Paper Weight

Can anyone explain a little bit about paper weight. Text weight vs. cover weight. What weight do you typically use for normal stationery, business cards, coasters, etc? I’m planning on using lettra, but just trying to get a more specific idea of weights first. Thanks in advance for any info!

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It can get a bit confusing. Commercially for text we use 20#, 24#, 28#, 32#, 60#, 70# & 80# Thing is if I recall properly 24# & 60# are technically the same weight, but find most “cheap” papers listed as 60# and most higher end papers listed as 24#. Same goes for 28# and 70#.

I think the standard office “nice” letterhead is a 24# watermarked sheet. A lot of the garbage direct mail letter stuff we do is 60# plain paper and the statement type work is all 20# cheap garbage.

We do have a few picky clients that insist on the heavier weight papers.

For business cards I think the industry standard for commercial print is 80# cover. Our shop gets a great deal on 100# cover and people just love how thick and stiff it is so that is our standard stock.

Most Deep impression letterpress business cards are on 110# or 220# cotton stocks.

The weight of paper is determined by the weight of a ream (500 sheets) of the the parent sheet, i.e. 17” x 22”, 29” x 41”, &c. This can be confusing because different sized parent sheets can yield different weight papers. To overcome the confusion paper is usually listed as ‘gsm’ or grams per square meter.
The thickness of the paper is determined by the process used to make and finish the paper. A smooth or plate finish will affect the thickness more than a vellum or laid finish. To make heavier papers the paper mills will make the paper in two or more ply (2+ sheets stuck together), but that will be reflected in the overall weight of the paper.


Following up on what Paul said, using gsm removes the need to define a weight as “text” or “cover” and use just one number to refer to the weight.

For example, an 80lb cover is 216gsm.
Or going the other way, a 300gsm paper is a 110lb cover.

I made a quick spreadsheet to help with the conversions. I find I end up using it nearly every day. You can download it here:

Just type into the gray cells (password is “legionpaper”) to get the conversion. I hope this is helpful.


Let’s be clear.
Paul of Devil’s Tail is quite accurate about paper weights being confusing and based on a ream (500 shts) of the “basic size”. Like rulers that are base on different standards, think: yards, feet, meters or inches. Different kinds of papers use different yardsticks or basic sizes which are related to their common use. For example the basic size of a bond or writing paper is 17” x 22”. Which is four 8.5 x 11’ s.
The three most common types of papers are; bonds and writings, these are your 20, 24, 28 and 32# stocks.
Book or text, basic size 25 x 38, common weights are 50, 60, 70, 80 and 100# text. Cover stocks, basic size 20 x 26”, common weights 65, 80, 100, 120, 130# covers. Some of the more extravagant stocks are pasted versions of these weights. Referred to as “double thick covers”, we often see combos of up to 240# and more.
As an example 20# bond and 50# text are indeed the same weight. However they may have far different characteristics, including things like surface smoothness, thickness, opacity and quality. Keep in mind that based on this system or even the metric (gsm), heavier weight corresponds but is NOT necessarily an indication of thicker, just heavier. You could have a lighter weight stock be thicker, higher caliper, than a heavier stock.
This system is confusing in that without the designation of ” text” or “cover” two stocks can both be 80# but the 80# cover is almost twice as heavy.
Comments above about metric (grams per square meter,gsm), avoid the numeric confusion in that a higher number is always heavier, again but not necessarily thicker.
Steve V.

regarding the Legion Paper conversion tool…password doesn’t seem to work. Could it be something else?

Yeah, the password doesn’t work for me either. I’d appreciate if you could verify that for us, Josh.

Anyone still having password issues? Seems to be working ok - drop me a line if it’s not working.

Otherwise - useful tool?

- Josh

Still not working for me.

I downloaded it again, go to Tools>Protecton>Unprotect Sheet and copy the password exactly as posted above and it says “incorrect password”.

For me, if I try to type into either of the grey entry cells, I get the prompt to type in a password, and when I type in “legionpaper”, it unlocks the grey cells.

Alternatively if it just isn’t working for you, you may want to just select all of the relevant cells in the converter spreadsheet and copy them into a brand new spreadsheet. Then you just have to be careful not to edit the calculation cells.

1806press is correct - don’t try to unprotect the sheet, just try to type in the grey cells and it will prompt you for the password.

If you have any issues, contact me directly. It’s a great little tool.

One thing I would love to add, is save you yourself time and money, do not buy cheap paper.

You save money on the purchase, but many times I found while running a job, the cheap paper acts up.

Cheap NCR, would not glue together as it should, or the image just would print well of the sheet.

Once I purchased a 10,000 #10 regular business cheap envelopes. The glue was good and the envelope pulled apart while printing.

Thank you Josh for the excel sheet and 1806 for the quick fix. The excel tool works great!

What is a good paper weight for printing greeting cards? I’m fine with a little embossment or no embossment.