Printer for Cardstock

How to Find the Right Printer for Cardstock

Are you looking to do printing on cardstock paper?  This can become a lot more complex than it seems at first.  Not only do you end up needing to know about the cardstock, you also have to understand what printer would work with the paper you want to use.

Let’s Talk Tech – Cardstock, Coverstock, Heavyweight Paper?

The first question we can get when people are looking at cardstock, is what is the difference between cardstock paper, coverstock paper and heavyweight paper.  Really, there isn’t a difference, it is just different terms to talk about thicker paper.

Paper Weight

One thing that could happen is you could ask the question like, can this printer do 100lb paper?  If you have a novice rep, they will say yes. An experienced rep knows there is more to cardstock printing.  Really, any printing.  Paper weight can be quite complicated because there is more than one standard.  There isn’t just one 100lb thickness on paper, it depends on the paper grade being used. Some examples you may see include the following:

  • Text – Lightweight paper – Base ream 25″ x 38″ and 500 sheets
  • Cardstock – Heavyweight paper – Base ream 20″ x 26″ and 500 sheets
  • Bond – For letterhead and cover letters – Base ream – 17″ X 22″ and 500 sheets
  • Index – Thin paper – Often used for business reply – Base ream 25.5″ X 30.5″ and 500 sheets
  • Heavy Cardstock – Uses the same as cardstock, just tends to be the heavier version (over 120 pound).
  • etc

Each grade of paper is assigned a base size.  What happens is when the paper is being made, it is made at a specific size before it gets cut into the common sizes we use on a daily basis. What 80 lb index means is, if you had 500 sheets of 25.5″ x 30.5″ paper at that grade, it would weigh 80 pounds.

Now, where this gets confusing to clients and reps is how 80 pound paper in the examples we are giving here, would really be 4 completely different thicknesses based on the base ream size.  If a client asked what the maximum paper thickness a copier could do, a rep would be better off using the text rating if they wanted to trick the client. This is because the text paper at 80 pound is much thinner than cardstock at 80 pound.

The easiest way to know for sure what your printer or copier can handle is to look for a gsm rating on your printer and compare that to the paper specifications.  If the paper has a gsm rating, then you won’t need to know the paper grade being used, just the GSM number. This is a single number that gets rid of a lot of confusion rather than trying to determine paper grades, etc.

What is GSM?

GSM means grams per square meter. What this is talking about is if you have a piece of paper 1 meter by 1 meter and then weighed it in grams, that is how many grams a square meter of the type of paper you are printing weighs.

When I have had a situation where we could not get a real GSM number from a manufacturer, we have gone through the trouble of getting a meter stick and going one meter by one meter, cutting paper to fit perfectly and then putting it on an electronic scale that does grams to see what we were dealing with.

We had this issue with a printer that kept jamming on a client. They said they got new paper, and were unsure of the weight of paper, but their existing printer kept jamming on them. So, we’re curious. We laid out and cut our 1 meter by 1 meter square, and weighed it. It turned out to be nearly 400 gsm, which is double what most laser printers are capable of printing. They were making wedding invites and wanted to use super thick paper. The issue was the cards jammed and the toner was having trouble fusing. In a case like this, the client needs to know the paper is the cause of the issue, and if they want to use that paper, another printer or even technology needs to be considered.

Getting the Right Printer

If you are looking for a cardstock printer, the couple of things you will want to make your main search criteria are as follows.

  • Best GSM rating
  • straight paper path

A better GSM rating will normally happen with inkjet printers or LED printers over laser printers.  Having a higher GSM ensures you are able to print on thick paper. The highest you will normally see in the commercial copier or printer space is 350gsm.  This is an extremely high measurement. An average laser printer will have a max of about 220 GSM.

What this means, functionally, is a 350 GSM printer can print on paper more than 50% thicker than the standard laser printer can. If you have card stock you are continuously getting paper jams on, it may be time to look at swapping technology or looking at a different printer or copier.

Most people find a standard HP Laserjet printer isn’t the best cardstock printer out there on the market. If you have an HP Laserjet and are finding you have issues, we can help you find a printer or copier that will work and not jam all the time. 

When you are working at the highest end of card stock, worrying about print speed is not a winning formula. What you want is a printer or copier that continues to print without jamming or having marks on the print from a bad fuser or getting stuck inside the machine. This wastes far more time.

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We can help you find a printer that can print it.


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