Not all paper was created equal or at least that’s what Paper Grammage “says” 🙂

Paper grammage is an important aspect to consider when it comes to choosing the right paper for various purposes. Understanding the science behind it and its practical implications can make a significant difference in your printing and mailing experiences. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what paper grammage is, the different units used to measure it, how it is measured, factors that affect it, and its practical applications.

The type of paper you decide to use in your print jobs can drastically affect the overall impression of your brand. On the other hand, if you use expensive paper for something that will be used internally, it can be an unnecessary expense. Many business owners don’t know what paper grammage even means. 

Knowing which paper grammage to choose when ordering your products can spell the difference between a product that stands the test of time, and one that wilts when it is passed from one person to the next.

Paper with a lighter weight is best suited for certain applications, while thicker, heavier paper is better for others. Knowing the ideal GSM for your paper product can help you avoid spending unnecessary money on something that does not even. So, what exactly is ‘GSM’, and which paper grammage is best for which product?


The best way to know for sure that you’re ordering the right paper – our paper sample booklet. Only pay for delivery, and get your money back in store credit on the first order. Are you a print reseller? We have an unbranded paper booklet version too.

What Exactly Is Paper Grammage?

GSM stands for ‘grams per square meter’. And means just that – the higher the GSM, the thicker and sturdier the paper. The weight of various types of paper is measured from a sample sheet cut to one square meter in size. No matter the length or width of the paper, the weight measurement is always taken from the square meter sheet.

When it comes to paper, weight matters. Whether you’re choosing paper for printing, packaging, or any other purpose, understanding the concept of grammage is essential. It allows you to make informed decisions and select the right paper for your specific needs.

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To give you an idea, most newspapers are printed on 55gsm – this is 45gsm lighter than your regular copier paper! Postcards, business cards and product tags are usually printed on 350gsm. This gives these items the strength to withstand lots of handling. If you plan to take it out of your wallet or handle it often, this is the paper you need. You can add lamination to specific products to improve their durability. Printulu offers three types of lamination: Soft Touch (Velvety), Matt & Gloss.

The science behind paper weight

Understanding the science behind paper weight can help you make informed decisions when selecting paper for a specific purpose. The weight of paper is determined by the density and thickness of the paper fibers used in its production. Papers with higher grammage have denser and thicker fibers, resulting in a sturdier and more durable product.

Imagine holding a sheet of paper in your hand. Have you ever wondered what gives it its weight? It’s the fibers that make up the paper. These fibers, derived from various sources like wood pulp or cotton, are intertwined to form a strong and flexible sheet. The more fibers packed into a square meter, the higher the grammage.

When paper is manufactured, the fibres are mixed with water to create a pulp. This pulp is then spread onto a wire mesh screen, where the water is drained away, leaving behind a mat of fibres. The mat is then pressed and dried to form a sheet of paper. The thickness and density of the fibres in the mat determine the grammage of the final product.

Importance of understanding grammage

Understanding paper grammage is crucial in various industries. For instance, in the printing industry, the choice of paper grammage can impact the quality of the printed materials. A higher grammage paper provides a more substantial feel and can enhance the overall appearance of brochures, business cards, or invitations.

On the other hand, in the postal industry, the grammage of paper affects postage costs. Lighter weight paper will incur lower postage fees, making it a cost-effective option for mailing letters or documents. However, it’s important to strike a balance between cost and quality, as using extremely lightweight paper may compromise the durability and professionalism of your mailings.

Moreover, understanding grammage allows you to compare and evaluate different paper options. It enables you to assess the thickness and sturdiness of the paper, ensuring that it meets the requirements of your project. Whether you’re designing packaging materials that need to withstand rough handling or creating art prints that demand a certain level of texture, knowing the grammage of paper will help you make the right choice.

So, the next time you find yourself in need of paper, take a moment to consider its grammage. It’s not just a number; it’s a key factor that can make a significant difference in the outcome of your project. By understanding paper grammage, you can make cost-effective and quality-conscious decisions that will leave a lasting impression.

Matt VS Gloss: What’s The Difference?

Almost every grammage of paper is available in either matt or gloss. The difference? Gloss paper is typically used for flyers and brochures because of its high shine. As the ink dries well there is no need for a seal varnish as the ink does not rub off. For those more aesthetic items, such as business cards, event posters, or folded leaflets and pamphlets, gloss tends to be the more exciting option, as the slight shine should give your collateral a little more ‘pop’ and a classier feeling.

Matt paper is the opposite of gloss. It is coated with a matt finish to produce a paper and has little to no shine, which prevents glare. This makes it the ideal paper for products that you don’t want too much reflection to bounce off of. It’s also perfect for those who wish to write on their printed collateral, such as letterheads, posters, and flyers with form fields.

Is Gloss Always Better?

Gloss paper does tend to get all the credit for looking high-quality. But this is not always the case. If the design is tacky or the paper will be used for something that doesn’t warrant a gloss paper, the effect could be the opposite. It all comes down to what you will be using the paper for, what effect you want it to achieve, and how well you design it. (For more tips on creating the best design possible, check out our blog post on Designs Do’s and Don’ts)

Different units of paper grammage

When it comes to measuring paper grammage, there are various units used around the world. Each region has its preferred method of quantifying the weight and thickness of paper. Let’s delve into the most common units in use and explore their unique characteristics.

GSM: The most common unit

One of the widely adopted units for measuring paper grammage is GSM, which stands for grams per square meter. This unit provides a straightforward indication of the weight of a square meter of paper in grams. The higher the GSM value, the thicker and more substantial the paper. Conversely, lower GSM values indicate lighter and more flexible paper, which can be advantageous for certain applications.

For instance, a high GSM paper may be ideal for business cards or invitations, as it exudes a sense of quality and durability. On the other hand, low GSM paper may be preferred for flyers or brochures that require easy handling and a lightweight feel.

Basis weight: The American standard

In the United States, the standard unit for measuring paper grammage is basis weight. This unit refers to the weight of a ream, which consists of 500 sheets, of paper in pounds when it is cut to the standard size for that particular type of paper.

To determine the basis weight of a specific type of paper, such as bond paper, a ream of 500 sheets measuring 17″ x 22″ is weighed. This standardized approach ensures consistency in measuring paper weight across different types and sizes.

By using basis weight, manufacturers and consumers in the United States can easily compare the weight and thickness of various paper types. This aids in making informed decisions when selecting paper for specific applications, such as printing documents or creating packaging materials.

Comparing different units

Converting between different units of paper grammage can sometimes be confusing, especially when dealing with international suppliers or trying to understand specifications from different regions. However, having a basic understanding of the relationship between units can greatly facilitate comparisons and informed decision-making.

For example, if you are accustomed to working with GSM and come across a paper specification in basis weight, you can use conversion charts or online tools to determine the equivalent GSM value. This allows for a seamless comparison and ensures you select the paper that best meets your requirements.

Moreover, understanding the different units of paper grammage can also help you appreciate the nuances and preferences in various regions. It showcases the diversity in measurement systems and the adaptability of the paper industry to cater to different needs and preferences.

So, whether you are exploring the GSM options in Europe or considering the basis weight standards in the United States, understanding the different units of paper grammage opens up a world of possibilities and ensures you make well-informed choices for your paper needs.

How is paper grammage measured?

Accurate measurement of paper grammage is essential for consistent and reliable results. The process involves several steps, including determining the paper area and weighing the paper.

When it comes to the world of paper, precision is key. Whether you’re a printer, a packaging manufacturer, or simply someone who enjoys the feel of a well-crafted book, knowing the grammage of paper is crucial. But how exactly is this measurement determined?

The process of measuring grammage

The first step in measuring grammage is to cut a standard-sized sample of the paper. This sample is carefully selected to represent the entire batch of paper, ensuring that the measurement is accurate and reliable. Once the sample is obtained, it is time to bring out the trusty scale.

Now, this isn’t your ordinary kitchen scale. Oh no, when it comes to measuring paper grammage, precision is taken to a whole new level. Specialized paper scales, designed specifically for this purpose, are used to weigh the sample. These scales are incredibly sensitive, capable of measuring even the tiniest variations in weight.

Once the sample is placed on the scale, the weight is recorded. But we’re not done yet. To calculate the grammage, we need to take into account the area of the paper.

Enter the calipers. These nifty little tools are used to measure the dimensions of the paper sample, ensuring that we have an accurate measurement of its area. With the weight and area in hand, we can now move on to the final step.

The weight of the sample is divided by its area to calculate the grammage. This value represents the weight of the paper per unit area, typically expressed in grams per square meter (g/m²). It is a crucial metric in the paper industry, as it helps determine the quality and characteristics of the paper.

Tools used for measuring paper weight

To measure paper grammage accurately, special tools such as paper scales and calipers are used. These tools ensure the precise calculation of paper weight and help maintain consistency in production processes.

Paper scales, as mentioned earlier, are designed to handle the delicate task of weighing paper samples. They are equipped with advanced technology that allows for precise measurements, ensuring that the grammage is determined with utmost accuracy.

Calipers, on the other hand, are indispensable when it comes to measuring the area of the paper sample. These handy devices are capable of measuring the thickness of the paper, as well as its length and width. With this information, the area can be calculated, providing a crucial piece of the puzzle in determining the grammage.

By using these specialized tools, paper manufacturers and other industry professionals can ensure that their products meet the desired specifications. Consistency is key, and accurate measurement of grammage plays a vital role in achieving this goal.

So, the next time you hold a book in your hands or marvel at the intricate design of a packaging box, remember the meticulous process that goes into measuring the grammage of the paper. It is this attention to detail that allows us to enjoy the beauty and functionality of paper products in our everyday lives.

Factors affecting paper grammage

Several factors can influence the grammage of paper. Understanding these factors can help you select the right paper for your specific needs.

When it comes to paper, there is more than meets the eye. The grammage, or weight, of paper is influenced by a variety of factors, each playing a significant role in determining its thickness and density. Let’s dive deeper into some of these factors to gain a better understanding of how they impact the grammage of paper.

Paper type and its impact on grammage

Different types of paper, such as bond paper, cardstock, or newsprint, have varying densities, fiber compositions, and manufacturing processes. These variations directly affect the grammage of the paper. For example, bond paper, commonly used for letterheads and documents, is typically heavier and more substantial compared to newsprint, which is lighter and thinner.

When selecting paper for a specific purpose, it is essential to consider the intended use and desired thickness. If you’re printing important documents that require durability, a higher grammage paper like cardstock would be suitable. On the other hand, if you’re printing newspapers or flyers, a lower grammage paper like newsprint would be more cost-effective and efficient.

The role of moisture in paper weight

Moisture content can significantly affect the weight of paper. Paper is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs and loses moisture depending on the environment it is exposed to. This moisture absorption can alter the grammage of the paper, making it essential to store paper in controlled environments to maintain its intended weight.

Imagine a scenario where you leave a stack of paper in a humid room. Over time, the paper will absorb moisture from the air, causing it to gain weight and potentially increase its grammage. This can lead to unexpected results when printing or using the paper for specific applications.

On the other hand, if paper is stored in a dry environment, it can lose moisture, resulting in a decrease in weight and grammage. This is particularly important to consider when working with sensitive printing processes that require precise paper weights.

To ensure consistent grammage, paper manufacturers often specify the ideal moisture content for their products. This information can help users maintain the paper’s intended weight and performance.

So, the next time you’re selecting paper for a project, take into account not only the type of paper but also the environmental conditions it will be exposed to. By understanding the factors that affect paper grammage, you can make informed decisions and achieve the desired results for your printing or writing needs.

Practical applications of paper grammage

Understanding paper grammage has practical implications in various industries. Let’s explore some of its applications.

Choosing the right paper for printing

When it comes to printing, selecting the appropriate grammage of paper is vital for achieving the desired print quality and durability. Lighter grammage papers are suitable for everyday printing, while heavier grammage papers are ideal for high-quality prints and durable products, such as business cards or invitations.

For example, when printing a brochure for a luxury hotel, opting for a heavier grammage paper can add a sense of elegance and sophistication to the finished product. The weight and texture of the paper can enhance the overall look and feel, making a lasting impression on potential guests.

On the other hand, if you’re printing flyers for a local community event, a lighter grammage paper would be more cost-effective while still providing sufficient quality for the purpose. This allows you to distribute a larger quantity of flyers without exceeding your budget.

The impact of grammage on postage costs

In the postal industry, paper grammage plays a role in determining postage costs. Heavier paper weighs more, resulting in increased postage fees. By selecting a paper with a suitable grammage, you can optimize your postage costs without compromising on the quality of your mailing materials.

Consider a company that regularly sends out direct mail campaigns to its customers. By carefully choosing a paper with a lower grammage that still meets the required quality standards, they can significantly reduce their postage expenses. This cost-saving measure allows them to allocate more resources to other marketing initiatives, ultimately boosting their overall campaign effectiveness.

Furthermore, understanding the impact of grammage on postage costs can be particularly beneficial for businesses that frequently send out catalogs or product brochures. By selecting a lighter grammage paper, they can reduce the weight of each mailing, resulting in substantial savings on postage fees over time.

Understanding paper grammage is a valuable skill that can enhance your printing experiences, reduce costs, and improve the quality of your printed and mailed materials. By considering the science behind paper weight, different units of measuring grammage, the measurement process, factors that affect grammage, and practical applications, you can make informed decisions and unleash the full potential of paper in your endeavours.

Which Paper Grammage is Best for You?

Find out the quick way – simply order your paper sample booklet!

Understanding GSM paper weight should make your choice easier when it comes to selecting options for our printed products. When it comes to our printed and marketing materials, no one wants a cheap or sub-par-looking product. Therefore, choosing the paper grammage that best illustrates the value you provide is always a good idea.

The 90-120 paper grammage gsm range

Everyday office copier and printer paper tend to be 80-100gsm. This is a commonly used paper known as offset paper. It takes colour well due to its high brightness and uncoated rough surface and can be printed and written on repeatedly.

We recommend 100gsm and upwards for the following products:

  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Folded leaflets/pamphlets

This is neither too thick nor thin and is the perfect balance between quality and affordability for these particular items.

The 130-170gsm paper grammage range

This type of paper provides the best paper weight for posters and UV resistance. For notepads, inner pages should be 80gsm bond (copier paper), with a cover of 170gsm upwards. This means your cover will be sturdy, and your inner pages will be perfect for writing.

Booklets, on the other hand, should have 250gsm covers, with 100gsm inner pages. This will keep the cover sturdy, while the inner pages stay light yet strong (think magazines). The same can be said for calendars – these need to be relatively sturdy. If you plan to write on your deskpad calendar, stick to a matt finish.

The 200-300gsm range

This range offers a nice thick sturdy paper with a weighty look and feel. It’s not quite card but is starting to provide a heavier finish. You may want to opt for lighter-weight printed products if you’re considering direct mail campaigns (the paper weight chosen could impact your delivery costs).

The 300-400gsm paper grammage
range

This excellent quality stock is impressively thick, standing up under its own weight and will certainly deliver an impact. If it’s a superior finish that you’re looking for, then 300-400gsm paperweight will prove a good choice. We recommend using 350gsm paper for the following products:

The result will be an incredibly robust, strong and durable product – the kind of product that will last.

What is the Basic Terminology?

When ordering your prints at your online printing company, you may come across some basic terminology for paper. Here’s a quick list of different paper names and what they are used for most regularly.

Bond paper (Basic paper used for plan & office printing)
  • Office copiers, printers, letterhead, and stationery
  • Lighter-weight bond paper for faxes, printing emails, tracing, and use in high-speed copiers
  • Mid-weight bond paper for reports, presentations, double-sided printing, legal documents, and proposals
  • Heavier-weight bond paper for double-sided printing, presentations, signs, fliers, contracts, and resumes
Book paper
  • Print books
  • Booklets
  • Catalogues
  • Magazine publications
  • Posters
Cover paper
  • Business cards
  • Door hangers
  • Menus
  • Invitations
  • Postcards
  • Rack cards
  • Report covers
  • Self-mailers
  • Sketching
Index paper
  • Index cards
  • Postcards
  • Tabs and dividers
  • Manila folders
  • Sketchbooks


Business Cards

The Bottom Line

Even though you may not be 100% familiar with printing, it’s always a good idea to know the basics. This will ensure you know exactly what you will receive after placing your order.

You can order any of the above products via the Printulu website. If you have any questions, you can call our customer care line on (010) 593 0558, or pop us a mail to support@printulu.co.za. One of our awesome customer care agents will be happy to help!

Happy printing!

Related Articles:

  1. The Complete Guide to Printing
  2. Paper Grammage: Which grammage should you order?
  3. Flyers, Forms & Folders – What paper to use for the top 5 F’s?
  4. Flyer Printing: Bringing Your Flyers to Life
  5. How To: Sell Through Customer Service (It’s Super Easy!)
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