Paper weights Demystified
In my nearly 25 years of selling stationery, there is one question I get asked more than any other: "what weight is the paper?" A seemingly simple question that has a fairly confusing answer. Actually, comparing apples to apples is the hard part. By removing all the technical jargon and by paring it down to just those types of papers that the average print-it-yourself consumers use, I hope to make it a lot easier.
There are different types of paper with different ways to refer to the weights of each. For example, a printer may quote a customers job using 50# offset giving the impression that the competition's 20# stock is inferior. When, in fact, 20# bond and 50# offset are, for all practical purposes, equivalent.
Most of the technical information about paper types and weights is only of interest to a commercial printer. For the average consumer's desktop publishing needs a few simple rules should suffice. Most desktop publishing papers (also referred to as designer stationery) come in two varieties – bond and cover weight. The name "Bond Paper" adds its own level of confusion. I'll try to clear that up a little later. Anyway, the normal consumer isn't concerned with the myriad of paper types. Offset, Tag and Index are only of concern if you have a printer doing your job. These papers aren't usually available in cut sheet sizes. If you are buying your paper in a retail store and printing it yourself, your choices are pretty much limited to bond and cover weights. Bond is usually available in weights from 20# to 32# and cover is usually only offered in 65#. I have found the chart above very helpful in comparing the various weights.
The weights in this chart are referred to as equivalent weights. Equivalent weights allow us to compare the various types of papers despite their differing basis weights.
A paper's basis weight is the weight of 500 sheets, measured in pounds, of a paper's parent sheet size. Not all papers have the same parent size sheet.
The dictionary definition of Bond Paper is:
1. paper with rag content, originally used for bonds, bank notes, etc.
2. any strong, superior grade of paper used for documents, letterheads, etc.
For all practical purposes, bond paper has come to represent any decent grade of paper sold in cut sheet sizes (letter, legal, 11x17) usually in reams of 500 sheets. Designer papers are often sold in packages of 25 or 100 sheets.
Designer stationery refers to papers that have a design printed on them. You can then print your own message on them using your home or office printer or copier. They are generally compatible with most laser, inkjet and plain paper copiers.
What most people refer to as cardstock is 65# cover weight paper. At the retail level, this is usually sold in cut sheet reams or as business cards or post cards. Most print-it-yourself invitations are 65# cover.
Hopefully, by removing some of the technical jargon from the discussion, I have made the whole discussion a little less mysterious. Keep the paper weight equivalents in mind next time you go shopping and it should all make better sense.