Everything You Need to Know About Printing Paper

The easy way to understand the thickness of your paper
The easy way to understand the thickness of your paper

Basic Definitions:


Printing paper is also known as stock or substrate. Generally, there are two types of stock – coated and uncoated.


The paper weight is a guide to how thick the sheet will be, the heavier the paper weight, generally the thicker the sheet is, but the true thickness will depend on how dense the fibres are compressed in the sheet.


GSM stands for grams per square meter – this is the metric used to describe the thickness of the paper. GSM is also known as grammage. This is the common measurement for paper used in the UK and Europe. Note that whilst grammage (GSM) is used to describe the thickness of the sheet it is actually the weight of one square meter of the substrate.


The calliper is the thickness of a sheet of paper. The measurement is taken with a micrometer which can also be called a calliper. These days you can get digital callipers that will measure the thickness of a sheet in mm starting from as thin as 0.01mm

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Inches or Mils

In the UK we just refer to metric measurements, if you start dealing with the US they are still all imperial.

Types of Stock:

What is the difference between coated and uncoated paper?

Uncoated paper is paper that has been made without a surface costing. As it does not have a coating it is more absorbent and softer in feel than coated stocks.

Coated paper has a surface coating (made from, clay, chalk and latex) that effects the absorbency, smoothness, gloss and weight of the paper. Generally, this coating will make the paper more receptive to the printing of text and images, so that detail is sharper and colour is brighter and denser. The coating can also be used to adjust the glossiness of the paper according to preference, for example Matte, Silk or Gloss finishes.

Examples of Coated Stock:


Uncoated paper is exactly what it sounds like – paper that has no extra coating or paper finishing. Since there is no coating, there is no glare on the surface, which makes it ideal for prints that have a lot of text or reading materials. Since there is no coating, this is the most porous paper, which is the best for smudge-less writing with the widest range of pens and pencils when compared to the other finishes. All bond stock paper is uncoated.


Matte coating is a light coating that provides a boost to the contrast of your photos, but results in very little glare. The matte coating provides a smoother presentation than an uncoated sheet, and softer than the appearance of a glossy sheet. Matte sheets are good for enhancing visual designs with a more subdued layout and colour set without having a lot of glare, which glossy coatings suffer from.

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Silk / Satin

Satin & silk finishes are somewhere between a gloss and a matte finish. It has a slight sheen to it, (more so with satin) without having that mirror-like shine of a full gloss – both can be written on with a ballpoint pen too. Although not perfect, it is much easier to do than trying to write on gloss.


A Gloss coating provides a lot of shine, which results in a higher contrast and colour gamut than other papers. This coating is great for full colour images where the colour needs to “pop.” This coating gives a very nice finish and professional look for marketing materials or any other kinds of prints that want to show off the colour.

What does the type of stock matter?

The paper you decide to print on affects the look and feel of the final printed item – it has a huge impact on what your final product will look like and how it will feel in the hands.

· Emphasise the senses + link to memory – other stimulus, more unusual it is the more memorable

· Thin paper has to be done on a roll guided through a path

· Lightest 80g magazines

· normally 70g

· cover 250g #

· 350g or above for business card

· 540g duplexing paper manufacturers

Common questions about types of stock:

What type of paper is used for magazines?

Magazines normally use light gloss paper which has a weight of around 70-130gsm for the main body of the magazine, and a weight 0f 170-250 gsm for the cover.

What kind of paper is used for photos?

Ordinarily gloss paper is used for photos.

Weight of Stock:

The term “paperweight” refers to the thickness and sturdiness of the paper, not the actual weight of the sheet. Stock can fall into two types of weights – paper weight which is up to 200g and board weight which is over 200g.

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How the weight of paper is determined in the UK:

Weight is determined by GSM – grams per square meter. This is the weight in grams of the piece of paper if you took a sample of it as a 1 x 1 meter sheet.

So, if you put a 1m x 1m piece of paper on a scale and it weight 180 grams then your weight would be 180gsm, even if you are dealing with a piece of stock that is only the size of a business card. In this system, the higher the number the thicker the paper.

Between 70-100gsm is the average weight of an A4 piece of printer paper that you might find in an office. If you take a look at the pack your printer paper comes in it, it’ll probably be around 80gsm – have a feel to give you a sense of the thickness of this weight.

Quick answers to common questions about paper weight:

How thick is 200 gsm paper?

200 gsm is quite a thick stock. Home printers won’t be able to handle this weight of stock. Typically 200 gsm paper is used for things like posters, high quality leaflets, menus etc.

What is the thickness of cardstock?

Cardstock will be 300gsm and above. 300gsm is the equivalent of a greeting card, or 300gsm and above is your average thickness for a business card.

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