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Paper 101 - Paper Weight Guide


Are you finding paper weights to be confusing? Why is 80 lb. "text" paper lighter and thinner than 65 lb. "cover"?  Follow along as we explain how paper weight is calculated and what it means.

  • Paper weight, also known as BASIS WEIGHT, is measured in LBS (pounds) and GSM (grams per square meter)
  • GSM is a universal measurement and applies to all paper types, making it a better measurement of a paper's weight
  • LBS alone does not adequately convey the weight of paper
  • The TYPE of paper is a key element when using LBS because . . .
  • Paper comes in many types or categories, each with a unique weight in LBS because of the way it is calculated. Let's explain further!


    Here are a few common paper types:

    Bond, Book, Text, Index, Bristol, Laid, Wove, and Cover

    • Each type of paper has a different "standard sheet" size. Here are a few examples of paper type standard sheet sizes:
     Book or Text 25 x 38 inches
     Index 25.5 x 30.5 inches
     Bristol 22.5 x 28.5 inches
     Cover 20 x 26 inches
    • Paper weight is measured in pounds per 500 standard sheets within its type 
    • Each type of paper has it's own range of basis weights because their standard sizes are different
    • If 500 sheets of a paper's standard sheet size weighs 100 lbs., then the paper weight or basis weight of that type of paper will be 100 lb.
    • So a larger standard size sheet of a lighter thinner text-weight paper can weigh more than a smaller standard size sheet of a thicker heavier cover-weight paper
    • When standard size sheets are cut down to commonly used sizes, they are still referred to by their original basis weight calculation
    • The heavier paper grade commonly referred to as "cardstock" is technically known as "cover"


    • The measurement of a paper's thickness is also known as it's "caliper" and is measured using a tool called a micrometer
    • Caliper is expressed as a point size in thousandths of an inch
    • One point equals 1/1000 of an inch and can be expressed as 1 pt. or .001
    • Paper weight gives a good indication of the range of thickness of a paper type, however, thickness can vary due to the materials used in making the paper, and how much it is compressed or compacted together during the paper making process called "calendering"
    • Calendering is the smoothing and compressing of paper which will determine how rough or smooth the paper will become 
    • Two papers of the same weight can have different caliper measurements


    Here is a chart to further illustrate:


      (refer to chart above)

      Light Weight Paper

      • Like pages of a book or regular copy paper
      • Can be folded without scoring
      • Very flexible and easy to manipulate
      • Prints in most home printers

      see additional note about printing below

      Medium Weight Paper

      • Like a standard greeting card
      • Should be scored before folding
      • Noticeably thicker than a light-weight paper
      • Prints in most home printers

      see additional note about printing below

      Wedding Suite Colorplan Mid-green Natural cardstock

      Heavy weight paper

      • Like a heavy greeting card
      • Often used for single panel cards and business cards
      • Must be scored before folding
      • May not print in some home printers

      see additional note about printing below

      Extra-Heavy Weight Paper

      • Extra heavy weights are similar to gift box weight or chipboard
      • Can be DT (double-thick) meaning two sheets are pasted together
      • Often used for packaging and letterpress
      • Can only be printed by professional printers

      Note: Printing is dependant on the printer meeting a paper's specific printing requirements. Not all paper can be printed on any printer. Visit our Printing 101 Page for information on printing.

      For more information on Navigating Paper Weight, visit our Blog

      We're Here to Help . . .

      We hope this information helps to demystify paper weights.

      Looking for the perfect paper? Click on the Shop All link below.

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      Still have questions? Contact us using the form below and we'll be glad to answer any additional questions you may have.