Why You Need to Know About Paper Weight

What paper weight do I choose for my letterhead? What is the weight of my business card? How could it be that on one order you had 65# paper and on another order you have an 80# paper, but the 65# paper is heavier?  It all has to do with paper weight and understanding how they come up with these numbers.

We need to first define a few terms that will help us see how the above example can happen.  We will do that by defining Paper Type, Basis Weight, and Basic Size.

Paper Type: There are many different types of paper out there.  Some of these include Ledger, Mimeo, Rag Paper, Book, Text, Cover, Tag Stock, Index, etc.  CatPrint works with several styles of text weight (which we call “Letter”) and cover stock (which we call “Card”); so we have already lessened the confusion on what to choose.

Basis Weight: This is the main guide involved in knowing our paper weight.  The basis weight is the fixed weight of 500 sheets, measured in pounds (labeled on paper with the # sign).  This is, however, using the Basic Size for the sheets of paper (see below).

Basic Size: Here’s the tricky part. This is the size each of the 500 sheets (from above) measures.  The very important thing to remember is that the “basic sheet” size is not the same for all paper types. The measurement for text weight paper is 25” x 38”; while the measurement for cover stock is 20” x 26”.

So, 500 sheets, measuring 25”x 38” each, of our Heavy Letter Matte would weigh 100 lbs. and 500 sheets, measuring 20” x 26” each, of our Heavy Card Matte would also weigh 100 lbs.  Due to the differences in the paper’s “basic size” and the standard of 500 sheets being used one can see how confusing figuring out paper weight can be.

Don’t Forget About Thickness

When we are talking about the thickness of a paper we are actually talking about it’s “Caliper”.  Caliper refers to the thickness of the paper sheet and is expressed to the thousandth of an inch.  This measurement is taken by using a micrometer.  There is a general relation between caliper and basis weight that the greater the caliper and greater the weight.  Unfortunately, if you start to compare papers of different categories or paper types, this is where you start to get the same “weight” but a different thickness.

Metric Simplifies Paper Weight with GSM

As we gradually become more comfortable in the world of metric measurements and its principles to keep the math a bit more simple in the paper world, we come across GSM.  GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter and is the metric systems classification for paper.  GSM is an absolute value that disregards whether a sheet is bond, card stock, text, etc. It is the grammage a single sheet measuring a fixed size of 1meter x 1 meter.

If you are debating between two types of paper and have concern of how sturdy they are, we suggest inquiring about the GSM to better make your decision.

Bringing It Together

So after all of this, what do you choose for your letterhead or business cards?  The choice is always yours to make depending on the application.  The general rule is that letter stock is thinner than card stock.  Here are a few suggestions to help you make your choice:

Text Weight or Letter Stock is used for many things including newsletters, flyers, letterheads, pamphlets, booklets, programs and more.  When printing items that will be written on, an uncoated stock will work best, though other stocks may be used.

Cover or Card Stock is commonly used for greeting cards, business cards, tickets, announcements, place cards and more.  Want a sturdier card stock?  Choose a paper with higher poundage or higher GSM.  Be careful not to choose a text weight or letter stock that has a higher poundage; you’ll just be disappointed.