• April 8, 2016

Understanding Paper 101

  • Written by Printing Professional

In the printing business it’s important to understand paper. By understanding, that means knowing the difference between the main types: Board, Bond, Book, Bristol, Text, Cover, Index, Offset and Tag. Each of these types are grouped based on their basic thickness and weight.

The weight (or paper density) has three different measuring scales: Basis Weight (U.S.A.), Caliper and Grams per Square Meter (GSM). Basis is the weight of 500 sheets of the paper in it’s basic size. Basic size does vary though. Caliper is based on the thickness of a sheet of paper in thousandths of an inch. GSM is the weight of a sheet of paper in grams per one square meter. The higher the number, the heavier the paper. Heavier paper is typically thicker as well.

Confused? There’s a lot to learn!

Board, Bristol, Index and Tag:

These are sturdier/harder papers that are more tear resistant. (Think school posters). They range in weight from 90-110 lb (or 180-260 GSM).


Book, Text and Offset:

These paper types are lighter and thinner. They’re great for simple flyers or letterheads. They’re also commonly used in book pages. They range in weights from 25 lb (tracing paper) to 80 lb. In GSM: 40 – 130).




The most commonly used paper is bond. It gets its name from its original use in government bonds. It’s widely used in offices in copy machines and also for stationery and letterheads. It ranges in 20-50 lbs, or 74 GSM.



Cover (also known as Cardstock) is a heavier weight paper. It’s widely used for business cards, menus, EDDM mailings, greeting cards, booklet covers and magazine covers. It’s weight is from 50 to 120 lbs or 175-260 GSM. Below is a pretty famous magazine cover from “Paper Magazine.”


Of course there are also Gloss and Dull coatings that will cause variations in paper weight. That’s a topic for a future blog.