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Paper Brightness Explained

What is inkjet paper brightness and is it important?

The brightness of ink jet paper has recently come to the front of many marketing efforts. A quick discussion of brightness is in order.

A light source shines a beam of light measuring 457 nanometers onto the paper at a 45 degree angle. Another device measures the amount of reflection from the paper. a scale from 1-100 is set, and the reflected amount will fall within that range. A brighter sheet (higher number) tends to reflect more light from the paper surface thus intensifying the vividness of color. Slight increases at the higher end of the scale change the paper's appearance more dramatically than large changes at the lower end.

Brightness is often confused with "whiteness". People look at a paper and if it has a clean white appearance, they think it's brighter. In fact, the human eye cannot determine a level of brightness.

This measurement was devised for manufacturers to differentiate their papers and to help printers and ad agencies know what to expect from paper to paper, job to job. When printing a million copies of an annual report, a printer needs to know as much about the paper as possible because re-printing large runs is costly and generally not possible. Luckily for ink jet printer users, no such limits exist!

The brightness number given can be misleading and ultimately unimportant to the inkjet user. There are set standards for paper brightness in the graphic arts industry (GE in the USA, ISO in Europe and Asia), but many ink jet paper suppliers do not seem to follow them. Different manufacturers' numbers do not necessarily correlate with competing papers. Brightness scales can change from company to company and can be subjective from observer to observer. In addition, there are other factors which could improve or compromise a paper's appearance. Rate of absorption, gloss, type of ink and smoothness can affect the quality of the image in spite of its brightness.

To add to the difficulty, paper shade or color can make a technically 96 bright paper appear more dull than another 92 paper which is a lighter shade.

The point to remember is that the scales are arbitrary and that what you think is bright may not appear so on the same scale. At Red River Paper, we would rather make you personally happy than to offer a definition which may mislead you to select a paper that is not your optimal choice. 

To help our customers find the "Perfect Paper" we offer a wide selection in our Inkjet Sample Kits for a modest cost.