How to Select the Right Weight of Printer Paper

measuring paper weight

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The weight of your printer paper is an important consideration for every print job. It can affect the look of the final document and impact the way your printer functions. However, with so many types available, it can be challenging to determine your publication’s correct paper weight. 

By familiarizing yourself with various terms and reference points, you can easily identify and choose the right paper weight for you. Here’s how to select the right weight of printer paper. 

What Is Paper Weight?

The term “paper weight,” also known as basis weight, refers to the paper’s thickness and sturdiness, not the individual sheet’s actual weight. The weight of printer paper is measured in pounds per 500 sheets (lbs) and grams per square meter (gsm). 

The most common weight of printer paper is 20 lbs., while most fine printer, business and stationery paper weighs anywhere from 20-32 lbs. Fine paper refers to a class of paper grades that range from 100 percent cotton to processed wood pulp grade. 

To give you an idea of what types of paper are considered lightweight, medium-weight and heavyweight, here are some distinguishing characteristics and examples of each. 

  • Lightweight Paper

Regular copy paper or pages of a book are examples of lightweight paper. These sheets can fold without scoring, are flexible and easy to manipulate and can be used in most home printers. 

  • Medium-weight Paper

Paper that is medium in weight is more akin to a standard greeting card. Again, this paper thickness will print in most home printers, depending on the machine specifications. 

  • Heavyweight Paper

On the other end of the spectrum, an example of heavyweight paper is a heavy greeting card. These generally verge on being too heavy for a printer and can result in the paper not feeding into the printer or the paper jamming. 

pulling paper from laser printer

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Choosing the Right Weight of Printer Paper

A useful rule to follow when selecting the right paper weight is the heavier the paper and the thicker the sheet, the more substantial and sturdy the paper is. A paper’s thickness is also known as its caliper. 

Non-cardstock paper is called “bond” or “text,” while cardstock paper is referred to as “cover,” “bristol” or “index.” 

From lightest to heaviest, here are the most common paper weights and their common uses:

  • 20 lb. Bond/50 lb. Text

Twenty-pound bond printer paper is what you’ll usually find in the everyday copy machine at the office. Typically, it’s used for copies, memos, lengthy reports and other multi-page documents.  

  • 24 lb. Bond/60 lb. Text

Typically, this weight of printer paper is the multipurpose paper used in printers you’ll find at your office. It’s also the most popular business letterhead or stationery weight. This paper thickness is commonly used as letterhead and in reports, announcements, invites and more for its reliable thickness which is substantial enough for frequent handling. 

  • 32 lb. Bond/80 lb. Text

Thirty-two-pound bond is ideal for brochures and presentations or other documents, such as résumés, business proposals or contracts, designed to impress. It’s also a superb choice for two-sided printing because of its opacity and ink absorption. This trait also makes it a go-to for communications with graphics or heavily saturated colors, enabling your image to display better than they would on thinner sheets of paper. 

  • 65 lb. Cover

This is considered a sturdy stock paper selection, with a softer feel and quick-drying surface. It’s an excellent choice for postcards, signs, posters, menus and more. Whether it’s being used in the office or at home for school projects, it’s a durable choice for a wide range of projects. 

  • 80 lb. Cover

Eighty-pound cover paper is considered a heavy cardstock, commonly used for business cards. You can learn the difference between cardstock vs. construction paper in our guide

When choosing between these different paper weights, consider the specifics of your print job. If you’re printing copies, 20 lb. bond is likely sufficient. If you’re printing documents rich in images or color or printing two-sided documents, you’ll probably want to use a 32 lb. bond. Reviewing these details will help you narrow down which paper you need and can help you stock up on the right laser ink cartridges for your printer. 

It may also help you consider what kind of paper you want—cardstock or non-cardstock—and from there, you can determine whether you want glossy, matte or uncoated finishes. Making these determinations early on can help you rule out certain paper weights. For instance, matte paper doesn’t have the option of 60 lb. weight, which means if you want a matte finish, you can immediately rule out that selection. 

paper weight measurement tool

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The Takeaway

When trying to determine the weight of printer paper for your print project, start by familiarizing yourself with the basic terms like “bond.” From there, think through what type of paper, such as cover or text, is best suited for your print job. You can then reference the most common paper weights and their general uses to determine which is the right weight for your print job. 

To make sure you’re stocked on ink, toner and other accessories, such as HP laser printer cartridges or any other major brand of printer, you can search your printer series or call Inkjet Superstore at 888-745-4316 for assistance.