Regular paper is fine for printing directions, paperwork and recipes, but when you're planning a special party, creating your own business cards, announcing the arrival of a new child or otherwise sharing a really important message, sheets of flimsy printer paper just won't do. Though cardstock is thicker than standard paper, even cheap home printers are generally up for the task of printing on cardstock. Making this work is all about choosing paper that your printer can handle.
Choosing Cardstock for Printing
There are two things to consider when selecting cardstock for your printing job: thickness and coatings. When you opt for a professional printing job, these factors aren't as important because commercial printers are equipped to handle a wide range of materials. However, for an at-home printing project, choosing the wrong stock could ruin your project and damage your printer.
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Cardstock thickness is often expressed in weight. When you compare options, you'll probably see 65-pound, 80-pound and 100-pound cardstock packages. Sometimes, you'll see cardstock categorized by points ranging from 10 to 16 points. The higher the number, the thicker the stock. Generally, home printers are able to handle 80-pound or 10-point cardstock – any thicker, and the paper may jam.
Coatings are added to many kinds of cardstock to give the paper a glossy, polished appearance. (Think of business cards, which are often printed on slightly shiny cardstock.) Coated cardstock is harder on which to print because the ink doesn't absorb into the paper the way it does with uncoated stock. Unless your home printer is equipped to print photos, using coated cardstock might not work, so choose an uncoated type to be safe.
Prepping Your Printer
If you swap out your regular paper, place cardstock in the paper tray and print as normal, it's possible that your printer will work just fine. However, it's generally advisable to adjust the settings on your printer before trying to print with a different kind of material.
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing your printer in this way because every model is different. Some printers have "heavy paper" settings that can be used for cardstock; others are so sensitive that you can program them for the exact weight of paper you're using. The paper tray may also need to be moved to a different position. Your printer's online manual should provide specific guidance.
As for ink, whatever you're already using in your printer should be appropriate for your cardstock project. Don't worry about buying new ink just for this purpose.
Tips for Printing on Cardstock
Are you printing 20 invitations? Don't put 20 sheets of paper into the tray at once because thick cardstock can jam easily, so it may be best to feed the paper into the printer one sheet at a time. This method is ideal because it also allows you to inspect each piece of cardstock before it goes into the printer. That's important because a single bent edge or curled corner could also trigger a jam.
Finally, if your printer is finicky and you're dreading trying to make it work with cardstock, consider whether it makes more sense to have your printing job handled professionally. Office supply stores often have in-house printing services that can run your project on whatever cardstock you prefer, and the price could be comparable to buying your own paper and ink.