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sp2880 epson a3plus printerWhich side of the paper to print on

How to tell which side of inkjet paper is the one to print on

It's normally pretty obvious which side you need to print on when using paper for inkjet printers. However I was testing an Epson 3880 recently and decided to use some HP paper, in particular HP Hahnemuhle Watercolour Paper (210 gsm).

The paper looks pretty much identical on either side, and once I'd picked up a couple of sheets it's not clear which side is for printing.

Note that some papers are specifically produced for double sided printing - however this will be prominently displayed on the package.

Why it matters what way you put the paper into the printer

Specialist ink jet and fine art papers are actually much more complex in their construction than you might think.

Some have many layers to capture and hold inks. These layers may or may not look different - the two pictures below show that the results are quite different, but most people don't want to waste a sheet to find out.

Epson Velvet is supposedly more white on the side to print on (a very nice cotton rag paper 260g/m2, with 19 ml thickness. It has an ISO brightness of 94%, and opacity of 96%) Well, I've looked and can't see much difference...

Lick it and see

Move your mouse over the image below to see the difference between printing on different sides of the paper.

hahnemuhle watercolor paper - printing

My own favourite test is to -lightly- moisten the tip of my finger and touch the corner of a sheet. If you drag your fingertip a bit, the printing side will just seem that bit more 'sticky'.

Practice on some old scraps of paper and you will notice the effect quite easily.

The inkjet media coatings are used ensure that the ink and paper surface react in a consistent manner and don't run or soak in too much.

Look at the detail of the prints below, to see how different coloured inks have different properties which have changed how the print looks (move mouse over image to see the two prints).

detail of printed image

Our monochrome test image

monochrome test print for testing black and white printingWe've lots more printer related info on this site, including specific printer test images like the one to the right.

There are images for both colour and black and white.

Other related resources on this site

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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