Paper Weight and Thickness Guide

Posted on May 2, 2014 by Frankye Robinson

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You want your presentations and printouts to look as good on the page as they do in your vision. Using the right paper ensures your finished project has the right look and feel. One key factor in choosing the right paper is paper weight. 

A paper's weight helps determine how it feels to the touch, how easily it folds, and how easy pages are to turn. Our office paper weight guide will help you successfully execute your vision with the right paper weight for your project.

Paper Thickness vs. Paper Weight

Many people think paper thickness and weight are the same thing, but they are two distinct measurements. Paper thickness is the width of a single sheet of paper. It is affected by finish and weight, and measured in calipers. One caliper point equals one thousandth of an inch. Caliper is usually only a concern of business operating specialty printing equipment. 

Paper Weight Categories

There are several paper weight categories, but the two you are most likely to encounter in the office are bond paper and cover stock. Comparing paper weight across categories is a little tricky, because in the US, paper manufacturers make paper to the basis weight standard. Basis weight is determined by weighing 500 sheets of paper. However, each category is weighed with different sheet sizes. For example, the basis weight of any standard office paper is the weight of 500 17" x 22" sheets. The basis weight of cover stock is determined by the weight of 500 20" x 26" sheets.

Because basis weight is specific to the US and a little convoluted, many paper manufactures also provide the metric system measurement of grams per square meter (gsm). GSM is a continuous scale applicable across paper categories, so you can use it to compare the relative weights of different types of paper. The ability to compare paper weight across categories is useful if you ever need to make substitutions due to price or availability.

Bond Paper Cover Stock

Bond paper is an industry term for basic office paper. It is well suited to handwriting as well as inkjet and laser printing.

  • Basis Weight: 13-40 lbs.
  • GSM: 39 -151 gsm

Cover or card stock is the heavier paper used to cover booklets, pamphlets and presentations.

  • Basis Weight: 50-100 lbs.
  • GSM: 135-271 gsm
Text and Offset Paper Bristol Paper

Text and offset paper are thin papers used for the pages of books and magazines. Typically sold in rolls.

  • Basis Weight: 30-120 lbs.
  • GSM: 44-178 gsm
Bristol Paper is made by laminatating two sheets of of text weight paper to form very stiff cover paper.
  • Basis Weight: 67-160 lbs.
  • GSM: 148-351 gsm
Now that you have a better understanding of paper weights, check out our office paper buying guide for more tips on picking the right paper finishes and colors.
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