Paper Weight 101

Paper Weight 101 | Rourke Planners

So today's lecture is on paper weight. I kid. But we are going to learn a little bit about paper weight and the terms that can be used. Why, you're probably asking because this is a super weird topic? Because PLANNERS! I love using a better paper on my planner. Good, higher weight paper makes for a better experience - my pen doesn't bleed through as easy, it's smoother to write on, and if I ever have any incidents with a sticker it won't rip right through. Part of the good paper is the 'brightness' too, but that's more self-explanatory. PS I buy 28lb (or 32lb), 98 brightness paper for my planner. So nice.

So first up there are 3 main ways to describe paper weight. GSM is the most professional way to describe paper weight - it stands for grams per square meter. It is a single number to describe the paper. It is, as for any system, the most logical measurement and used internationally but not in the US because we're difficult. You won't find it listed in the main descriptions when shopping at typical stores. There is 'bond weight' - this is the most common consumer description. Bond weight covers typical paper your print on and light cardstocks. This is often the number you'll see when buying paper from major retailers.

There is also another number that is dependent on a descriptor - text, book, bristol, and cover weights. Text refers to simple printed documents - planner pages, presentations, bills, etc. Book refers to paper that is typically used for books - it's thicker and often more nubby (though not necessarily). Bristol is used for presentation books and catalogs. Cover is another word for cardstock - it's used for cards and folders. These are qualifiers to the lb #. So a 100 lb cover will actually be heavier than say a 110 lb bristol. For our purposes, you'll look at 'text' and 'cover' papers, and use the numbers attached to those words to compare the paper to others in that descriptor. 100 lb text is NOT the same as 100 lb cover. I know, it's confusing. But for planner purposes you don't have to get into comparing them for a professional print so, that's good.

GSM is a super simple measurement. I mentioned before it stands for grams per square meter and is used internationally. It is just a simple number and is a reliable measurement of the real weight of a paper. However, it is not frequently used in the US. If you're really interested in paper you can use GSM to compare papers between categories (text, bristol, cardstock).

One other thing - sometimes when you are purchasing online the company will mention the actual physical weight of the ream (pack of paper). So for example - this paper from Mohawk is said to be 7.2lbs. This would be a silly bond weight for actual paper, so it's actually referring to the physical weight of the cut, 8.5"x11" pack of paper. 

So what do you need to know?

What you need to know is that typical copy paper is 20lb bond/50lb text. A good paper for planners is 28lb bond/70lb text or 32lb bond/80lb text. A good cardstock for dividers is 100lb Cover. When you're buying paper it is described in bond weight. When you're buying cardstock it's usually in cover weight. 

But I want my paper to feel nice.

Most 28 lb or 32 lb paper will feel nice - it will have a very smooth surface from tightly packed fibers. My 100lb cover is not as smooth and nice. It will often come down to seeing and feeling the paper yourself, but I wanted to tell you about 2 things paper MAY be described as for the finish. Smooth is self explanatory - it's a smooth finish to the paper. Vellum is the other often used descriptor - it's a little bit bumpy and has a tiny bit of texture to it. There are a lot of other finishes if you want to read more about it here. This is not the same as that semi-translucent vellum paper. It would be referred to as a vellum finish or texture.

What do you use?

I have previously used Hammermill 32 lb/100 brightness paper, I'm currently using Hammermill 28lb/98 brightness paper. Once I'm out I'm looking to switch to a 100% recycled paper, possibly this Mohawk 28lb/96 brightness paper. There is also tree-free paper made from sugar cane byproduct which is pretty cool - I'd like to check that out as well. If you have any good eco-friendly options please leave them in the comments below - I'd love to help mitigate my paper usage to leave a smaller footprint.

Please also note that the whitening of paper typically will require chemical treatments so please keep that in mind - for everyday printing consider using a different, lower brightness paper that is environmentally friendly. As much as I like planners, I like the environment more. 

If you're looking for a good print, look for 28 or 32 lb bond paper and a high brightness for crisp colors. 

resources + further reading: Paperworks , Staples , Okidaka , California Paper Goods.

Have any further questions or information that I missed? Comment below!

Happy Printing,