Ream of paper: "Print This Side First." Umm... which side?

Okay, I just bought a new ream of paper for my laser printer. On the edge of the package it says “Print This Side First” with an arrow pointing down.

My first reaction is, Okay I print the bottom-facing side first. Then I thought about it more. Maybe the down-pointing arrow is really pointing to the top-facing side.

So which do they mean?

And maybe the best answer is the all-purpose one, forgetting the package arrows entirely. Most reams of paper have a slight curl to them, so, assuming that you put the paper in front of you such that it curled up at the edges – say, like a soup bowl – would you print the top side (facing the ceiling), or the bottom side (facing the tabletop)?

The arrow points to the side of the paper that should be used “first,” which really means “use this side if you’re only going to use one side.”

The trick now is to get that side turned the right way in your printer. There used to be a pretty standard rule that you put paper in the tray “upside down,” meaning the side the seam of the ream wrapper was on when on top; this is not universally true any more. Look for the paper symbol (looks like a sheet of paper with one corner turned down) for whichever tray you’re using. Most paper symbols have two key elements:
[li]The folded corner indicates which end of the paper should be the head (top), which is important if you’re using letterhead.[/li][li]The lines (intended to indicate writing) show which side of the paper is the “face” (front) for that print job. If the lines are visible across the main part of the “page,” then put it in face up. If the lines are visible only on the folded-down corner of the “page,” then put it in face down.[/ol][/li]
Hope this helps.

Wow. A couple of hours can really make you feel like a babbling idiot. Let me go over that again a little slower and see if it makes any better sense. :slight_smile:

The arrow on the ream wrapper should point to the side of the paper that should be used first. This is also the side you should use if you’re only going to use one side of the paper. Let’s call this the printing side. Usually, the printing side will be on the same side as the side that has the wrapper seam on it. More on this later.

The trick now is to get the printing side oriented correctly in your printer so that it actually gets printed on. Long ago there was a standard rule that you put paper in the paper tray “upside down,” meaning that if you were to set the ream in the tray still in its wrapper, the seam would be on top; this is not universally true any more and is why the little arrow began to be important.

What you need to do is to look on your printer or on the paper tray for the “paper” symbol, which looks like a sheet of paper (i.e., a rectangle) with one corner turned down (i.e., a triangle in one corner). Most paper symbols have two key elements:
[ol][li]The corner. The “folded corner” indicates which end of the paper should be the “head” (top), which is important particularly if you’re using letterhead. [/li][li]The writing. Lines across the rectangle (intended to indicate writing on a printed page) show which side of the paper will be printed on. If the lines are visible across the main part of the “page,” then put it in printing side up. If the lines are visible only on the folded-down corner of the “page,” then put it in printing side down.[/ol][/li]
Hope this helps a little better. :slight_smile:

If you can’t find the symbol K2K mentions, just put an X on the upper side of the top sheet in the cassette, then print something. If the X is on the same side as the print, load the print side up. If it’s on the opposite side, load the print side down.

Does the side you print on really matter at all? If so, why?

The printing side is SHINY. Well, shinier. have a look see, you can tell that way, at least that’s what I
was told & thats what I do. Its smoother, see, so better looking. Paper brightness is the key buying
point for me, I like a high rating 92 or so or whatever it is I bought.

Ahem. ::cracks knuckles::

Glossary of terms.


In the process of making paper, one essentially takes dirty water called furnish( 99.5% water, 0.5% wood pulp) and drains almost all the water out in a controlled manner. A common way to accomplish this is to squirt the slurry (water and pulp) through a headbox onto a rapidly moving forming fabric, kinda like a screen, causing the individual fibers to align somewhat in the direction of motion, and the water to begin to drain out by gravity. This part of the process gives the paper “grain” and a top and a bottom side.

The second stage of de-watering involves pressing, or squeezing this wet muddy bunch of soggy wood fibers between hardened steel rollers. Often there is fabric, or felts on both sides of the very soggy conconction (maybe still 60% water) both to carry the stuff through the presses, and to absorb the water that is squeezed out. If there is only felt on ONE side (the bottom) then more water is absorbed out the bottom, and there may be a color difference between the two sides as well.

These felts carry the somewhat drier paper into the dryer section next, where the bulk of the rest of the water is removed by passing the paper over and under hot dryer cylinders at a lower pressure. It can pass through a size press next, which chemically seals up the surface for better printing. Many machines only size one side of the sheet, again leading to “print this side”.

Almost last is the calendar section, in which the paper is run between very hard rollers and pressed after it is almost dry. This gives the “finish” which can be smooth and glossy or grainy, depending on the surface of the rollers.

Finally, the paper comes out the end of this monstrous machine (maybe 10m wide and 200m long) and is wound up in reels for further slitting and cutting to be packed into those little 8 1/2" X 11", or A4 for you other folk, packets for your laser printer or photocopier.

The curl is a bad thing. Papermakers fight to remove it, but it is caused by the manner in which the paper dries, or by subsequent wetting and drying. Wood fibers swell axially when wet, then shrink back to a SMALLER size.

former Technical Service Engineer for a paper company that was swallowed up by International Paper.

Excellent dissertation, UncleBill.

I’m still curious…it says print this side FIRST. I have had problems with my copier/laser printer wrinkling the paper and jamming when I reinsert a page to print the second side. Will following the advice of which side to print first prevent this, or is it merely to give you a bright page one?

I know more about making than using paper, but I would guess that the purpose is brightness, smoothness, and print clarity. The jamming on the second pass may be due to the addition of liquids or heat to one side or the other only, which imparts curl.

I know more about unjamming laser printers than making paper, but I can tell you from that experience that

is correct. Laser printers impart a terrific amount of heat to paper. Also, paper which has sat for some time in humid climates is vastly more susceptible to jamming a printer.


dqa. it depends on what printer you are using. Some printers need an update part if they jam. e.g.
hp Laserjet 5L (Just got the part yesterday).

All I know is, that copier companies have spent literally millions and millions of dollars studying user interfaces and still haven’t figured out that a label that says “Place paper face up to copy” works better than some ambiguous icon.