It is important to take the thickness of paper into consideration when working on a print project as it impacts the quality, durability, and usage of your item. However, if you are not in the printing industry, understanding paper weight and thickness can be difficult. In the printing industry, there are a few different ways to describe the weight or thickness of the paper. What makes it difficult is that it differs per types of paper.
There are several different forms of paper stock measurements that can be confusing, but understanding how paper weight and thickness of paper works is your first step to successful printing! Ensure your products come out exactly the way you intended by brushing up on your printing lingo.
Paper Weight Measurement
The three common methods for specifying paper weight and paper thickness:
- GSM: GSM is based on density (g/m^2)
- U.S. Basis Weight: Basis Weight is based on weight (or lbs)
- Caliper: Caliper is based on thickness (inches)
It is best to learn all three types of measurement for a more comprehensive understanding of paperweight measurements.
GSM stands for a gram per square meter and is the metric unit of paper measurement. This is the most simplistic form of paper measurement however it is not the most common use of measurement in the U.S. If you are working with a U.S. printer you will want to understand U.S. Basis Weight.
U.S. Basis Weight
Basis weight is based on the weight of one ream, or 500 sheets, of paper in its basic unit uncut size (ie. the weight is categorized before being cut into legal size or letter size.) A ream is a traditional unit of quantity used for counting sheets of paper. One ream equals 500 sheets of paper. The shorthand you will see to denote this form of measurement is “lb” or “#”. If a paper is described as “60 lb” (or “60 #”) that means that one ream of that paper is 60 pounds. However, the meaning of this number varies for different types of paper.
The most common paper types are:
- Bond Paper: 16, 20, 24, 28, 32 and 36 pounds- Bond paper, also known as writing paper, is used for everyday printing, as well as for letterhead and stationery.
- Text Paper: 50, 60, 70, 80 and 100 pounds- Text paper is most commonly used in commercial printing operations for products such as brochures, letterheads, stationary etc.
- Book Paper: 30-115 pounds- Book paper includes both coated and uncoated papers of various thicknesses. This type is most commonly used for printing books, booklets, magazines, catalogs, and posters.
- Cover Paper: 60-120 pounds- Cover paper is also referred to as cardstock and is thick and stiff. This is usually used for business cards, door hangers, menus, invitations, postcards, rack cards etc.
- Index Paper: 90, 110, and 140 pounds- This paper type is most commonly used for index cards due to its stiffness. It is also used for postcards, manila folders etc.
- Tag Paper: 100-200 pounds- Tag paper is highly durable and stiff, resulting in its use for retail signs, price tags, table tents, door hangers, direct mail postcards etc.
Cover and Text
Of these paper types, the two most common types you’ll encounter are text paper and cover paper. 60 lb Text paper is not the same weight as 60 lb Cover paper because an uncut sheet of Text Paper is not the same size as an uncut sheet of Cover Paper. An uncut piece of Text Paper is 25” x 38” and an uncut piece of Cover Paper is 20” x 26”. To truly understand Basis Weight you need to be familiar with different types of paper and their uncut sizes.
It is important to note that both Text and Cover paper can come as coated or uncoated and coating could positively impact the weight but not necessarily positively impact the thickness of the paper.
If you wanted to get a rough estimate of what a Basis Weight would be in GSM try using the following proportions.
*Please note that the result would be a rough estimate, not an exact.
- 1 lb (for Text Stock) = about 1.5 GSM
- 1 lb (for Cover Stock) = about 2.7 GSM
Basis Weight is one of the most common ways of describing the paperweight but it does not make it easy to understand the thickness of a paper. For a better idea of the thickness of paper, you should order samples. You can order a Book Paper Sample Pack or a Business Card Sample Pack which will help you understand the options available to you if you are looking to print a book.
Another form of paper measurement is using a caliper. This method uses a measuring tool called a micrometer to measure the thickness of paper in points (or pts). One point equals 1/1000 of an inch (or 0.001”). Caliper measurements are most commonly used to describe card stock thickness. Cardstock and Cover Stock are synonymous and used for projects such as postcards, business cards, or door hangers. Check out this helpful tutorial on how to read a Vernier caliper.
Weight and Thickness of Paper Chart
We put together the list below to help you better understand the thickness and weight of certain paper types. The list covers the most popular types however it is not all-inclusive and numbers are estimates. Hopefully, this helps you understand how thick a piece of paper is.
Between specialty paper types and the paperweight system, navigating printing jargon can make understanding what you are ordering very difficult. For that reason, we encourage you to reach out to our customer service team at email@example.com for help. Also, check back into our blog for more helpful materials. A basic understanding of paper weight and paper types can be valuable across industries.