There are at least seven types of paper used in the printing industry. Each type serves different purposes. They are bond paper, book paper, text paper, cover paper, tag paper, bristol, and index. Each type of paper also has its own grades based on additional things such as brightness, fiber content, finishing, etc.
The paper grade level is classified based on the brightness of the paper. For example, the premium paper has the highest brightness, followed by first-grade paper, second grade, and so forth.
Despite the name, a wood-free paper is not actually wood free. It’s still made out of wood. It’s the making process that is different. A wood free paper is made using chemical pulp as the opposite of mechanical wood. Chemical pulp processing removes the cellulose fibers on the wood during processing. That is why it is considered wood free. Mechanical pulp processing keeps most of the wood elements and it is less prone to yellowing like what happens on mechanical pulp.
Paper quality is not only determined by the final look. There are a lot of parameters in it such as raw material, pulp processing, clarity, strength, etc. among all of the parameters, the raw material plays a big role just as much as the processing. For example, rag paper is considered as the paper with the highest quality because it contains 100% cotton fiber.
Another parameter that can be noticed almost instantly is the surface of the paper. A high-quality paper tends to have a smoother and brighter surface than the lower grade paper. Strength is also one of the most obvious indications of paper quality. The better the quality, the stronger the paper should be.
But, the quality of paper doesn’t apply to every single purpose. For example, you cannot use a 100% rag paper to use on your inkjet printer. Even for media publishing, they choose the paper based on their needs. For example, a photography book needs a paper with good clarity and opacity for the prints. It also requires a paper that has enough strength in the long run since it meant to be a collectible item. But it is different from short term publishing such as weekly magazines or newspapers.
Therefore, if you are looking for the best paper quality, you may consider what you need first instead of focusing on the material and final looks.