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What is Paper Weight and Why is this so Confusing?

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Paper weight can seem so arbitrary and down right contradictory at first glance. This is due to a two part process used to define a papers overall characteristics, type and base weight.

  1. Type: The opacity/density (how easily light passes through it) of the sheet of paper. To achieve a desired opacity, manufacturers use different materials in the construction of the paper. A paper's Type is described using many terms which often reflect these materials and their intended . Some of these include:
    • Paper Weight


    • Bristol
    • Cover
    • Cover DT
    • Cover Duplex
    • Index
    • Label
    • Tag
    • Text
    • Writing
  2. Base Weight: The weight of 500 "Parent sheets" of paper before being cut into common sizes. Paper is manufactured in large parent sheets to allow for efficiency in manufacturing of various sizes such as letter, legal, A4 and ledger. Sounds simple, It's not. Different paper Types with the same basis weight will not weigh the same. This due to the fact that each paper Type (bond, text, etc.) has a unique parent sheet size. Since a papers base weight is based on the weight of 500 "parent sheets", its base weight is only comparable to other paper using the same parent sheet dimensions. A sheet of 50lb text is much lighter than a sheet of 50lb cover.

To help with the confusion many manufacturers are starting to use grams per square meter (gsm) to describe a papers weight. A sheet of paper with a measurement of 50gsm means that one square sheet, 1 x 1 meter, weighs 50 grams. Since all paper is measured using the same sheet dimension, all papers can be compared regardless of Type.

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What is Paper Weight and Why is this so Confusing? - MyCards4Less

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