Understand The Paper Weight

U.S. Basis Weight, Metric Weight, Points

Paper weight is an important component to consider when printing. Heavier media often conveys quality and provides durability. Unfortunately, sorting through the various methods of labeling a paper’s weight is not always straightforward. First, there are three common methods for specifying paper weight and thickness: U.S. Basis Weight (Bond, Book, Index, Cover, Tag, Points, Offset ), Metric weight (GSM or G/m2) and, often interchangeable, Points or Mils (an actual Caliper reading of the paper thickness).

U.S. Basis Weight

The U.S. Basis (not basic) Weights, are the most confusing, simply because the same paper can yield different values based on the “Basis Weight” applied while manufacturing the paper. And higher values don’t always equate to heavier/thicker print media. For example, a sheet of 100lb Text paper is actually much thinner than an 80lb Cover stock.

The “Basis Weight” is defined as the weight of 500 sheets of paper in its basic unit uncut size, which means before being cut to Letter size or Legal size, the paper is weighed and categorized. The most common sizes, some of which you may recognize, are Bond, Text, Book, Cover, Index and Tag. An uncut sheet of Bond paper is 17 x 22 inches, while an uncut sheet of Cover paper is 20 x 26 inches. If 500 sheets of Bond paper (17 x 22 inches) weigh 20 lbs, then a ream of paper cut to Letter size will be labeled as 20 lb. And if 500 sheets of Cover paper (20 x 26 inches) weigh 65 lbs, then a ream of this paper trimmed to tabloid size would be marked as 65lb. This may be a lot to grasp, but don’t feel overwhelmed! Often professional printers don’t keep track of all the permutations. Based on experience from using a small subset, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect when reaching for a 24lb Bond versus a 60lb Cover versus a 110lb Index.

Paper Weight Conversion Chart

The following table serves as a reference for comparing paper weight across the different scales. The values noted in bold are the most commonly available weights.

For example, let’s say you needed to print 5,000 brochures. A common paper weight for this application might be 100lb Text. Or if you wanted just your basic copy paper for everyday use, you might want to select 24lb Bond.

Understanding paper weights and paper types in the printing industry is not easy. However, it is valuable to have a basic understanding of it, whether you work in retail, advertising, IT, finance, for a small business or in a large corporation.

US Basis WeightsCaliperMetric
BondTextCoverIndex1 Point = 0.001″GSM (g/m2)
205075
246090
2870105
3280120
369050136
38100556.0140
431106090162
4712065978.0177
5474110199
588012010.0218
90135245
9314012.0253
100150271
11517014.0310
13020016.0350
Check the more detailed paper weight conversion table here.

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