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Understanding Paper Stock for Printers and Copiers

Ted McLeod
03/17/2021
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Paper is probably the most common office supply, but it is more complex than you may think. Whether you're looking to print a flyer, photos or a stack of business cards, you’re going to need specialized paper. Today, I’m going to explain the basics of paper stocks and how to get the most out of paper in your office.

When choosing the correct paper weight, keep in mind the function you want the paper to serve. As a rule, heavy paper is effective for professional documents, while lighter paper is ideal for everyday use.

What most of us consider regular copy paper is often referred to as a "20 lb. bond" or "50 lb. text weight." On the other end of the spectrum, a sturdy stock is listed as "Cover" or “Card” stock. These can be sold in many different thicknesses or weights. The heavier the stock typically the greater impact the final piece will make.


Understanding Paper Weight

Unfortunately, there are three common methods for specifying paper weight and thickness. To avoid confusion, we will stick with U.S. Basis Weight. The most common categories are:

Standard
20lbs

Inexpensive, fits in most printers and is jam resistant. Ideal for faxes, draft documents or printed emails.

22-24lbs

Smoother finish, versatile and fits all office printers. Excellent for presentations, resumes, proposals, customer documents and contracts.

28-32lbs

Offers best colors, holds up well to heavy ink, smoothest finish and the result is very durable.

Cover or Card stock
60 lb. to 110 lb.

Heavier and stiffer than text weights for prints that will be handled or hung.


The “Basis Weight” is defined as the weight of 500 sheets of paper in its basic unit uncut size, which means before being cut to Letter size or Legal size, the paper is weighed and categorized. The most common sizes are Bond, Text, Book, Cover, Index and Tag. An uncut sheet of Bond paper is 17 x 22 inches, while an uncut sheet of Cover paper is 20 x 26 inches. If 500 sheets of Bond paper (17 x 22 inches) weigh 20 lbs, then a ream of paper cut to Letter size will be labeled as 20 lb. And if 500 sheets of Cover paper (20 x 26 inches) weigh 65 lbs, then a ream of this paper trimmed to size would be marked as 65lb.

If this is confusing, don’t worry, even professional printers don’t keep track of all the permutations. But based on experience from using a small subset, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect when reaching for a 24lb Bond versus a 60lb Cover or a 110lb Index.

What Is Point Size?

When selecting paper, it’s important to make sure your printer can handle the weight you are feeding it. Paper that is too thick for your printer can result in your printer heads scraping against the page while it’s printing. This leads to scratching on your page, blurred images, and paper jams. It can also result in your printer parts becoming damaged by paper fibers from the page.

Along with weight, point size becomes important on heavier papers and describes the density and “grit” of the page. Heavyweight papers come in a smoother finish or look visibly woven, as is common with cotton-blended resume papers. Your point size, much like the point size of your printer, describes the smallest ink droplet your paper can clearly print. Those extra-sharp looking letters on your business card? That’s a better point size in action.

Obviously, there is a lot more to paper than meets the eye. If you are looking to up your printing capabilities or want to get the most out of your office printer, reach out the print professionals at the Gordon Flesch Company. We can help you maximize your current print technology or help upgrade your equipment to the next level.

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