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Paper takes many forms. So which type shoud you choose for your project?

Basic Size & Basis Weight
It is normal practice to specify the 'thickness' of paper by its weight in pound per square inches. As papers are graded by weight, one manufacturer's 100# text paper may seem slightly bulkier or thicker than a competitor's product. Also uncoated papers tend to be bulkier than their coated counterparts, whilst matte and silk coated papers tend to bulkier than their gloss coated counterparts. The basis weight refers to the weight in pounds of 500 sheets of paper when it has been cut to that paper's standard basic size. For example the basic size for Bond paper is 17 x 22 inches. If 500 sheets (a ream) of Bond is cut to its basic size of 17 x 22 inches and weighs 20 pounds, it is classified as 20 lb. bond. If a 17 x 22" ream of Bond paper weighed 24 pounds it would be called 24 lb. Bond, and so on. The chart below contains some common paper types and their basic size.

Paper Type Basic Size
Bond 17" x 22"
Ledger 17" x 22"
Offset 25" x 38"
Book 25" x 38"
Cover 20" x 26"
Index Bristol 25-1/2" x 30-1/2"
Vellum Bristol 22-1/2" x 28-1/2"
Printing Bristol 22-1/2" x 28-1/2"
Tag 24" x 36"

North American Size Standards
Although the ISO size standards are common in many parts of the world where the metric system is the established standard for measurement, North American sheet sizes are based on inches and are shown below.

Type Size
Letter 8-1/2" x 11"
Legal 8-1/2" x 14"
Ledger / Tabloid 11" x 17"
Broadsheet 17" x 22"
19" x 25"
23" x 35"
25" x 38"

Caliper Readings
The chart below shows the actual thickness of various weights and grades of paper. The readings are taken with a caliper or micrometer gauge, which measures the thickness of the paper in thousandths of an inch.

Paper Type Thickness Paper Type Thickness
15 lb. Bond
20 lb. Bond
24 lb. Bond
100 lb. Tag
125 lb. Tag
150 lb. Tag
28 lb. Ledger
32 lb. Ledger
36 lb. Ledger
4 Ply Railroad Board
6 Ply Railroad Board
8 Ply Railroad Board
50 lb. Regular Offset
60 lb. Regular Offset
70 lb. Regular Offset
50 lb. Smooth Offset
60 lb. Smooth Offset
70 lb. Smooth Offset
50 lb. Gloss Coated Book
60 lb. Gloss Coated Book
70 lb. Gloss Coated Book
80 lb. Gloss Coated Book
100 lb. Gloss Coated Book
120 lb. Gloss Coated Book
90 lb. Index
110 lb. Index
50 lb. Coated Cover
60 lb. Coated Cover
100 lb. Coated Cover
57 lb. Vellum Bristol
67 lb. Vellum Bristol
125 lb. Plate Finish Printing Bristol
150 lb. Plate Finish Printing Bristol
15 lb. CB Carbonless
20 lb. CB Carbonless
15 lb. CF Carbonless
20 lb. CF Carbonless

The finish refers to the surface characteristics of the paper such as how the paper it smooth such as glossy cover or rough with an antique finish? Does the paper have a glossy appearance such as coated glossy papers or is it dull like bond paper. Does the paper enhance the look of the printed piece similar to watermarked paper or is it purely functional like newsprint? Does the paper have a high ink absorption rate as does Vellum or poor absorption such as on coated papers? Finishes can be applied to paper during the manufacturing process or produced offline. A finish such as Laid can be created while it is being manufactured with the use of a marking roller that forms the pattern in the paper while it is still wet. Paper finishes provided offline are usually accomplished with steel rollers that press the pattern into the paper. The offline finishes are known as embossed finishes. Some common paper finishes are described below.

Types Description
Cockle A cockle finish simulates characteristics of hand made paper with a wavy, rippled, puckered finish. The effect is obtained by air drying the paper under minimum tension.
Felt Felt is a soft texture on uncoated paper that is created during the papermaking process with a either felt covered roller or with a rubber roller with a felt pattern that creates the finish. It can also be accomplished as an offline process. The felt finish does not affect the strength of the paper.
Gloss A gloss finish produces a shiny and reflective surface on one or both sides of certain coated papers. A higher gloss is usually seen on higher quality coated papers. The gloss finish is produced from compounds added during the paper making process.
Laid A laid finish has the appearance of translucent lines running horizontally and vertically in the paper. It is produced during the papermaking process with a special roller that creates the pattern in the wet paper.
Linen Linen finished paper resembles linen cloth and is usually produced after the papermaking process as an offline embossing process.
Matte A finish on certain coated papers that is smooth but gives a dull appearance. A matte finish, as well as other types of coated paper, are good choices for print jobs in which high quality is required.
Parchment A paper finish that has an old or antique appearance and is the result of washing sulfuric acid over the paper and then quickly neutralizing the acid wash. This process melts the outer paper fibers which fill the voids in the rest of the paper. Parchment is very durable and grease resistant.
Smooth A smooth finish is the result of the paper passing through sets of rollers during the papermaking process. This process is known as calendering.
Vellum A vellum finish has an eggshell appearance and is consistent and even but not as much as a smooth finish. Vellum is one of the most popular uncoated finishes and paper with this finish has a high ink absorbency rate.

An even finish in uncoated paper with a slight texture made by a felt roller covered in woven wire.

Uncoated stocks: Uncoated stock is paper that has no coated pigment applied to reduce the absorbency or increase the smoothness.
Coated stocks: A 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"). Coatings added to groundwood papers give them a greater degree of permanency and the natural tendency for goundwood papers to yellow is reduced.

Types Feel Good for Cost Usage
Coated Smooth Sharper image
vivid detail
More expensive Photo calendar
Uncoated Rough / Natural To write on
To read long period
Usually less expensive Newspaper /
copy paper
Paperback novel
Rough / Natural
Luxury Items Most expensive Stationery / Art books

Uncoated - Commercial Printing Papers
Type Popular Colors Popular Weights Uses
Offset White, Ivory, Cream 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 lb. Business Forms, Flyers, Books, Mailers
Vellum Bristol White and Color 57, 67, 100, 120 lb. Mailers, Posters, Advertising
Ledger White, Buff, Greentint 24, 28, 32, 36 lb. Business Forms, File Tabs, Records, Etc.
Cover White and Colors 80, 90, 100, 130 lb. Booklet Covers, Mailers, Menus, Posters
Index White and Colors 100, 140, 170 lb. Record Cards, Tab Folders, Booklets
Tag White & Manila 100, 125, 150 lb. Business Forms, Covers, Work Tags
Reply Card White 75 lb. Reply Mail, Mailers
Forms Bond White and Color 15, 20, 24 lb. An all purpose paper
Laser Bond White 20, 24 lb. Laser printed Forms, Mailers, Stationery
OCR Bond White 20, 24 lb. Scannable Documents
MICR Bond White 24 lb. Checks, Numbered Documents
Safety Bond White and Colors 24 lb. Checks
Carbonless White and Colors 15, 20, 24, 33 lb. Business Forms
Newsprint White 30, 33 lb. Newspapers
Kraft White, Tan, Gray 20, 28, 50, 60, 70 lb. Packaging, Shipping, Envelopes

Coated - Commercial Printing Papers
Type Popular Colors Popular Weights Uses
Offset Bright White 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 Brochures, Folders, Magazines
Cover Bright White 60, 80, 100 lb. Covers, Advertising, Calendars

Fine Papers
Type Popular Colors Popular Weights Uses
Text White and Colors 60, 70, 80 lb. High Quality Applications
Cover White and Colors 60, 80, 90, 100, 130 lb. Booklet Covers, Menus, Posters
Writing White, Ivory 20, 24 lb. Stationery
Cotton Bond White 20, 24 lb. Stationery, Legal Documents
No. 1 Bond Watermarked White 20, 24 lb. Stationery, Legal Documents

Specialty Papers
Type Popular Colors Popular Weights Uses
Dry Gum Label White 20 lb. Labels
Pressure Sensitive Label White, Colors, Fluorescent 50, 60 lb. Labels and Stickers

Office and Consumer Papers
Type Popular Colors Popular Weights Uses
Laser Bond White 20, 24 lb. Laser printed Forms and Stationery
Xerographic White 20, 24 lb. Copiers and Printers