Building the perfect paper airplane requires a lot of skill, patience, and precision. Since a sheet of paper is the only building material, it’s a critical factor in ensuring your airplane is the best it could be. So, what’s the best paper for paper airplanes?
The best paper for paper airplanes is construction paper. Construction paper is more durable than copy printer paper and is also heavier. This additional toughness improves aerodynamics, making it ideal for paper airplanes.
Read on to learn how to choose the right paper for your paper airplanes, how to pick the correct size, and more. With this guide, your next paper airplane will fly farther than ever before.
Choosing the Right Paper for Paper Airplanes
Getting the right type of paper for your paper airplane isn’t that difficult, and the best one is something you probably already have at home. The same paper airplane design can fly a different distance if you use heavier or lighter paper.
In my experience, it’s better to use thick and heavy paper rather than something that is very thin and flimsy. Thick paper like cardstock will keep its shape no matter how hard you throw the airplane.
A thin paper sheet that is torn from a notebook, however, is too soft. When you throw it, it’ll lose its shape and change direction.
So, choose the most durable paper you have available.
That said, there’s a fine line between thick, durable paper and something too heavy to fly. Regular copy paper is already robust enough, and it doesn’t add unnecessary weight.
However, the truth is that design matters more than the paper you use.
You may think that he’s using some special paper with the perfect weight and size. However, this isn’t the case.
In the following YouTube video, John Collins explains that he uses regular 8.5 x 11 20-pound paper (21.6 x 27.9cm 9.1kg):
If you don’t have any printer paper, I recommend this type of paper. It comes in five bright colors to make your paper airplanes stand out.
Does the Type of Paper Affect a Paper Airplane?
The type of paper does affect a paper airplane. It primarily affects the weight and durability of the airplane. The heavier paper has more mass, so the airplane flies farther. However, if the airplane is too heavy, it’ll crash too quickly.
How far and high your paper airplane flies depends on both the design and type of paper. Some designs can benefit from heavier paper, whereas others need lighter paper. Gravity has a major effect on how far your paper airplane can fly.
So, you shouldn’t use extremely heavy paper like watercolor or drawing paper.
Additionally, the texture of the paper also matters. Smooth paper is much better than embossed or coated paper because it creates less drag.
Picking the Correct Size and Weight
A4 paper is slightly narrower and taller (8.27 x 11.7” or 21 x 29.7cm), but it won’t make a huge difference for the paper airplane. A4 or 8.5 x 11” (21.6 x 27.9cm) are the perfect dimensions for a paper airplane.
You can get an even larger piece of paper to create a huge paper airplane, but it’ll be harder to work with.
The upside is that larger paper airplanes fly farther. They have larger wings that can generate more lift but pay attention to the weight, but if it’s too heavy, it’ll descend fast. You can also scale down and use something as small as a post-it note. But they don’t fly very far because they’re too small and light.
The paper’s weight is determined by measuring the 500 sheet pack, not just one sheet.
Heavier paper is generally better, but gravity will affect the airplane if you go too heavy. Anything between 20 and 100 lbs (9.1 and 45.4 kg) will work fine.
Does a Heavier Paper Airplane Fly Farther?
A heavier paper airplane does fly farther because it has more mass. However, you must keep a delicate balance, and if the airplane is too heavy, it won’t be able to stay in the air for too long.
As explained in the YouTube video below, the world record paper airplane was folded using regular A4 paper. That’s light enough to fly, but it still has plenty of mass to carry it.
If you try making a paper airplane using tracing paper, you will quickly realize that it won’t fly very far.
In general, it’s better to go too heavy than too light. And since a heavier paper airplane is more durable, you can throw it a few more times before it inevitably crumples.
Does Paper Brand Matter?
The paper brand doesn’t matter for your paper airplane. Copy printer paper is more or less the same across all paper brands. However, if the paper is of unusually low quality, it can affect the paper airplane.
If you care about aesthetics, then the brand plays a role. Some manufacturers have special paper for airplanes with lines for folds and some cool designs. I like this paper airplane kit. There are 72 unique airplanes that you can make using handy folding lines. Some of them have impressive designs.
Pro Tip: Most paper brands create copy printer paper that’s good enough for paper airplanes. Don’t get the cheapest paper you can find because it may be too thin or have a rough texture.
Recommended Paper for Paper Airplanes
There are quite a few types of paper that you can use to make great paper airplanes. You should try all of them to see which works best for you. Some are heavier and thicker, while others are thin and lightweight.
Here are some of the best types of paper for paper airplanes:
- Copy printer paper: That’s your standard 8.5 x 11” (21.6 x 27.9cm) or A4 paper you see in books, notebooks, planners, flyers, and so on. It’s what you put in your printer.
- Cardstock Paper: Cardstock is very thick and usually comes in colors. It looks good, and it creates heavy and durable paper airplanes.
- Construction paper: This is generally the best choice because it strikes a happy medium between copy printer and cardstock paper.
- Cardboard: If you’re looking for a different take on paper airplanes, cardboard is the perfect alternative. But building the airplane requires cutting instead of folding.
Is Cardstock Good for Paper Airplanes?
Cardstock is good for paper airplanes. It’s heavier than copy printer paper, meaning the airplane will have more mass, and it’s very durable and comes in different colors. The only downside is that its weight can affect the flight distance.
The only downside of cardstock paper is that it’s pretty heavy and thick. Thick paper is harder to fold for beginners and without a folding tool. Additionally, it’s too heavy to fly. As I previously mentioned, there’s a fine line here.
You go too light, and the airplane has no mass to carry it through the air. But you go too heavy, and the gravitational pull makes it descend way too quickly.
As Sciencing notes, it’s similar to the idea of throwing a rock and a cotton ball. You’ll see that a rock flies farther because it has more mass than a light cotton ball.
However, if you try throwing a larger rock, you’ll eventually reach a point where even a cotton ball flies farther than a rock.
Cardstock paper is heavier than construction and copy paper, but you can still use it for paper airplanes. However, don’t go out of your way to get cardstock. If you already have a copy paper, use it, as it will make a better paper airplane.
What Helps a Paper Airplane Fly Farther?
Good design and powerful thrust help paper airplanes fly farther. Also, the person throwing it must be skilled enough to hit the right angle and use enough strength. A symmetrical and durable design will take care of the rest. Slightly heavier paper can also make it fly farther.
A good design is the most important thing, as it affects things like friction, aerodynamics, drag, and more.
The paper you use also plays a major role. A good design means nothing if your sheet of paper is heavier than an anvil. And you can’t fold thick paper neatly in the first place.
Here are some factors that affect how far your paper airplane flies:
There are some other things like Earth curvature, humidity levels, temperature, and so on. But these don’t affect how far your paper airplane will fly nearly as much.
For starters, make sure the paper airplane is completely symmetrical. Any minor asymmetry will throw the balance out of whack, and the airplane will fly back to you or land on its side.
If you’re attending a competition, a good throw is perhaps more important than design.
You can learn how to make the most complex, beautiful, and aerodynamic paper airplane in the world rather quickly. There are tons of videos and guides you can refer to that show the process.
However, you need to practice the throw. Muscle memory is important, so keep working on your throwing technique. You could ask a professional athlete to help you. They should ideally be familiar with Olympic throwing sports like javelin throw and hammer throw.
But in the context of paper airplanes, it’s best to practice throwing them. Foldable Flight shares a few handy tricks that you can learn from this YouTube video:
Pair your good throwing technique with an aerodynamic design for the best results.
How Does Adding Paper Clips to a Paper Airplane Affect Its Flight?
Adding paper clips to a paper airplane increases the overall weight, which will bring the paper airplane down faster. However, adding one clip to the nose may act as a counterweight and allow it to fly further.
You can add a paper clip to the nose to shift the center of gravity. However, it usually adds too much weight and ruins the aerodynamics of the paper airplane.
Note that a good paper airplane design takes this problem into account, which is why a heavy-nosed paper airplane is used for maximum distance. The only problem with this design is that the tip of the nose isn’t sharp enough. So, aerodynamics suffer a bit.
What you want to do instead is to fold a few layers under the nose. By doing that, you can craft a paper airplane with a good center of gravity without sacrificing aerodynamics.
What Is the Best Shape for a Paper Airplane?
The best shape for a paper airplane is the triangular shape. The world record holder in throwing a paper airplane uses the Suzanne design, which is a triangular glider. A rectangular shape is also very good for long-distance throws.
There are some lavish paper airplane designs out there. Enthusiasts constantly invent new shapes. They fold the paper 50 times in 20 different spots to make a cool-looking airplane.
But in most cases, that’s all there is to it – it looks cool. They often don’t perform very well.
Suzanne is surprisingly easy to make. It only has a few folds, but it didn’t stop it from breaking records. This Daily Mail article has an in-depth guide on how to fold a Suzanne.
If you want your paper airplane to stand out, make a rectangular glider. They are extremely fast. I remember folding one as a teenager, and I was shocked by how fast it flew.
Paper airplanes are a fun hobby, but in order to make the best possible airplane, you will want the perfect paper. Thick types of paper like cardstock are good, but they add a lot of unwanted weight. Construction paper is arguably the best because it has more mass than copy paper but isn’t too heavy.
Remember to also pay attention to the following factors to make your paper airplane fly further:
- Throwing technique
The paper you use is only one part of the equation. Make sure it’s not too heavy, durable, and smooth.
Thanks for reading!
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