Monday, April 5, 2021

Inkjet printer - Paper quality, paper jams, and bleed-through

How important is the quality of the paper in your laser / inkjet?

Perhaps more important than you think. However, I'm not the expert (I'm no expert on many things 😉) so consider these my 'personal' notes...

What to buy

Let's start with the conclusion 😉

As a rule of thumb:

  1. Buy average quality of a cheap to average brand
  2. Make sure it's universal paper (for both ink and laserjets)
  3. Make sure it's suitable for double sided printing
  4. Skip dedicated inkjet paper unless it is for printing photos

(If you live in the Netherlands, try 123-Inkt, thus far they never disappointed me.)

... and...

Some feed issues may be solved by adding a little delay when printing double sided.

Now on to the long version...

Paper used

  • 90 grams, Staples, A4 color laser, for color laser printers, coated (not mentioned), double sided (not mentioned)
  • 80 grams, 123-Inkt, universal laser+inkjet, coated, suitable for double sided
  • 80 grams, Canon, A4 laser printer and copier, not coated (surface feels very coarse), for laser printers and copiers, double sided not mentioned (would probably work, though I expect at a reduced quality)
I should try the 123-Inkt 80 grams 'high quality' paper as well, to see if that makes any difference.

Possible problems

  • Printing on (poor quality) paper can cause the following problems:
  • Leaving behind dirt and dust inside your printer
  • Paper jams / feed malfunctions
  • Ink 'running'
  • Wear and tear on the drum / printer head
  • Prints look shoddy because the paper isn't as 'white'
  • Colors might be 'off'
  • Irregular feeds causing striping

Why? Cheap paper might not be coated, it might be of irregular size or thickness, it might contain larger (wood or otherwise) particles, or any combination of those.

You might save paper and spare the environment by printing double sided on cheap recycled paper, but if your printer quickly fails and you have to buy a new one you might ask yourself if you are actually doing the environment a favor...


Inkjet and laserjet paper may be treated for a specific type of printing process. Read the vendors description. Some paper simply doesn't work properly on one or the other type of printer.


Matter of taste. Cheaper paper is often a little 'less' white.


Brand vs. no-brand didn't seem to make much difference for day to day use. It also did not affect any bleed through. Original Brother cartridges tended to have better results when printing photos when it came to color accuracy. (But I rarely print photos, so it didn't bother me.)

Update. Note though that cheaper ink cartridges may start to leak over time.

I'm running a triplet of Brother MFX-JxxxxW printers. They work perfectly with original Brother cartridges, as well as the 123-Inkt stuff, but I bought a batch of cartridges from another online retailer, and I noticed that all those started leaking over time, to their defense I have to add that a. the printers involved weren't in use for a long period (3 to 6 months) and b. the cartridges did only leak after having been installed for that period of time. But... the 123-Inkt and Brother cartridges did NOT leak over time. Pick your poison...

Photo prints and photo paper

I don't do photo prints, sorry. But if you plan to do photo prints, then Google for reviews of the different brands and types. As a rule of thumb, use dedicated paper from a cheap to average brand, expect to try different brands to get it right. It may be smarter to get a laserjet, to be honest...

Feed issues

These occur mostly when printing double sided, on older printers. I have both the Brother MFC J5620DW as well as the J5720DW. The J5720DW has seen most use. When printing on cheaper paper there is an incidental double feed. When printing double sided on cheaper paper the printer often gets stuck.

Just like everyone else 😇 I fed my printer the cheapest paper I could find. Turns out you have to pay some attention.

Some printer paper cannot be used for double sided printing.

Read the description of the vendor. As a rule of thumb: cheap copy paper for laser printers and copy machines can be used in an inkjet printer (at lower print quality) but cannot be printed upon double sided.

If you buy paper for inkjet printers the vendor should tell you if it can be used for double sided printing. If it isn't mentioned you can assume it's only for single sided printing.

Drying time on double sided printing

The printing quality improves by letting each page 'dry' a bit before printing on the opposite side. Most printer drivers have this option.

For the Brothers you can find an extra option it here, which only affects dual sided printing: Advanced / Other Print Options / Advanced 2 side settings

Additional drying time may also improve paper feed issues!

I suspect because the rollers have more grip on fully dried paper, but whatever the reason, my printer would happily print on both sides of cheap paper with this option set to 'Delay 1'. Since then I've switched to slightly more expensive paper (I think 1 euro more per 500 pages) and haven't had a problem since.

Bleed trough

I noticed when printing on different brands of paper that the ink would sometimes 'show through', ie. you could clearly see what was printed on the other side.

Cheaper paper, and paper without coating, were more susceptible to this effect. The effect is much less with laser printers.

I created a little test page, which I printed twice. That's one time double sided, then I turned the printed sheet upside down, and printed again. There are some color and black and white patterns and texts. If you put the printed sheet on top of another blank page, you can clearly see how bad the 'bleed through' is. (Click to enlarge.)

From left to right:

  • 90 grams, laser, coated, double sided not mentioned, little bleed through
  • 80 grams, universal, coated, suitable for double sided, some bleed through
  • 80 grams, laser, not coated (?), for laser printers and copiers, lots of bleed through

Although both 80 grams variations weigh the same (I actually checked) the universal paper feels a lot thicker, stiffer, and smoother.

The 90 grams still feels a lot better though. I'd suggest to use that for anything 'serious' (letters, reports, presentations etc.).

Another example of bleed through, the universal paper on the right, the cheaper laser paper on the left:

Impact of other modes on bleed-through when printing double sided

  • Draft mode - no difference
  • Best quality - no difference
  • Additional drying time - minor improvement on the 80 grams paper, no visible impact on 90 grams
  • Ink saving - minor improvement on the 80 grams paper, no visible impact on 90 grams
  • Brand vs no-brand cartridges - no difference

I'm not entirely sure why the additional drying time would reduce bleed-through, but I tried it multiple times and confirmed the results in a blind test with two other people.

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