Today, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about homeschooling supplies. Lately, I have seen a lot of questions about printers, paper thickness, and lamination and that it what I will be specifically focusing on today. What kind of printer do you need? How thick should your paper be? Today, we will be addressing all of those questions!
First of all, I want to say that this really depends on your needs. How long do you want the materials to last? Will you be using them for more than one child? Want to use them at a later time or just for a worksheet that can only be completed once?
What kind of a printer do I need?
We have an Epson
ecotank printer and I love, love, love it! We have had it for one a half a years and have spent a grand total of 30 euro in ink for it in this entire time!
If you will be printing a lot (which I most definitely do), please do yourself a favour and invest in a good quality ink tank
printer, such as the one I mentioned above. These really save you so, so, so much money on ink and are extremely versatile!
What’s so special about an ink tank printer?
These printers do not take cartridges, but rather use liquid ink. There is an ink tank on the side. There are four colours that you can buy separately – if one runs out, you only need to replace the ink for that specific colour, not all of them.
What do they print?
Overall, the quality is great, and our printer definitely handles different sizes and types of paper very well. These printers can handle card stock, envelopes, and even photos!
This means that you can print photos, but also use glossy paper to create beautiful realistic image cards, such as our animal sorting cards or animal puzzles! These were printed at home, using thick, glossy photo paper.
I also love that you can change the settings on this printer. You can print ‘high quality’ or on a quick setting where you lose some quality, but use the ink more efficiently.
For worksheets or ‘one time’ activities, such as cutting strips
, I prefer to use the quicker option. For items I want to reuse in the future, such as 3 and 2 part cards, I almost always go for the higher quality option.
When choosing a printer, keep in mind
When choosing the right printer for your own needs, do take into consideration:
- How often will you be printing?
- What will you be printing?
- On what type of paper will you be printing?
If you plan to print frequently, use flash cards or Montessori style cards, and will be using thicker paper, really, go for an ink tank printer.
If you will occasionally be printing a worksheet, papers with minimal colour, and will not be using cards with realistic images, then you don’t need an ink tank printer.
However, I will say that regardless of your needs, I still recommend the Epson ecotank. The ink is just so much cheaper. The printer itself comes with ink when you purchase it, which should last you up to two years (depending on the frequency with which you print).
What to look for in a laminating machine
- What is the total thickness the laminator can handle? Keep in mind this doesn’t just have to do with the maximum thickness of the laminating sheets. You will also be adding paper in there, and possibly card stock.
- My machine laminates both hot and cold. Adjustable temperature settings are convenient because thicker paper needs a higher heat setting.
- Look for a machine with a release button. If you accidentally get a sheet stuck in the laminating machine, a release button is nice for stopping lamination.
- When choosing laminating sheets, look for the thickness of the sheets, referred to as microns. 80 micron is standard. I use 80 micron for most sheets. For special cards, I use 250 micron sheets.
- Lamination pouches come in glossy or matte. The choice here is up to you, which look you prefer. I don’t care either way, and choose whichever are on sale!
Tips for laminating
- Always insert the laminating sheet sealed edge first into the machine
- Cut out the shape of the printed paper so there is no extra white space around it
- Fill the laminating sheet as much as possible with oddly shaped cards, images, etc. Cut out the shape from the laminating sheet after lamination
- You can buy pouches for photos. These are smaller and are ideal for oddly shaped items to avoid wasting a full sized sheet
- Remove the sheet immediately from the machine.
- Let the sheet cool before cutting.
- You can laminate the same sheet more than once to make sure all of the edges are sealed.
- Be very careful to align the laminating sheet well with the machine or you can ruin the machine.
- Do not cut too close to the edge of the image or you can ‘open’ the lamination, especially if you have used thicker paper
- Round the edges when cutting out the cards from the laminator – they can be pointy and uncomfortable for your child to use.
- Use a dry erase marker to write on laminated sheets. You can erase this and re-use a worksheet multiple times then!
There are a lot of options when choosing the type of paper to use: printer paper, card stock, photo paper, matte photo paper, glossy photo paper. And then there’s GSM.
Let’s start with paper gsm. So, what is GSM? GSM refers to the weight of paper as it relates to the size of a sheet of paper. It stands for grams per square meter. Normal, inexpensive printing paper is typically 80 gsm.
What kind of paper do I need?
To keep things simple, here’s a list of what kind of paper I use for the types of things I am printing. Keep in mind, that we do have the ecotank printer and I laminate certain materials. This is also what I do for my needs, but that does not mean that your ideas and preferences won’t work just as well!
Glossy photo paper
- Flash cards using realistic images
- 3 part cards
- 2 part cards
- Montessori materials using realistic images
- Flash cards, especially if not using realistic images
- Cards using cartoon images
- Words, numbers, letters
- Materials that will be getting significant/extreme use
80 gsm paper
- Work sheets
- One time use items, such as cutting strips, writing practice, coloring sheets, anything that will not be getting multiple use.
- Items that will be laminated (especially with thick laminating paper), such as flash cards, Montessori style cards
- Medium use items that will not be laminated
- Worksheets that you want reuse
- If you fear your child will tear through the thinner paper when writing/drawing on it
- Do not want to use card stock, but do want to add some extra durability beyond regular paper
Personally, I rarely use paper other than 80 gsm and photo paper. Lately, I have also been using 90 gsm paper and laminating at 160 micron as we have been using much more 3 part cards and 2 part cards as Y learns to read. For extra special cards that I really, really, really want to save, I use 250 micron laminating sheets with 90 gsm paper.
I very rarely use card stock actually because I prefer to laminate. I prefer lamination over card stock because laminated items are harder to tear and I find that laminating thinner paper lasts longer than simply printing on card stock.
Of course, you also have the option of printing on card stock and then laminating the result. This is the most expensive option you can choose, which I cannot justify in my home because we rotate materials minimally once a week. This would equate to a very large paper expense, and even though we revisit materials, I don’t think it’s worth it right now. Additionally, I use thicker laminating sheets and card stock does not laminate well with the thicker sheets.
Instead of card stock, you can print on 90 or 100 gsm paper. This gives a little bit of extra durability. Sometimes, I like to reinforce my cards by gluing them onto coloured paper or card stock (which also leaves a nice border), especially when Y was younger. Then, you can laminate using thinner micro laminating sheets. This is an example from two years ago, but was printed on a normal cartridge printer:
Don’t own a printer or laminator?
You don’t need to per se have a printer or laminating machine at home in order to create ‘printables’ and cards for your activities! Here are some alternative ideas you can use:
There are two very easy alternatives to lamination. The first is simply using sheet protectors
. Simply place whatever card or object you want to ‘laminate’ into the sheet protector. Then, use a piece of tape to secure the sheet protector closed to prevent the card from falling out.
If the card or object you are trying to ‘laminate’ is much smaller than the page, simply cut the sheet to your desired size. Save the extra bits for other oddly shaped cards to avoid waste.
Alternatively, you can simply use clear, packaging tape. I find this method to be more time consuming, but it is also significantly less expensive than lamination! For this method, just place packaging tape on the front and back of the card you want to laminate.
Post cards can contain beautiful images that you can use for learning materials. If you visit museums, art galleries, historical sites, etc, have a look at the post cards available. You can use these to create fabulous learning materials.
For additional durability, you can use clear packaging tape to reinforce the cards.
Magazines and posters
Cut images out of magazines or posters. You can glue these onto card stock (or even cardboard) for extra strength and durability. You can even add a label and create two part cards or flash cards this way.
Again, you can use clear packaging tape to reinforce or laminate the cards.
Of course, you can even give hand drawing a go! Personally, I am no where near skilled enough of an artist to do so, but if you can clearly draw what it is you want on your card, you’ll be sure to save tons of money by doing this by hand!
Again, glue the cards onto cardstock or cardboard and then ‘laminate’ with packaging tape for extra durability.
Tips for printing specific types of materials
Now that we have discussed the different ways to create materials and laminate them, I will explain tips for printing specific types of materials that I have learned over the past two years of creating my own materials at home!
Cards, 3 part cards, Montessori cards with realistic images
- Print on glossy, photo paper on high quality setting
- Glue onto card stock
Cards without realistic images
- Print on card stock on high quality setting
- Optional, but not necessary: laminate
- Alternative: print on 100+ gsm paper and do lamianate
- Alternative: print on 80 gsm paper, glue onto card stock, laminate.
Work sheets, cutting strips, one time use items
Work sheets for multiple use (ie- tracing practice for being used more than once)
- 100+ gsm paper
- Laminate to be used with a dry erase marker
- If you do not want to laminate, you can use a sheet protector
Note, I rarely print worksheets for one time use, and very rarely use full sized sheets of paper for one activity or worksheet. Most of our cards are minimally half a sheet of paper or 1/6 of a sheet of paper.
I find that it’s more efficient, less wasteful, and far more engaging for my son to provide smaller sheets of paper. Plus, there is less room for distracting images and embellishments that don’t have to do what we are focusing on.
I highly recommend a paper cutter for speeding up this entire process! Creating homeschool materials can take quite some time, so cutting out cards in bulk with a paper cutter can save a lot of time!
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Today, I am linking up at: A little bird told me, Preschool and kindergarten community, Tot school Gathering Place, The Thoughtful Spot, Love to Learn Linky, The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions, Link and Learn, TGIF, Hip Homeschool Moms, Practical Mondays