Which Brand of Waterproof Printer Paper Should I Use?
Many types of paper are used to produce waterproof documents. We prepared the chart below to help you decide what is right for you. Please keep in mind that the performance of a document depends upon four things: 1) the type of paper; 2) the printing process (including inks and toners); 3) your writing implement; and, 4) the environment where your document will be used. We always recommend testing before you head to the field on important work, or spend time/money on an important project.
Our first choice for outdoor printing is a laser printer. Why? Because they apply solid toner particles that enter pores in the paper and stay there. Some inkjet printers apply dye-based inks that can be mobilized when wet.
No matter what type of printer you use, we always recommend applying a minimal amount of ink/toner. Best results are usually obtained by setting your printer to "economy", "draft", "light", or another setting to produce the lightest possible application of ink/toner.
8 mil plastic sheet
Recommended for single-side printing and light duty use. Folds nicely.
10 mil plastic sheet
Standard thickness. Sheets are 25% thicker than 8 mil. Printable on two sides.
8 mil plastic sheet
10 mil plastic sheet for greater stiffness
Similar to 20# copier paper.
Print with laser, inkjet, or plain-paper copiers. Great pen performance but does not accept pencil. Gel pen inks will smudge. Puncture, tear and abrasion resistant. Not recommended for use in high temperature printers or copiers.
Print with laser, inkjet, or plain-paper copiers. Great pen performance but does not accept pencil. Gel pen inks will smudge. Puncture, tear and abrasion resistant.
Use in inkjet, laser and copiers. Great pen performance but does not accept pencil. Gel pen inks will smudge. Puncture, tear and abrasion resistant. Not recommended for use in high temperature printers or copiers.
Use in inkjet, laser and copiers. Great pen performance but does not accept pencil. Gel pen inks will smudge. Puncture, tear and abrasion resistant.
The most economical paper for normal use in wet or damp conditions. Works great in copiers. Best paper for using pencils. Low resistance to tearing, puncture and abrasion.
The information provided on this page is our opinion. Your experience using these papers could be very different from ours because you might use them with different types of printers, different types of ink, different writing tools or under different conditions. Also, your opinion of "good", "excellent" or "poor" performance might be different from ours. We provide the opinions above for general guidance. They are not meant to be a critique or promotion of any product.
PuffinPaper Sample Packs (Free Shipping)
Want to test a few sheets of PuffinPaper? It's our favorite synthetic waterproof paper. These sample packs contain ten sheets of 8.5" x 11" waterproof PuffinPaper. Available in 8 mil or 10 mil thickness. If you use a laser printer, a plain paper copier or an inkjet printer with a pigment-based ink, this is the paper that we recommend. We always recommend testing in the environment of use before making a large purchase or starting an important project.
Are these papers really "waterproof"?
These papers stand up well to rain and moisture. They are great for taking notes in wet weather and for use where your notes might be subject to contact with sweat, moisture or water. We placed a sheet of each of these papers underwater for one week, writing on them daily with a waterproof ink pen. They retained their integrity, accepting and retaining the ink. We continued the test for one month, writing on each paper at the end of each week. At the end of one month, all of the papers were still in good condition and continued to accept and retain ink.
A standard ballpoint pen usually works well on these papers. But, we highly recommend using a pen with waterproof ink. Why buy waterproof paper and take chances with your ink? Soluble inks and gel pen inks can wash right off. Be sure to test your pen, printer and paper combination before going into the field or starting a project. It's not the performance of your paper that determines your level of protection - it is how your paper, writing implement and printing work together. Some of the papers accept pencil and that eliminates concerns about inks washing off or fading over time or with exposure to light.
All of these papers have been used for underwater writing. We know people who have used them while scuba diving. If you are diving more than a few feet deep you will need a paper that accepts pencil. The air pressure in ink pen refills is lower than the water pressure at more than a few feet deep. That will cause water to flow into your pen's refill and dilute the ink. For best underwater use we recommend writing with pencil on DuraCopy paper
or a DuraRite waterproof notebook (about 1/2 way down the page). For light-duty underwater use we suggest pencil on Rite-in-the-Rain copier paper. Always test before use in a critical project.
These products are intended for short-term outdoor use - they are thin pieces of plastic. If you need long-term exposure to water a metal sign or a rigid plastic plaque is needed.
Avoid smearing and excess ink:
We recommend printing using the "light" or "draft" or "economy" settings of your printer. Printing in "high quality" or "dark" mode usually applies more ink than the paper can absorb. That will cause ink smearing or ink that does not dry. If the ink smears or does not dry in "normal or "standard" mode see if you can print with a "light" or "economy" mode. For best results use the lightest printer setting that produces readable print. We recommend PuffinPaper or Dura Copy for best results with laser printers, PuffinPaper or iGage Paper for inkjet printers, and Rite-in-the-Rain copier paper for use with plain paper copiers.
When writing, a medium point pen works best. Broad-point pens or those that put down a thick layer of ink generally deposit excess ink that does not absorb into the paper and smears. Fine-point pens are sharp and can dig into the synthetic plastic papers when writing. Pens that leave behind blobs of ink when you write should be thrown away. They make a mess no matter where you write with them.
Use high quality ink and toner!
Most people who use the ink or toner cartridges supplied by the manufacturer of their printer have great success with all of these papers. Refilled cartridges and generic cartridges frequently provide poor results because they contain low quality inks, low quality toner, or water soluble inks. For best performance use quality inks provided by your printer manufacturer.
Exposure to sun, wind, rain, wine, spaghetti sauce, dishwashers, dogs and bullets...
Keep in mind that you are buying a product that is either a thin plastic film or a coated sheet of paper. "Paper" can be tattered by the wind, blown away by a breeze, chewed by a dog or burn in a fire. The papers that we sell might last outside for a weeks (more or less), depending upon climate and sun exposure. They will not last through repeated or prolonged exposures to hot, cold, sun, wind or other harsh conditions. This is why highway departments use metal signs and the military uses metal dog tags. "Paper" is inexpensive and easy-to-use and perfect for some situations - but it might not be the material best suited for the conditions of your project.
SUN EXPOSURE: Ink is usually the first thing to fail during outdoor use. It quickly fades in the sun. Red and yellow ink are usually the first to fade. Depending upon location and exposure, an outdoor sign might last a few days to a few weeks in bright, direct sunlight before the ink fades. The paper will eventually break down if exposed to the UV rays of direct sunlight for long periods of time. Lots of people use our papers for yard sale signs, outdoor notices and other documents that will be in the bright sun for a few days. We do not recommend them for long-term outdoor use. You need a metal sign.
SPAGHETTI SAUCE / WINE: We don't recommend our papers for use as menus and cookbooks unless they are laminated. These papers like to absorb color and they will be stained by wine, spaghetti sauce, coffee and any other moist material with color. The papers that we sell that perform best with lamination are PuffinPaper and iGage Paper. They are microporous synthetic papers that bind with the laminating film so that they resist separation.
COLD AND HEAT: The paper that we sell that has been tested to perform under the widest temperature range is PuffinPaper. It remains pliable and writeable at temperatures from -70°C / -94°F to 180°C / 356°F. The temperature at which your pen or your body can function will limit your work before the paper does. Other papers can have narrower ranges of temperature performance. They can become brittle in very cold weather. They might soften if you attach them to a hot billboard in direct sun. We don't recommend them for use in very hot or very cold situations.
DISHWASHERS: The papers that we sell are meant to be used in environments where humans work and play. That does not include the interior of a dishwasher where they will be flushed with extremely hot water and chemicals. Your ink might also perform poorly in these hot, wet, chemical-rich conditions.
Ink and toner are important!
The ink or toner that you use can break down with exposure to direct sunlight, heat, water or humidity. Ink usually fails before the paper during sun exposure. For best results use the ink and toner cartridges recommended by your printer manufacturer and be aware that exposure conditions will limit the life of your document. Test before use in an important project.
All of the papers that we sell can be laminated. The one that performs best with lamination is PuffinPaper. It is a microporous paper that binds with the laminating film and resists separation. Before you go to the expense of buying special papers, see if your project will work by printing on regular paper and laminating it. We don't want you to overspend unless you need the extra performance.
For best results, unused paper is best stored in a box or in a sealed plastic bag away from light and heat. Do not store these papers in contact with printed documents because they sometimes absorb ink from objects that are stored in contact with them.
Printing on Two Sides:
Both sides of these papers have equal printing characteristics. For best results, one-sided printing is recommended when using 8 mil papers. When large amounts of ink are applied, such as when printing maps or bold text, two-sided printing might result in ink bleeding through the paper. If you do decided to print on two sides allow a few minutes drying time between sides. We always recommend testing to see if your printing process will produce documents that perform well in your anticipated conditions.
All of the papers that we sell work well for short-term underwater use. We placed a sheet of each of these papers underwater for one month, writing on them weekly with a waterproof ink pen. They retained their integrity, accepting and retaining the ink. For scuba diving we recommend writing with pencil on Dura Copy or Rite-in-the-Rain copier paper. Why? Pencils work best for underwater writing. Waterproof pen refills have a small amount of gas in the refill to control the flow of ink. If they are taken deep enough that the outside water pressure is higher than the inside gas pressure, water will flow into the refill and dilute the ink. The critical depth is variable - depending upon the amount of ink that has been depleted and the gas pressure in the refill. Always test before use in a critical project. Soluble inks can wash right off. Be sure to test your pen, printer and paper combination before going into the field or starting a project.
Choice of Writing Implements:
We recommend a ball-point pen with waterproof ink for best results on any of the papers that we sell. Why buy waterproof paper and write with a standard ink? Medium width pens generally work best. Fine and extra fine points can cut into the paper under heavy pressure. Broad point pens often deposit more ink than the paper can absorb and result in smearing. When writing with pencil we recommend soft, broad leads with blunt points. We sell a durable mechanical pencil with an HB lead of 1.1 millimeter width.
These can be used but the paper might not accept additional printing or writing. Always test before using on anything important.
Smudge and Smear:
This usually occurs when ink is applied too heavily or a water-soluble ink is used. If you are using the paper in a printer or plain paper copier, try changing the settings to "economy" or "light" so that less ink will be applied. Broad-point pens and those that deposit a thick layer of ink generally smear. Gel pens usually perform poorly because their inks are usually water soluble and dry slowly. Try one of our medium point pens with waterproof ink. When printed ink is smearing check to be sure that you are using manufacturer-provided ink cartridges. Generic ink cartridges and refilled cartridges often contain low-quality ink or ink that is water soluble.
These papers can be cut with scissors and paper cutters. Their water-resistant qualities are not reduced.
Rite-in-the-Rain paper generally performs well during hole-punching. Dura Copy, Weatherproof and PuffinPaper do not work well with some types of punches. Test with a single sheet, then two, then three... etc. A large stack of paper can be very difficult to extract if it is jammed in a hole punch. We have done this a few times! The best way to get holes in difficult-to-punch papers it to take them to a print ship where holes can be drilled.
Always Test Before Important Projects:
If you are going to use a waterproof paper for an important application we strongly recommend testing to be sure that it meets your needs. Testing how you are going to print on it and write on it are important. Also important is a test of the anticipated environmental, handling and storage conditions.