Card stock paper weight and thickness

All you need to know about cardstock paper weight and thickness

When choosing paper for print work is always quite a big dilemma what cardstock weight and thikness to choose for perfect business card, wedding invitations, envelopes or postcards. There are used various dimensions while discussing about paper weight in different regions.

GSM: GSM is based on density (Grams per Square Meter).
U.S. Basis Weight: Basis Weight is based on weight (or lbs).
Caliper: Caliper is based on thickness. This measurement is linear (PT), with each point representing 1/1000th of an inch. For example, 5pt paper thickness represents paper sheet that is 0.0005 inches thick.

Paper thickness and weight comparison table

In order to better understand the different dimensions, we put the main paper thicknesses and weights in the table. You won’t find absolutely all the paper thicknesses in the table, but it will help you to understand how different dimensions correlate.

TextCoverGSMCaliperCommon Uses
25 lbs40 gsmTracing Paper
40 lbs60 gsmNewspaper
50 lbs74 gsmStandard Printer Paper
60 lbs89 gsm3 ptBook Pages, Notepads, Ltterheads
70 lbs104 gsm3.5 ptBook Pages, Envelopes, Flyers
80 lbs118 gsm4 ptBook Pages, Posters, Brochures, Flyers
60 lbs162 gsm5.5 ptBook Pages, Posters, Brochures
80 lbs216 gsm8 ptBook Cover
100 lbs271 gsm10 ptBook Cover, Postcards, Door Hangers
110 lbs298 gsm12 ptBusiness Cards
120 lbs325 gsm14 ptBook Cover, Greeting Cards, Business Cards, Greeting Cards, Invitations, Folders, Door Hangers
130 lbs400 gsm16 ptBusiness Cards, Invitations, Door Hangers
460 gsm18 ptBusiness Cards, Non-folding Invitations
590 gsm24 ptDouble or Triple layered stock for Business Cards, Non-folding Invitations
1000 gsm38 ptDouble or Triple layered stock for Business Cards, Non-folding Invitations
60 ptHardcover Book Cover

The values shown in the above chart are for reference purposes only, and may vary depending on the type of paper or cardboard material.

GSM – Don’t be fooled with relative dimension

GSM is a relative dimension that means how many grams will weight one square meter size paper sheet (Grams per Square Meter). It is very convenient to use one acceptable dimension so that everyone understands what is being discussed about, but using the units of GSM and combing paper thicknesses can be easily mistaken. Because GSM does not define the thickness of the paper.

At first sight, everything may look very simple – heavier cardstock sheet should be made by using thicker paper. But that is not always true. Everything belongs on paper density. Cardstock papers are produced from different fibers and in different ways, so the thickness of same grammar sheet can vary greatly.

Tradicional (cellulose) and cotton paper thickness difference

Business cards, invitations, letterheads and postcards we use to print on two type of paper  – pure cotton paper and traditional, premium quality, paper made of cellulose fiber. Both types of paper are very nice just they are produced differently. A traditional sheet of paper is formed with heated rollers. It uses an intense pressure to form a high-density paper, which is from about 250 gsm quite rigid stock. The surface of mould made cotton papers has a beautiful random surface texture, soft and good-tempered nature, and is a strong and stable enough sheet to ensure excellent printing. The same grammar cotton paper is much thicker than traditional paper, but due to its relatively low density, it is not so rigid if compare to regular papers.

We have made a table, to show how the card stock thickness of these two different made papers varies depending on GSM.
Different colored rows contain different paper descriptions:

GSM (g/m^2)Traditional Premium PapersPure Cotton PapersPrinting Recomendations
300 0.5 mm
100% Cotton Paper suitable for folded postcards and thin letterpress business cards with debossed text and slim lines. Too thin for cards with painted or gilded edges. Very suitable for duplexing when double-sided card is designed with overlapping, and need to be printed on separate sheets and glued to 600 gsm stock.
3500.5 mm
Premium Paper suitable for folded hangtags, postcards, thin but quite stiff single sided business cards with medium impression. Too thin for business cards with painted or gilded edges. Very suitable for duplexing when double-sided card has to be produced by using 2 different color paper sheets, with impression overlapping.
430 0.7 mm
100% Cotton Paper not too thick but stiff stock.
In our studio this paper is most popular for letterpress business cards and embossed business cards, or for combination of both techniques. Perfectly fits for business cards with painted or gilded edges.
4850.65 mm
Premium Paper made by duplexing two sheets of 135 gsm and 350 gsm. Very rarely use this paper option.
500 1 mm
100% Cotton one ply paper. Fits for large objects printing with deep deboss. Stiff stock, with deep nice texture, good for blind debossed business cards or big, not folded stationery. Very suitable for print works with painted edges.
540 0.75 mm
Premium Paper made by gluing two plies of 270 gsm sheets to 540 gsm stock. Optimum thickness for thick business card option. If printed on separate sheets of 270 gsm paper then the depth of impression is minimal, but good combinations for double sided foil business cards.
640 1.5 mm
Very thick one-ply 100% Cotton Paper suitable for any objects deep impression. Very suitable for thick letterpress business cards and wedding invitations with painted or gold foil gilded edges.
700 0.9 mm
Premium Paper made by gluing two plies of 350 gsm sheets to 700 gsm stock. Really thick and stiff stock. Perfect for color double-sided luxury business cards with overlapped impression when requires both sides of the business card print on two separate 350 gsm sheets and duplexed to 700 gsm card, depth of impression is clearly noticeable.

Cardstock thickness and impression (deboss)

Impressed object into the paper is about 0.6mm deep. Of course, it is possible to do even deeper impression, but for this purpose specially prepared printing forms are required, the deeper debossed paper may simply not hold it and the surface will be torn because of excessive stresses.

In general, on all papers possible to print with debossing, just the depth and feel of an impression on different papers can look and feel very different. For example, 300 gsm pure cotton stock can achieve very nice impression, but when debossing large objects the paper can cause buckling due to stress and printed product will not look as good as printed on thicker stock. While printing on thick 640 gsm pure cotton paper can be debossed big bold objects, but although this paper thickness is 1.3mm, impression depth will be about 0.6mm, and it will be just a bit more noticeable than on 300 gsm cotton cardstock.

Thus, when choosing a paper, we recommend paying attention not only to GSM, but to actual paper thickness, printing method and design composition.

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