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The Importance of Paper Grades and Basis Weights in Printing

The Importance of Paper Grades and Basis Weights in Printing

In the printing industry, the choice of paper plays a critical role beyond just aesthetics. One key factor that determines the characteristics of different paper types is the basis weight. Let’s explore what basis weight means and how it impacts the nature of your printed materials.

What is Basis Weight?

Basis weight refers to the weight of a ream (500 sheets) of a given paper grade. It provides a standardized way to measure and compare the thickness, density and bulk of various papers. Generally, a higher basis weight indicates a thicker and more substantial paper. However, basis weight alone doesn’t tell the whole story – the paper’s fiber composition, coating, and manufacturing process also affect the look and feel.

Common Paper Grades and Their Uses

  • Bond Paper:
    • A versatile paper used for everyday applications like forms, copies, and stationery. Typical basis weights range from 16# for lightweight forms and letterhead to 24# for more formal stationery and report covers. Higher basis weights like 28# or 32# provide extra thickness and stiffness.
  • Text Paper:
    • Features a premium textured surface ideal for higher-quality printed pieces like marketing materials and corporate reports. Basis weights from 60# to 100#, with 70# and 80# being most common for balancing quality with cost.
  • Uncoated Book Paper:
    • Widely used for offset printing projects like books, manuals, and catalogs. Basis weights usually range from 50# to 70#. The 60# weight hits the sweet spot for most text-heavy publications.
  • Coated Book Paper:
    • Has a glossy finish that enhances color vibrancy and image reproduction. Used for magazines, brochures, catalogues, and marketing pieces. Web press uses lighter 30# to 50# weights, while sheetfed press uses 60# to 100#+ weights.
  • Cover Paper:
    • A thick, rigid paper for making an impactful first impression on pieces like business cards, book covers, folders and packaging. Basis weights from 60# to 100# or higher. Coated cover stocks provide extra brilliance.

High Vs. Low Basis Weight

Choosing the right paper grade and basis weight is key for achieving the desired look, feel, durability and cost for your printed projects. The basis weight significantly influences the thickness, stiffness, opacity, printability and perceived value of the paper. For example, a higher basis weight cover stock conveys quality and importance versus a lighter uncoated text stock.

Lower basis weights are more cost effective for high volume print runs, while higher weights are ideal for premium products meant to make an impression. State Graphics can guide you on the optimal paper selection for your specific printing needs.

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