Digital Printing & Paper Weight: Making the Right Choice

Like many aspects of the digital printing world, the terms and concepts used to identify different types of paper and cardstock are nearly incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t familiar with the industry. In fact, if you try to interpret this subject matter using common sense, you’ll be more confused than ever.

When you place an order with your professional printer, one of the first things they will likely ask you is what stock you want to use. Aside from color, recycled content, etc., you must consider characteristics such as finish, thickness, weight, bulk and more.

Digital Printing & Paper Weight Making the Right Choice

Today, we will try to make sense of weight.

What Is Digital Printing Paper Basis Weight?

In this context, paper weight doesn’t refer to one of those heavy, acrylic discs with a honeycomb or copper nugget inside.

The basis weight of any specific paper stock is determined by how much one ream (500 sheets) weighs at a designated sheet size. That size 17 x 22 inches for bond stock, which is your everyday, basic type of paper. But, for higher quality, heavier paper – known as cover, Bristol or index stock – the sheet sizes used to determine weight are all different.

Cover stock used 20 x 26-inch sheets to determine basis weight. For Bristol, sheet size is 22.5 x 28.5 inches and, for index stock, sheet size is 22.5 x 30 inches.

In general terms, 20 lb. paper is the economical, lightweight type that we use in the printer and copier. Medium weight is 22 to 24 lbs., and heavy paper is 28 to 32 lbs.

If this sounds utterly confusing and meaningless, take heart – we have a shortcut to help you make sense of it all.

Using GSM to Determine Digital Printing Paper Weight

GSM is a metric measurement that stands for “grams per square meter.” This measurement (also known as “grammage”) is standard to all types of stock, so you won’t have to measure or calculate sheet sizes to figure out how heavy the paper is.

Most digital printers equipment, as well as your office copiers and printers, now use this standard of specification. And, finally, most paper manufacturers have begun putting the GSM rating right on the paper packaging.

For reference, 20 lb paper is typically rated at around 75 GSM. For 24 to 28 lb. paper, expect to see GSM in the range of 90 to 105; and 32 lb. paper is approximately 120 GSM.

Which Weight of Digital Printing Paper Do You Need?

To determine the weight of digital printing paper that you need, consider the purpose of your print project. If you’re printing an important client proposal or a letter to the board of directors, you likely want heavier (higher quality) stock.

If you’re printing employee manuals that you plan to put in a binder, you might opt for a medium-quality stock, for long-term durability.

If you’re printing handouts for a meeting, everyday forms or documents for your files, light-duty digital printing paper is likely more than sufficient.

The digital printing experts at Sun Print Solutions can help you select the paper or card stock that best meets your goals and your budget. We are a full-service printing company serving customers in Utah and all around the United States. Contact us today for all of your offset and digital printing needs.

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