way of communicating with customers. The response rates for direct mail marketing are 37% higher than that of email marketing response rates. Printing has also been found to be 43% less annoying than the internet. Customers often dismiss the large number of promotional emails and messages and it becomes difficult to get your message across as people are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of emails vying for attention in their in box.

When it comes to printing other mediums, print has impact! It is creative, it engages, it is versatile and it is persuasive. There are a million and one things that are printed on a daily basis from plans, to maps, to high end photographic work and Fine Art.

A whole industry survives on print, people enjoy looking at print and the whole supply chain is becoming more and more about sourcing for sustainability. The production of the raw material for print media (paper) is perhaps the most obvious and emotive area for environmental concern. While it’s assumed that making paper destroys forests, the opposite is actually true. Between 2005 and 2015 European forests grew by 44,000 square kilometres – that’s an area bigger than Switzerland! Forests used in the paper-making industry are also well managed and sustainable. Paper is one of the world’s most recycled materials, far more than plastics or glass. It is also one of the few materials that’s able to be completely recycled. The European recycling rate for paper continues to lead the world; it reached 72% in 2015. Now you can keep on printing happily with these facts in mind.

selecting the perfect cad paperWhat Are You Printing?

CAD: Uncoated CAD papers are great for short term communications on-site.  It is cheap to buy and perfectly acceptable for line drawings and work with little to no colour fills. However uncoated may not be suitable for client presentations and definitely won't be up to the job of producing work that does require colour fills. In this case you will need a better grade of paper that can handle the higher ink densities, such as a coated paper. Coated papers can achieve a higher print quality as they have an ink receptive coating that ensures that the tiny droplets of ink don't bleed into the paper itself. They can accept larger amounts of ink without 'cockling' and have a smoother feel.

Mapping, Plans, Presentations and Posters: This is the realm of the Coated matt papers. The heavier weight coated papers can take heavier weight of ink load. So where you might use a 100gsm Coated paper to do a quality client presentation of a colour plan with fills, you can print beautiful posters and heavier ink load images with a 180gsm weight Coated paper, for example. GDS do a full range of high quality Coated papers to suit all requirements at great prices.

Fine Art & Photography: These types of papers are often used interchangeably. Photo papers are usually cheaper, but do not have the longevity of that of a Fine Art paper. Both Photo paper and Fine Art paper come in either Matt, Satin or Gloss finishes. Fine Art papers can come as smooth or textured as well in each different finish and the amount of texture varies from one paper to another. Often it is not about one paper type being more suitable for you, but the choice is often more subjective- such as what finish and weight of paper do you prefer.

Do you want rolls or sheets?

Most people buy rolls of paper for their wide format printers. It has many advantages over that of using cut sheet. Roll paper will enable you to complete long print runs without interruption. Rolls as a rule are much cheaper than cut sheets per square metre. If you have a printer with two rolls you can choose to have a couple of types of paper so you can switch between the two rolls as you need to, or you can complete long unattended print runs with two rolls of the same media loaded, seamlessly. With rolls you can also print multiple smaller images / documents at the same time, across the width of a roll. This is known as nesting and software programmes can help you to nest the documents for minimal paper waste.

Some people do choose sheets over roll media. Sheets won't have any curl, like you can see with roll media and you will not need to trim sheets (assuming you have picked the correct size sheet for the job you are printing). However, loading sheets can be a faff and it will require an operator to keep loading the sheets... Unless you have a printer with a continuous sheet feed tray.

Do I have to use the same brand of paper as my printer?

No you don't. You do not have to stick with the Manufacturer specific papers to that of your printer. Of course, the manufacturers would love you to only buy their papers, but in reality you do not need to do this. There are many good paper suppliers out there whose papers will do a great job and whose papers are suitable for your printer. The main advantage that you will have when using paper from the same manufacturer as the printer is that the paper settings in the printer driver software will already be listed. However you can get really good quality papers for a fraction of the cost from suppliers such as GDS and they can even suggest what settings you should use when printing, to get the best print results. 

Understanding Media Types 

 Media Type  Grade  What is it used for?
 Uncoated Paper  Draft  80gsm in weight - this paper is used for CAD work and is suitable for line drawings. It is a budget paper and great for in house and on-site work.
   Standard  90gsm in weight - this paper will take a small amount of colour fill.
 Coated Paper  Lightweight  100 - 120gsm is great for client presentations. This paper will print plans with higher with colour fills.
   Heavyweight  160gsm and upward will print images with higher ink loads and even posters! A great all-rounder this paper feels great and makes your images look stunning too.
 Photo /  Fine Art Paper  Matt  Usually come in a weight of 160 - 300+gsm. The lighter weights are often used for 'proofing' as it is a little cheaper and a good way to ensure that a print is up to scratch before printing on more expensive paper. Matt photo paper is always smooth, Matt Fine Art paper can be smooth, or it can come in a range of different textures.  
   Satin  This is definitely the preferred finish for photographers. It comes with many names such as Lustre, Satin, Pearl, Oyster, Semi-gloss, which all denote the slightly pearlescent finish. There is a huge variety of finishes in the Satin category and like most things photographic, it comes down to personal taste as to what you prefer. Starting at a lightweight 170gsm this finish can be as heavy as 300+gsm.
   Gloss  Gloss finishes produce a really vibrant image. However, the downside to this is that they can be a bit too reflective under certain situations. Gloss Fine Art papers can be a little less 'glary' than gloss photo papers. Again the weights of these papers range from 170gsm up to 300+gsm.
 Translucent Paper Tracing Paper  A translucent paper used for final drawings and draft work, which is 'greyish' in appearance. It is made to have low opacity and to allow light to pass through. Popular with architects and design engineers.
   Clear Film  An optically clear film ideal for multiple overlays and transparent images. Popular with Architects, Engineers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals, Architecture (AEC) and engineering (MCAD), Trade show and event displays, POP and retail displays.
  Translucent  Film  In basic terms, it is 'plastic tracing paper' with water resistant and tear-resistant properties. It is commonly used by the architectural and engineering markets for printing plans, layouts and overlays.


Paper Sizes

Knowing what size prints you most often print can help you greatly when selecting paper size and also in knowing which way to print your images. Here is a guide to the most popular paper sizes for print. 

Format mm inches
A0+ 914mm x 1292mm 35.9" x 50.8"
A0 841mm x 1189mm 33.1" x 46.8"
A1+ 609mm x 914mm 24" x 36"
A1 594mm x 841mm 23.4" x 33.1"
A2 420mm x 594mm 16.5" x 23.4"
A3+ 329mm x 483mm 12.9" x 19"
A3 297mm x 420mm 11.7" x 16.5"
A4 210mm x 297mm 8.3" x 11.7"
A5 148mm x 210mm 5.8" x 8.3"
A6 105mm x 148mm 4.1" x 5.8"
Panoramic 210mm x 594mm 8.3" x 23.4"
i3 210mm x 75mm 8.3" x 2.95"


What types of media is best for specific applications?

 Application   Media Type
 Monochrome (black) line drawings, text documents  Uncoated paper
 Everyday drafts and drawings  Uncoated and Coated paper
 Presentations and plans  Coated paper
 Posters and P.O.S / Signage  Coated paper / Photo paper
 GIS maps  Heavyweight Coated paper 
 Water resistant plans  Double Matt Film (with pigment inks)
 Photographs / Fine Art   Photo paper / Fine Art paper
 Overlays  Clear Film / Tracing paper
 Markable drawings  Double Matt Drafting Film
 Archival prints  Fine Art paper


Frequently Asked Questions

I'm buying paper for the company printer. I'm still not sure which is the right paper. What should I do?

At GDS we have tried to take a lot of the guess work out of selecting paper for your printer. We have created a really handy tool called Paper Rolls To Fit Your Printer. If you follow that link, you can select your printer on the left hand side and you will be taken to a page which displays all the rolls that we know will fit on your printer and produce great results. You can get to that page HERE. If you are still unsure, please feel free to contact the GDS Sales Team, they will only be too happy to help you.

I'm looking for media that is from sustainable souces. What do I need to look for?

Certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) ensure that paper comes from sustainable forest sources. A list of FCS certified papers can be found HERE. For a different option you could look at paper made entirely from post consumer recycled waste such as the 80gsm Canon Group Oce IJM043 Recycled WhiteZero Paper.

HP now also make a Canvas made entirely from recycled plastic bottles - the 330gsm HP Recycled Satin Canvas. Paper made from Bamboo such as the Hahnemühle Bamboo 290gsm comes from a sustainable source and may well be worth looking at. 

Glossary of Printing Terms

Acid Free: A pH neutral paper manufactured without acid in the pulp or made from natural materials such as Cotton or Bamboo.

Archival: A paper that is acid free, lignin free and free from Optical Brightening Agents. In optimum storage conditions some papers claim to have an archival lifespan of over 200 years.

Aqueous: - Water based inks where the water carries the colourant. You can get aqueous dye and pigment ink and they are composed very differently and have different properties as a result.

  • Dye - are made up of ultra small molecules that dissolve in the water. They are not water resistant or fade resistant.
  • Pigment - are made up of particles of colourant suspended in the water. Pigment inks are water resistant and fade resistant. 

To read more about the differences between dye and pigment inks see HERE.

Banding: Lines left on prints that should not be there. Usually caused by using the incorrect paper settings or when a paper feed adjustment is required. On older printer banding can occur in the gradients as they can't process the same amount of colour image data. 

Bleeding: The uncontrolled migration of ink on the paper.

Bond: Another term for uncoated paper.

Cockling: The wrinkling of a printed sheet caused by ink over saturation.

Density: A measure of how well a photograph or text absorbs light. Density affects the appearance of black text, lines and shadows.

D-Max: Basically represents Maximum Density - D-Max. This is the maximum optical density of the deepest black a paper and ink combination can produce, which can be measured after printing. The higher the d-max value the better.

Gamut: The term gamut refers to the range of colours that can be reproduced or displayed. The better (or larger) the gamut, the more rich saturation of colours will be available.

Gloss: A paper that has a highly reflective glossy finish. 

Gradients (Graduation): Is the gradual transition between colours. Printers with more ink channels produce better gradients than printers with less ink channels as they are able to produce smoother gradients. Banding can occur in gradients when printing with older printers with fewer ink channels.

Head (Printhead) Crash: The collision of a printhead with the surface of the paper, often caused when using a media that is too think or using incorrect media settings when printing. Printhead crashes can damage the print and the printhead.

Ink Receptive Coating: A coating on the surface of the paper. The coating stops the ink soaking into the paper and influences the way the paper allows the ink to sit on the paper and controls dot gain, colour density and drying times.

Laminating Film: A clear film with an adhesive back which is applied to the surface of inkjet prints to protect the print from water and exposure to atmosphere. This will extend the life of a print and will allow prints to be displayed outside for a time when they would otherwise be unsuited.

Matt: A coated paper surface with no sheen. It can have great density properties, but can make photographic prints look a bit flat. A great coating for use on technical drawings, plans and presentations.

Mottling: The uneven appearance of colours on a print, particularly in solid colour areas.

Printhead: Inkjet printheads are a component in the printer that pass the ink through them from the ink cartridge to the media. There are two types of printhead-

  • Piezo - uses oscillations of electrically stimulated piezoelectric crystals to force ink through the inkjet nozzles.
  • Thermal - uses heat to expand the ink fluid, which then forces the inks through the nozzles of the printhead.


Plotter: A computer controlled device that writes line-drawing data on paper or film. A term that was first used to describe the printers that plotted line drawings using pens, but now refers to a printer that prints drawings.

PostScript: A page description language typically used in the electronic publishing and desktop publishing businesses. It combines line drawings and text along with images.

Satin: A finish mid way between a Matt and a Gloss finish. It comes in many different finishes and can be known as semi-gloss, lustre, pearl etc... Not as reflective as gloss, this paper finish is the choice of the majority of photographers.


BIM: Building Information Modelling

CAD: Computer Aided Design

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black

DPI: Dots Per Inch

FSC: Forest Stewardship Council

GARO: Graphic Arts Raster Operations

GIS: Geographic Information Systems

GSM: Grams per Square Metre

HPGL: Hewlett Packard Graphics Language File

ICC: International Colour Consortium

JPEG: A file format developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group

MFP: Multi Function Printer

OBA: Optical Brightening Agents

PDF: Portable Document Format

PS: PostScript

PSA: Pressure Sensitive Adhesive

Further Reading

Do you really want a shiny paper? - Things to consider if you want shiny (gloss) paper? Whilst images can look really striking on gloss, the surface can glare and be distracting. 

What is the difference between dye and pigment inks? - This is one of our most commonly asked questions at GDS, so we wrote this guide for anyone who has ever wondered what the difference between dye and pigment inks are. 

Printing across a roll - Ever wanted to print a smaller print ‘landscape’ on the roll so that you don’t need to replace the paper? We show you how through the HP print driver.

Large Format Printer Inks - What are the different types of ink available in inkjet printing? 

Genuine Inks - What's the deal? - Reasons why we believe that you should only be using genuine manafacturer inks in your Large Format Printer.

What is cockling and what to do about it - Are you wondering what cockling is? We take a closer look here at cockling created by printing, the causes and what to do about it.

Whiteness, Brightness and Shade of paper - The way in which we describe paper has evolved from a technical environment and there has been little effort to explain things in lay terms to the end user of these products. Here we take a look at the differences between whiteness and brightness of paper and to try to explain things in a way most people will understand. 

Acid Free Paper - You may have noticed that we sell a number of products marked as ‘Acid Free’. What does this mean and do you need it?

The Proofing is in the paper - Have you ever wondered what Proofing Paper is used for?

Inkjet Photo Paper Finishes Explained - Are you looking to get the best possible results when printing your images? Paper plays a tremendous part in getting the best possible results. Here we take a look at the different finishes of photo paper and the differing qualities that they possess. 

Media Guide - When looking for Media for your large format printer it can be very easy to get bamboozled with the terms used when describing the features of the media. So if gamut sends you in a spin look no further. Hopefully we can help you make informed choices about the media you require to fulfil your printing needs.

What is the difference between Photographic and Fine Art papers - Are you wondering what the difference is between a Photo paper and a Fine Art paper and which you should be printing your photographic work on?

What is the difference between Uncoated and Coated paper - We take a look at the differences between uncoated and coated papers so you know which is best for you.

Did you know about GDS CAD paper? - Did you know about our GDS CAD papers? We take a look at what makes them so good.

Still need help?

We are always happy to help and advise. If you are looking for a paper specific to your project feel free to email us or call us and we will be able to tell you what rolls will suit your project and your wide format printer. GDS have been advising customers for over twenty years and are a leading expert in Large Format Printing. With this experience we are well placed to advise on whats right on wide format printers both old and new and keep you printing happily for years to come!

GDS - The Helpful Wide Format Print Experts

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