How Much Does My Paper Weigh?

If you have ever dealt with a commercial printer there are always questions about what stock(paper) you are going to use. For most of us our knowledge of paper extends all the way to the white stuff we put in the printer. If fact there are thousands of different combinations of, thicknesses, textures, and colors. Each of these can result in a different feel and look for your project.

Paper Weight:

Is that paper 50 pound? 80 pound? What does that even mean? The weight of the paper refers to how thick it is, it is measured by how much 500 sheets of the paper weighs. So, the more it weighs the thicker the paper is. The problem with this is paper is measured in different size sheets. For instance 80 pound(from now on referred to as “#”)  text paper is weighed in sheets of 25″ x 38″, 80# cover is measured in sheets of 20″ x  26″, so even though they weigh the same, 80# cover is much thicker than 80# text.

If you are dealing with paper you will hear the phrases, text, index, cover, tag(there are others), each of these represents a different size sheet when weighed, therefor 80# means a different thickness for each.  For these four, text is the thinnest, followed in order by index, cover, and tag. For a reference point the paper you have in your home or office printer is 20# “bond”(although it is also sometimes called 50# “text”). Confused yet?


After you have decided how thick the paper should be next comes the how you want it to feel. There are many different textures or coatings for paper, including linen, matte, gloss, and many more.

There are papers that are coated on one side called, “C1S” or coated 1 side, and “C2S”, coated 2 sides(the first thing that makes actual sense). It can be difficult to write on coated paper, at least with most writing utensils. If you would like to have a thank you card printed for example, and you would like to hand write something on it, you will want a C1S stock. It allows you to still have the coated finish and utilize a personal handwritten message. If you are talking with a commercial printer, coated stock with default to C2S, unless otherwise specified.

The texture of the paper is another thing to consider. For a more classic look and feel to a thank you card, you may want to go with a linen stock. It will not be coated(coating a textured stock would essentially eliminate the texture). The textures of paper cover the entire gamut. You can chose from silk, satin, smooth, linen, woven, and just about everything in between.

One very important thing to remember. Colors will look very different on a coated, or textured stock than it will on an uncoated stock. A red ink on an uncoated stock will be a different shade than on a coated stock. Also if your paper has a texture to it, it will absorb the ink differently and therefore look different. If you are going to use a stock that you are not familiar with get a proof to ensure the image will print the way you intend it to.


There are also an endless choice of colors when it comes to paper. Even if you want white, would that be natural white? bright white? pepper white? For the most part paper is white(at least some shade of white anyway), but there are thousands of other colors available if you so choose. Because there are so many options in terms of colors most commercial printers do not stock a wide variety of colored paper. If you would like to have a particular color of paper for your project make sure you inform your printer before hand, it may need to ordered.

Things to Remember

When it comes to the paper you can use for your project, the options are pretty much endless. The most important thing to remember is that no matter what you chose to go with it will change how the colors or images look on the finished product. Printing out a proof on your home or office printer paper will be dramatically different than what prints on the off white, linen your commercial printer is using.





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