Definition of Paper Weights

paperStacks.pngStock designations in printing can be very confusing. For instance, a printer may use 60# offset stock for letterhead or a 24# bond stock. In actual fact, 24# bond, and 60# offset weights are approximately the same. But the offset stocks are generally for full color printing, while bond stocks are more often used for one and two color printing.

Caliper refers to the thickness of a sheet of paper expressed in thousandth of an inch. This measurement is taken with a gadget called a micro meter. Normally, paper caliper should not have more than a + or - 5% variance within a sheet.

It isn't practical to talk about the weight of a single piece of paper, so the 500-sheet ream is the unit that has been chosen for comparisons. Americans designate by "basis weight" which is calibrated on how much a ream of that particular paper weighs when cut to it's basis size. The basis size varies by category of paper.

Most of the rest of the world generally designates "grammage" which is grams per square meter. .

Paper weight is sometimes stated using the "#" symbol. For example, "20#" means "20 pounds per basis ream of 500 sheets".

To confuse the issue even more, paper is generally designated by weight while cardstock is designated by thickness.

Definition of terms

Grain: When printers are designating paper, they also take into account which direction the grain is running which is the direction most fibers lie in a sheet of paper. For example, with bottle labelling it is essential that labels are produced with grain running left to right, otherwise the labels might peel off the bottles. Grain direction can and does have an effect on some laser printers, so its best to be aware.

Regarding the terms in the chart below:

Bond paper: writing paper and reprographic paper used for letterheads and business forms. It is manufactured at 17" x 22" and cut down from there. (It's name is derived from the original use of such paper for government bonds.)

Offset paper: more resistant to water than bond so it dries quickly and less susceptible to "picking" (Where tiny bits of the surface of the paper may come off while printing).

Cover weight: generally used for the cover of books, pamphlets, or other soft covered books.

Tag: strong, heavy paper calendered (flattened) to a smooth hard finish.

Index paper: heavy, stiff paper characterized by bulk and strength; includes index and printing bristols.

This chart will help you sort out how the designation of one category of paper compares to another.

The blue numbers indicat the most common weights offered in each category.

Weight and thickness equivalents for paper stocks

Bond Offset Cover Tag Index Points Thickness
Lbs Lbs Lbs Lbs Lbs   Inches
16 40 22 37 33 3.2

.0032

20 50 28 46 42 3.8

.0038

24 60 33 56 50 4.8

.0048

28 70 39 64 58 5.8

.0058

29 73 40 62 60 6

.0060

36 90 50 82 75 6.8

.0068

43 110 60 100 90 7.4

.0074

47 120 65 108 97 8

.0078

53 135 74 122 110 9

.0085

54 137 75 125 113 9

.009

58 146 80 134 120 9.5

.0092

65 165 90 150 135 10

.0095

67 170 93 156 140 10.5

.010

72 183 100 166 150 11

.011

76 192 105 175 158 13

.013

82 208 114 189 170 14

.014

87 220 120 200 180 15

.015

105 267 146 244 220 18

.0175


The information above was compiled from a number of sources, one of which was: paper.com

Although every effort is made to remain current, Tarvin Commercial Art does not intend to provide legal advice and does not warrant the accuracy of data.