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The Ultimate Guide to Paper Weight and Thickness

Paper isn't just paper; its weight and thickness play crucial roles in determining its purpose, durability, and suitability for different applications. Whether you're an artist, designer, printer, or simply someone seeking clarity about paper types, this guide will illuminate the nuances of paper weight and thickness.


In the packaging world, paper thickness and texture can play a huge role when interfacing with customers in person where they get a chance to hold and feel the product. It could make all the difference.



Variety of paper thickness and colors


Paper Weight


Basis Weight: Paper weight is typically measured in pounds (lb) or grams per square meter (gsm). The basis weight refers to the weight of a ream (500 sheets) of paper at its standard size. For example, standard printer paper is often 20 lb or 75 gsm.


Different Weights for Different Needs: Lighter weights like 20-28 lb (75-105 gsm) are ideal for everyday printing, while heavier weights such as 32-100 lb (120-270 gsm) are used for business cards, brochures, or invitations.


Understanding Thickness: Lighter weights are thinner, while heavier weights are thicker. This impacts how the paper feels and its durability. For instance, thicker paper is less prone to tearing and has a more substantial feel.



Paper Thickness


Caliper: This refers to the paper's thickness, usually measured in thousandths of an inch or millimeters. For instance, a 10-pt cardstock might have a caliper of 0.010 inches.


Microns: In some cases, paper thickness might be measured in microns. This unit is particularly used for very thin papers or films, where precision is crucial.


Texture and Feel: Thickness often correlates with the paper's texture and feel. Thicker papers tend to feel more luxurious and sturdy, enhancing the tactile experience of printed materials. Textured patterns can provide an enhanced sensory touchpoint when used within packaging as it helps enhance its appeal rather than just using visual elements. We are currently sourcing "soft-hand" paper for a few of our clients to achieve a more premium touch.



Textured paper


Choosing the Right Paper


Consider the Use: Think about the purpose of the paper. Will it be used for printing documents, creating art, packaging, or invitations? Each purpose may require a specific weight and thickness.


Printer Compatibility: Ensure that the paper weight and thickness are suitable for your printer. Heavier or thicker papers might not work well with all printers, leading to jams or printing issues. Thicker paper is normally printed using huge commercial metal printing plates with CMYK color formats.


Quality vs. Cost: Higher weight and thickness often indicate better quality but might also come at a higher cost. Balance your needs with your budget.



Popular Paper Types and Their Weights


  • Bond Paper: Ranges from 16-32 lb (60-120 gsm), commonly used for documents, letterheads, and general printing.

  • Cardstock: Varies widely from 50-110 lb (135-300 gsm), suitable for business cards, postcards, and invitations due to its sturdiness. The tincture boxes that we normally source for our customers are 150gsm which hold strong weight.

  • Text Paper: Typically 50-100 lb (75-150 gsm), used for book pages, brochures, and flyers due to its balance of weight and flexibility.




Understanding paper weight and thickness is fundamental for selecting the right paper for your specific needs. Whether it's for printing, design, or crafting, knowing the appropriate weight and thickness can elevate your projects and ensure the best results.


Next time you're faced with choosing paper, armed with this guide, you'll confidently pick the perfect weight and thickness for your project!




Thanks for reading,


Jack Pounce

Owner of Drop-Ship Packaging




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