How much do you weigh?

Hold onto your hat for this one, I’m going to attempt to explain the difference between paper weights.  Not the kind that sits on your desk. No, the confusing labyrinth of numbers that come into play when deciding which weight paper to print your letterhead, or those flyers for the church fund raiser on.  If you’re in charge of printing the HOA newsletter for your home owner’s association, how do you know if you should use 80# text or 80# cover?  I’m going to try to shed some light on the situation, but I have to warn you… there are people who have been in the printing industry for decades who can’t explain this, so if it doesn’t work out for me, give me another chance… Maybe I’ll try to explain something easier, like the BCS.

Ok so lets cover the basics first. There are two things that need to be understood.

First and easiest to understand, is thickness, or GSM (it stands for grammage somehow). GSM is confusing to folks in our industry, because it is a fairly new system in America, because it is based on the metric system. The GSM is calculated by weighng the paper and counting the grams per square meter (g/m²).  Somewhere along the way we replaced the “/” with an “S” and came up with GSM.

Next, we have the more complicated “Basis Weight”. This is the typical way that we have referred to paper in America for decades.The basis weight is calculated by taking 500 sheets of a type of paper and weighing it. But not just 500 sheets the way your probably thinking, no, I’m talking about “parent sheets”, these vary from 17″ x 22″ all the way up to 25″ x 38″. So if you think about all the different sizes, and thicknesses, you can understand how this stuff can be very confusing.

There are several “types” of paper that have to be determined before any “weights” can be calculated. Some of these types include Bond, Writing, Book, Text, Offset, Cover, Index & Bristol.  Those are the the most popular types of paper used in the printing industry. Once the type  of paper is figured out, the weight comes next. Each type of paper has a particular parent sheet size that is weighed 500 sheets at a time. Using this formula, standard copy paper (20# bond) is weighed in 17″ x 22″ sheets, so apparently 500 of these sheets weigh 20 lbs, or what we call 20# bond. Not to keep boring you, but for clarification purposes, I’ll do another one.  60# text is weighed in a larger sheet size, 25″ x 38″. So 500 sheets of this large sized sheet weigh 60 lbs, and we call it 60# text.

Imagine that each type of paper has it’s own column of weights listed. If the all of the columns were then placed beside each other based on the actual thickness of the paper, some of the weights would be the same thickness, with totally different weights.  For instance 24# writing and 60# text are exactly the same thickness.  I have made a chart the best way that I could below.  Hopefully it will hep make some sense out of all this crazyness!

#1 20lb Bond/Writing 75 gsm same weight as 50lb Book/Text/Offset
#2 24lb Bond/Writing 90 gsm same weight as 60lb Book/Text/Offset
#3 28lb Bond/Writing 105 gsm same weight as 70lb Book/Text/Offset
#4 32lb Bond/Writing 120 gsm same weight as 80lb Book/Text/Offset
#5 50lb Book/Text/Offset 75 gsm same weight as 20lb Bond/Writing
#6 60lb Book/Text/Offset 90 gsm same weight as 24lb Bond/Writing
#7 70lb Book/Text/Offset 105 gsm same weight as 28lb Bond/Writing
#8 80lb Book/Text/Offset 120 gsm same weight as 32lb Bond/Writing
#9 100lb Text 150 gsm similar weight as 67lb Bristol
#10 67lb Bristol 145 gsm similar weight as 100lb Text
#11 90lb Index 165 gsm similar weight as 65lb Cover
#12 110lb Index 200 gsm similar weight as 80lb Cover
#13 140lb Index 255 gsm somewhat similar weight as 100lb Cover
#14 65lb Cover 175 gsm similar weight as 90lb Index
#15 80lb Cover 215 gsm similar weight as 110lb Index
#16 100lb Cover 275 gsm somewhat similar weight as 140lb Index
#17 130lb Cover 350 gsm no other comparison on this list

I hope that this little lesson in my world helps you understand what paper that you need for you next project.  If you’re still confused, just give us a shout and we’ll help you make the right decision. Until then, I’ll be watching my weight!

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  1. Lisa Vorwerk
    Posted March 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I am trying to figure out how much paper actually weighs. I want to use 65 lb. cover to print my own wedding invites. They are folded booklets so each will use 1 and a half pieces of 8 x 11″ paper plus an envelope. I am trying to determine if all of that will be under one ounce (44 cent stamp) or more and if more, how much more are we talking? Can you help?

    Thanks so much!

  2. Posted March 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink


    This is a great starting place, most people go with something that they love first, and have to incur additional postage charges because of their lack of planning. Good Job!

    The best thing to do is to get samples of all of the pieces and weigh them together as they will be mailed. That will give you the most accurate weight. All 65# cover is not created equal, so weighing actual samples is your best bet. If you don’t have samples available, swing by our shop, or give us a call. We can show you some samples and weight them out for you.

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