If you’ve ever stepped foot into a print shop or ordered a print job online, you’ve most likely been faced with what can be a daunting question: What kind of paper do you want? Then, that feeling of panic sets in, much like when you’re faced with the paper or plastic question in the checkout line. Your mind races to quickly analyze "the most eco-friendly option" while the customers behind you silently judge you.
Fear not! This crash course in paper weights will make you a paper expert in no time at all.
What Does Paper Weight Refer To?
Without getting into too much talk about the technicalities of certain paper types and offset weights, the answer is really pretty simple. Paper is generally measured in pounds per 500 sheets (a.k.a. one ream) of the standard sheet size assigned to the papers in that category.
Example: Bond paper has a standard sheet size of 17" x 22" (also called "basis size"). If 500 sheets of bond paper weigh 20 pounds, that paper is classified as 20 lb. bond. You might also see this represented as 20# bond.
There are paper stocks that are heavier or lighter than the above example, so you will sometimes see 16# or 24# stock as well.
What Do The Different Paper Stocks Mean?
In commercial printing, you’ll generally see four categories of paper stock:
1. Bond Paper
Bond stock is most commonly used for letterhead, copier paper, and laser printer paper. Similar to bond stock is writing stock. Writing stock is typically pricier than bond. It has shorter fibers, making it softer. It can be used for company stationery and sometimes contains a distinctive watermark. Writing stock can also be made with a variety of finishes.
Standard weights for bond/writing stock are 16#, 20#, 24# and 32#, with 20# being the most commonly used for in-house applications. Use 32# stock for resumes or competitive business documents to really impress!
2. Book Paper
Book stock can come in coated and uncoated varieties. Their weights vary from 30# Bible stock to 115# book stock. Bible stock is very thin paper, so named because it is usually used to print Bibles. Other book stock uses include magazines, catalogs, posters, and booklets.
The basis size for book stock is 25" x 38", so 500 sheets of 30# Bible stock will weigh…you guessed it – 30#!
3. Text Paper
Text stock is a higher grade of paper used in projects requiring a better quality paper. It’s a bit thicker than your standard bond copy paper. Text paper is often used for brochures and flyers, some magazines, and thin posters. Text paper weights range from 60# to 100#.
The basis size for text stock is 25" x 38", so 500 sheets of 60# text stock will weigh…you got it – 60#! (You’re picking this up amazingly fast!)
4. Cover Paper
Cover paper (also called "card stock") is heavy paper used for projects like business cards, postcards, and rack cards. Like text paper, weights range from 60# to 100#.
Because cover paper is a thicker stock, it has a smaller basis size (24" x 36") than text and bond papers. The equation is the same, though – 500 sheets of 80# cover stock is going to weigh 80#.
Paper Choice and Quality
As you may have guessed it, the heavier the paper, the pricier it will be. Some people may have the tendency to skimp on paper weights because they don’t think it’s that important. Psychologically, when people feel a lighter weight paper used on something they instinctively feel should be heavier, they make a value judgment about your company, product or service. Clearly, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Next time the paper choice question comes up, you can relax with the comfort of knowing that you are now a paper pro!