When your print vendor sends you a quote, do you understand what you’re reading?

Paper weight is an important piece of the puzzle that helps determine the quality of the final piece. Paper weight can communicate luxury or economy; it can establish credibility or contribute to the creative strategy of a campaign.

However, when it comes to understanding paper weight, it may be confusing and frustrating for most. The choice of paper is such an important decision when it comes to the feel of a printed piece. It has as much effect on your work as the creative design or the ink you use.


So, let’s dive in and familiarize you with some printing lingo:


Caliper is a term used to refer to the thickness of a sheet of paper, often expressed in a thousandth of an inch. The caliper is directly proportional to the weight of the paper. The greater the caliper the greater the said paper weight. A paper caliper should normally have +5 or -5 variance and is usually affected by its weight and finish.

Basis weight

In printing the basis weight of a paper is basically defined as the sum weight of 500 sheets of paper in its uncut size. So before the paper is cut to legal or letter size it is weighed and categorized. Some common sizes you might recognize are text, index, cover, bond etc.



Grade refers to the types available for your selection. Within each grade, you will find distinctions based on other factors such as opacity, the fiber used, and brightness. For instance, for coated paper, there are premium, ultra-gloss and matte finishes. Text papers are usually distinguished by smooth, felt, embossed and other finishes some common grades include:



Bond stocks are traditionally uncoated papers normally used around the office for laser and photocopier papers. The standard weight varies between 20lb. – 24lb.  You use this kind of paper for rigorous commercial presses.


This classification of papers is the one mostly used for catalogs, booklets, posters and publication magazines. Depending on coated and uncoated types weight may vary from 20 lb. – 50 lb.


This is higher quality than the book grade weight ranging from 60 lb. – 100 lb. used in publications that require a higher grade of paper


In this grade, the papers are heavier utilized for business cards, door hangers, rack cards, book covers, and postcards.


The texture of your paper defines the personality of your work. This term is used to refer to the texture of the paper you want to use. Coated and uncoated are the usual two categories used. Coated papers are usually good at printing photos and art, this is because it gives a glossy finish. Uncoated papers are preferred for printing that has a lot of text. The top layer of uncoated papers absorbs ink making it easier for long texts to be read. High gloss paper gives your pieces a touch of class.

Basis weight

Since the basis weight refers to a ream of paper that is cut to a standard size it is only fair that you carefully consider the quality and quantity of what you print. Paper weight is directly proportional to the opacity of your paper. Heavy paper will enable smooth and readable printing on both sides but also cost more. The weight of your paper will determine the weight of the overall product, which will, in turn, affect your overall costs.

Your business growth depends on getting out the right information, and how you present it will determine the response you get. With the help of companies such as Ironmark, understanding best practices in professional printing just became easy peasy.

Have a print question? Ask one of our well-versed experts.

Written by Kate Harris

Kate Harris is a Digital Marketing Account Manager who ensures her client’s growth while exceeding their expectations. Since graduating from the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner School of Business & Economics in 2015, she has gained an array of marketing skills while working for major health institutions and financial firms before joining the Ironmark team in 2021. She applies her knowledge of market research, email marketing, marketing automation, social media, and keyword and SEO strategies every day in the digital strategies she puts in place for her clients at Ironmark. These strategies consistently lead to increased brand awareness, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction.

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