Printer paper weight: Paper grammage (metric system)

There is a common practice for the printing companies to ask you about the weight of the paper they are going to print on when you order business cards or flyers.

What is the grammage of paper?

Outside of the United States, the term “paper grammage” is often used for describing the weight of paper. But what does it really mean, and how does the paper weight affect the purpose for which it is used? It is time to find out.

Quite a few different types of paper can be found on the market today.  A paper is most often classified based on its size or finish (matt, chalk, patterned). Aside from the paper size and types of finish, paper sheets can be also classified by its weight.

An example of this would be the weight of a paper with a surface area of 1 square meter (A0 format) and that can be used, among other things, to determine the thickness of the paper in question. The weight of a sheet is in metric system usually expressed in terms of gsm (grams per square metre) units which are essentially interchangeable with grams – thus, for instance, a sheet of 120 gsm has a weight of 120 grams in the A0 format.

Just as the dimensions of different formats are standardised, so is the gramage. It is governed by international standard ISO 536, which, in addition to weight and whiteness (opacity), specifies such characteristics as paper thickness, moisture content, or weight.

Can papers be grouped according to their grammage?

One reference point, for example, can be the common office paper, which comes in a 100 gsm weight most of the time. Virtually everyone has encountered it, so everyone can imagine – at least in rough outline – what thickness a 140 gsm paper or a 50 gsm sheet will be.

It is generally more difficult to bend and cut high grammage paper. Lower-weight papers are easier to fold, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more translucent; it depends on how they are produced.

Common paper weight chart

There are a number of types of paper, each with its own application, as well as a different price. There is no need to print internal documents on expensive, thick paper or to use it as the basis for taking notes on it. A business card that is printed on regular paper, on the other hand, isn’t going to impress anyone.

Available paper types (based on paper grammage)

You will be able to make better decisions and save where it makes sense when you know the weight. Does the thickness of a paper have any effect on what the paper does?

Weights of 15 to 30 gsm

This type of paper is very thin, and it is used for toilet paper, tissue, and paper napkins, amongst other items. I can’t really see much practical use for them in the office.

Paper weight 35 to 55 gsm

There are several purposes for which 55g sheets of paper are used, but they are often employed in newsprint, corporate printed matter, and magazines. Decorators prefer to work with crepe papers (35g) that are thinner and lighter.

Weight 70 to 90 gsm

This type of weight can be found in notebooks, notepads, and low-cost brochures, for example. The 90g papers are great for writing on, allowing for easy folding and cutting. Also, the lighter standard weight is preferred for envelopes, which must be able to withstand transportation, even if they are heavy.

Weight 100 to 120 gsm

This is the level at which we get to the regular office paper (copier paper, papers for printed presentations, thesis papers). Since it has an excellent quality/price ratio, it is rightly regarded as one of the most widely used products in the world.

It is because of the high whiteness and relatively smooth texture of office paper that it readily accepts ink, making it a good choice for printing documents. In addition, it has a smooth surface finish, so it can be used as a leaflet or brochure. If you are planning to print more graphics, you should choose 120g uncoated paper.

Paper weight 130 to 170 gsm

In this case, we are talking about thicker papers. The durability of these materials makes them an ideal material for printing posters and displaying large-scale presentations because of their strength. They are all very durable paper types. The thin photo papers are also in this category.

Weight 170 to 250 gsm

I would describe this ‘grammage’ category as the frontier between conventional papers and cartons. Quarters, some sketch sheets, or covers of magazines, pamphlets, or company brochures all belong to this category of papers. At first glance, a paper of this actual weight seems to be thicker than usual and is even more difficult to handle.

As part of this range, you will also find the lightest cardboards (200 gsm) as well as the heaviest photo papers (260 gsm) and coated paper.

Weight 250 to 350 gsm

Papers with this weight are suitable for printing business cards, invitations or wedding invitations. Thick paper gives business cards and other prints – literally – more weight. Also, it ensures that they have the durability to withstand daily use (frequent handing).

Weight from 350 gsm

The heaviest paper is used for printing, e.g., postcards and other documents that require a lot of strength. Then again, they are mainly used for the manufacture of cardboard, which can weigh up to 600gsm.

For printing, the weight of the paper is important

Heavy paper is difficult for printers to handle due to the limited printer capacity. Conventional printers used in offices and homes are capable of handling paper up to about 300 g of weight. You can print flyers by yourself, but you might definitely want to hire a professional for thicker business cards that need heavier paper.

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