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Paper 101 – Basic Weights and Sizes for Paper

Choosing the best paper for your print project can be very confusing and is often an oversight. Most of us do not realize that having sound knowledge of the basics of paper weights and sizes is just as important in creating a lasting impression with your printed design. This also determines the price of paper and the most suitable methods of printing for the selected stock.

What Exactly Is Paper Weight?

Web stock about to loaded into system.When referring to paper weight, it is not as much about the actual weight as it is about the density of the sheet of paper. In European countries, they refer to the weight of paper in GSM (grams per square meter), however in the United States, we call it “basis weight.”

The weight of paper is calculated using the base sizes of paper sheets and is equal to the uncut ream weight for each base size, measured in pounds. Different paper types do not have the same starting base size so basis weights will not correspond. When specifying your stock, it is really important to choose the correct base size and basis weight as this impacts the cost of paper heavily.

What Is Paper Base Size?

Some areas of the world, such as North America and Canada, do not use international paper sizes, but rather opt for letter, legal, executive, and ledger/tabloid paper sizes. It is recommended that you choose the paper size that best suits your project at the very beginning. It is best to familiarize yourself with the different size specifications of paper globally to best ensure the printed product turns out exactly how you intend it to.

The paper weight and base size you choose ultimately determines the paper thickness and type of paper you need to source for your print job.

What Types Of Paper Are There?

Bond Paper

The most common paper type used in offices, schools and homes. It is also known as writing paper and can be used for everyday printing, as well as formal stationery such as letterheads.

Text Paper

A popular paper used for commercial printing of brochures, flyers, and high-end stationery.

Book Paper

Mostly used for printing books, magazines, catalogs, and posters, this paper is available in both coated and uncoated varieties.

Cover Paper

More commonly known as cardstock, cover paper is thick and stiff to the touch. It is used mainly for business cards, menus, invitations, and greeting cards.

Index Paper

The type of paper regularly used for folders and postcards due to the stiffness of the stock.

Tag Paper

A highly durable and hard-wearing paper. Because of the nature of this paper, it is often used for in-store signs, table promo cards in restaurants, swing tags, door hangers and some packaging.

Before you finalize any printing project, it is smart to consult with a print expert to be certain you have chosen the most suitable paper for your project in the correct weight and size, as well as the most competitive price for the quality and finish you desire. It is also a good idea to request paper samples to assess the physical nature of the paper is what you have in mind.

Paper and print go together like peas and carrots. By learning as much as you can about your craft and having a solid foundation in the basics, you will have a head start in the creative process. You can make decisions knowing you will achieve the over-all finish you are looking for, and your client will be impressed by how knowledgeable you are, and how mindful you are of their bottom line.