Terms to know when understanding and describing printing paper are: weight (thickness), type: coated or uncoated paper stock (coated = sealants already flooded on the paper that determine the shine and feel of the paper) and Coating as a finishing lamination. ** See Coating 101 (a supplemental sealant after printing for added effect and/or protection). 

 

Paper Weight and Points

When you're talking about weight and thickness of paper,

Weight is taken from the uncut sheets. If 500 sheets of uncut paper weighs 20 pounds, it’s called 20 lb stock. Different types of paper have different standard uncut sizes, so a pound of one is not the same as a pound of the other.  A higher number means thicker, heavier paper.

Point refers to the thickness of the sheet in thousandths of an inch. A sheet of 10 pt. card stock is 0.010 inches thick. A 14 pt. business card is 0.014 inches thick. Business cards are great examples of different paper thicknesses. Most business cards are printed on 12 or 14pt cover stock, while extra thick cards are printed on 18pt or 24pt (or thicker) stock.


Paper Terms

 

Bond Paper - Bond paper or writing paper typically comes in 20 lb, 24 lb, and 28 lb weights. Chances are you have bond paper in your copier at work and printer at home.  Typically used for stationary, laser printing, business forms and reports.

 

Text Paper Text paper is thicker than bond. It typically comes in 70 lb, 80 lb, and 100 lb weights. It’s called text because it’s frequently used for pages in books, but it can also be called offset, ledger, or even book paper. Text paper is easily rolled and works well for printing flyers and handouts.

Cover Paper Cover stock is heavy, rigid, and not easily folded. Typical weights include 80 lb, 100 lb, 120 lb. Sometimes called card stock, this paper is often used for greeting cards, programs, and invitations. Keep in mind, 100 lb cover is about twice as thick as 100 lb text.


Paper Types

Coated stock - has a surface coating that has been applied to make the surface more receptive for the reproduction of text and images in order to achieve sharper detail and improved color density. By adding a coated clay pigment, the objective of coating the stock is to improve the smoothness and reduce the absorbency. Coated paper finishes can be categorized as matte, dull, cast, gloss, and high gloss. The coating can be on both sides of the stock (coated two sides, "C2S") or on one side only (coated one side, "C1S").

Uncoated stock - is paper that has no coated pigment applied to reduce the absorbency or increase the smoothness. This can dull colors and blur images. Uncoated paper is rougher to the touch and has no shine, which can make it look more natural. More colors and textures are available in uncoated stock than coated. The uncoated finishes can be described as vellum, antique, wove, or smooth.


Choosing the right paper for your printing project can make a huge impact on the final product. From final presentation to cost, paper stock is the core of your printed piece. Here are some tips for picking the right paper for different types of printed products.

  • Are you going to use a detailed die-cut? If you're going with a detailed cut, usually a thicker paper will show finer details better. Thinner papers tend to lose the details or have frayed edges where they're cut. 
  • Is the product going to be mailed?  If you're going to mail the piece, keep the weight down because you'll pay more per each piece if certain weight limits are exceeded.
  • Where will you store it until you use it?  If you think the paper might be exposed to extreme temperatures, rain or dampness then you should use a paper that is resistant to these things.
  • Will you want to write on the paper?  Nothing beats uncoated paper when it comes to writing, so in most cases, don't use a coated, glossy, or heavily textured paper.
  • Will the paper be out in the elements?  If the paper might get wet, pick a type with built-in water resistance or apply a supplemental coating.
  • Do you need the paper perforated?  Thin, stiff paper works best for perforation.
  • Different weights communicate different messages. Does the design need to feel thick or thin? Consider what the weight says about it, and think about its intended purpose: a letterhead needs to run through a printer, while thicker stock can make a business card seem more expensive.