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A Super Simple Guide to Paper Weights, Finishes & Sizes

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5/19/2022

Azori

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Pascale & Kate

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ARE YOU READY TO STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT?

Can we skip to the good part?

In this blog post, ‘A Super Simple Guide to Paper Weights, Finishes & Sizes’. We will be covering:

Why choosing the right stock is important

Paper Weights

Size vs GSM

Choosing Paper Weights

Choosing Paper Finishes

Coated & Uncoated Stock

The Basics on Paper Sizes

Understanding the Metrics

Click on any of the above links to direct you to the exact section you’re looking for!

A Super Simple Guide to Paper Weights, Finishes & Sizes

You’ve just treated yourself to a brand revamp and it’s time to showcase your new look to the world!

Your website, social media and online presence are all sorted. So now’s the time to get yourself new business cards, brochures and other print materials. Now, you might think it’s as easy as telling your print company you want 500 high quality A5 leaflets. But, if you want show-stopping prints, which we know you do. There’s a little bit more you need to know first.

Choosing the correct paper type (commonly known in the print world as ‘stock’) is fundamental to how your designs will look when printed. Squeezing an unbelievable amount of detail onto your artwork on-screen might be possible, but the result won’t look so hot once it’s printed onto an A6 flyer.

To help you understand the basics, We’ve created this super simple guide to paper weights, sizes & finishes, so that you can be sure when your new prints arrive – you’ll be ecstatic with the results!

Let’s talk Paper Weights

Before you think we’ve gone mad, we’re not suggesting you put your paper on the scales. We are however telling you that different paper types have different weights – which is quite an important factor to consider before you order your prints.

Paper weight is measured in GSM (grams per square meter). Generally, the higher the GSM number, the heavier and higher quality the paper is.

Put simply, if you were to take a 1m² piece of a certain type of paper, how much would it weigh in grams?

Common paper types and their GSM

Paper weight gsm guide chart for printed collateral azori
A gsm paper weight guide for different collateral types

As you can see, there’s quite a big difference! You wouldn’t want to be printing high-class business cards on 80gsm paper intended for basic office documents. Instead, opting for a heavier paper such as 400gsm will give your business cards that durable, high-quality finish.

To break it down:

Common office paper weighs around 90gsm.

A common weight for paper is anything between 80gsm > 170gsm.

Any weight of 170gsm and over is known as “board”.

There is a second measure which is used to indicate the thickness of the sheet, but we won’t dive into this too much today.

This measurement determines the thickness of the paper and is given in microns where 1 micron = 1/1000 of a millimetre.

If you want to know more details – just speak to one of the Azori team!

How do I know which paper weight to choose for my prints?

The Azori team will always use their expertise to recommend the best paper weight for your print requirements, so you’ll never have to worry too much! However, we like to educate our clients wherever we can and if you’re having regular prints, it’s good to get a brief understanding of what you’re ordering!

Why is paper weight so important? Let’s say you’re printing a beautifully designed brochure – if the paper is too thin, your ink could bleed through the page and ruin the reverse side. On the other hand, if your paper is too thick this could prove to be a nightmare for printers to bind.

Let’s run through your options:

Paper weight 1: 90-120gsm

The weight of your average copier & printer paper tends to be around 80-100gsm. This is the paper you might use everyday for printing off standard documents & invoices.

If you’re looking for something a little fancier like a letterhead or a compliment slip, you’d want to go for 100-120gsm. This paper weight, commonly known as offset paper, takes colour well & can be printed and written on repeatedly.

Paper weight 2: 130-170gsm

For posters that might be used outside, 130-170gsm is a great paper weight due to its hardwearing weatherproof qualities.

To show off any high-quality images, opt for thicker 130-170gsm art paper. This has a water-based coating which seals the colour and offers extra durability – perfect for visual marketing products.

Paper weight 3: 200-300gsm

200-300gsm offers a nice, durable paper with a heavier look and feel. Think paperback book covers or premium flyers. Bear in mind, if you run a lot of direct mail campaigns – this might push the delivery cost up slightly. Have you seen a beautiful banner you like the look of? If you’re ordering banners for your business, opt for 200-250gsm, this weight will give you a robust, lightweight banner.

Paper weight 4: 300-400gsm

We’ve reached the finale – card! Any paper weight between 300-400gsm will provide a superb finish for high quality printed business cards, postcards, leaflets, presentation folders and wedding stationery. Paper within this range is impressively thick, will stand up under its own weight and will certainly deliver an impact. If it’s a superior finish that you’re looking for, then 300-400gsm paper weight will always prove a good choice.

Now for my favourite part…

Choosing the right Paper Finishes

Paper weight is important, but if you’re anything like us it’s that glossy shine when you pick up a brochure that really draws you in! On the other hand, maybe you’re simply after a bundle of sleek, matte business cards. Whatever your taste, the final look is all down to the right paper finish. Choosing the right paper finish can take your designs from beautiful to show stopping – you just need to know what you’re looking for.

Here’s a few of the most common types of paper finishes:

Matt

A matt finish is your standard printer or notepad paper texture – you can write on it, but it won’t have the shiny, smooth effect that gloss does. Matte paper has a textured surface, which works to reduce glare on your printed image. This makes matte papers ideal for displays as they can be seen easily in bright light.

Matt Lamination and Rose Gold Hot Foil – Image taken from FastPrinting
Azori Matt Lamination Leaflet Design
Matt Lamination Folded Leaflet Design – Image taken from FastPrinting

Gloss

  • Gloss paper has a smooth surface because of the kind of chemical coating on the paper. Unlike a matte finish, gloss paper is highly reflective, so the conditions in which a gloss print is displayed e.g., indoors, or outdoors, must be carefully considered, particularly regarding lighting conditions.
Gloss Lamination & Embossed Packaging – Image taken from FastPrinting
Azori Glossy Brochure Design Printed Collateral
Gloss Lamination Saddle Stitched Brochure – Image taken from FastPrinting

Silk

  • Silk finish is somewhere between a gloss and a matt finish. It has a slight sheen to it, but without the mirror-like shine of a full gloss and will often feel noticeably softer and smoother. Colour-wise, silk gives your prints a nice middle ground between the vibrancy of gloss paper and the easy reading of matt, uncoated paper. It even allows for scribbles!
Azori Silk Lamination Packaging Slip Design and Print
Silk Lamination Box Packaging Slip – Image taken from FastPrinting

Spot UV

  • This varnish-effect targets specific areas of the printed product to seal their colour in, produce an attractive sheen, and protect the surface against moisture and other types of wear and tear. The purpose of spot finish is also to create a diversity of textures on a printed surface for a dramatic, eye-catching effect. This is the perfect choice for business cards as it can be specifically applied to certain areas on the card such as the logo or your business details.
Spot UV and Gold Hot Foil – Image taken from FastPrinting

Coated and Uncoated Stock

Each paper finish belongs to one of two categories – coated stock, or uncoated stock. Coated and uncoated stocks often look quite similar, but the difference is how the ink lies on the paper. Coated paper has a shiny gloss coating, and the ink sits atop the coating allowing for minimal ink absorption. Uncoated paper has no surface coating permitting maximum ink absorption into the paper.

I’ll leave it there for now, but bear in mind these are just a few common types of finishes – at Azori, we work with suppliers such as G.F Smith or Fedrigoni – which means the possibilities are endless. Our amazing suppliers have hundreds of thousands of finishes to choose from, with a variety of textures, colours, shines and effects allowing us to create brilliantly unique prints just for you!

To the left is just a snippet of the stocks and paper samples on offer IMAGE HERE

You can always check out the Fedrigoni and G.F Smith website to see for yourself!

Azori - GF Smith Accent Smooth Uncoated Stock
Uncoated Stock, Accent Smooth from G.F Smith Collection – Image taken from G.F Smith
Azori - GF Max Coated Stock
Coated Stock, Max from G.F Smith Collection – Image taken from G.F Smith

The basics on paper sizes

I’m sure you are already familiar with A4. It’s likely the size of the paper your printer uses, the size of letters you get in the post and pretty much the most commonly used size paper on the planet!

‘A4’ represents the size of the paper, and there are many other paper sizes to choose from. How do you decipher the codes? It’s not as complicated as you might think. Paper sizes can be a little mind boggling. Particularly with all those unrelated letters and numbers meaning nothing to the uniformed eye. However, once you know what they mean, and how they relate to each other, I promise it’s going to be nice and simple!

‘A’ paper sizes: 

The A series paper sizes are the most common paper sizes. These are A0, A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, etc… They work on a basis that starting with the biggest size, the following sizes are exactly half the previous size when folded symmetrically. i.e, from one short edge to the other. A5 will be half of A4, A4 will be half of A6 ETC…

A-sized paper is commonly used for general printing and stationery. Examples include:

  • Leaflets, ranging from A3 to A7 in size
  • Business cards
  • Brochures, varying from A4 to A6 prints
  • Posters, again ranging in size from A0 to A4

‘B’ paper sizes: 

The B series sizes work in a similar way to the A series and measure slightly bigger than the equivalent A series size. B0 measures 1m wide with B1 being in between A0 and A1. The B series are significantly less popular paper sizes with their most common uses being for posters, books and passports.

‘C’ paper sizes: 

The C series measurements relate to envelope sizes, and they partner up with the A series paper sizes ensuring that they fit perfectly inside. They work on the basis that an A5 Sheet will fit inside a C5 envelope, and the trend continues throughout the range of sizes.

Understanding the metrics

The best thing about the system is how simple it makes it to calculate different paper sizes.

The three ISO standard paper sizes (A, B & C) each have different sizes within their categories. In each category, the starting point and largest sheet, is designated by the number 0. For example, in the case of A, this would be A0, sized 814mm (w) x 1189mm (h). In B, this would be B0, and the same for C0.

The longer length of A0 or B0, is then halved to give 1, then halved again to give 2. Therefore, A4 is half of A3 & B4 is half of B3. This is the same for all paper sizes.

I’m more of a visual person. So – to help you understand the system better, I’ve created a simple paper size chart below. It lists the dimensions of different ‘A’ paper sizes in cm, inches and mm. Feel free to save this for your own reference! Or just ask one of the team to send you a copy.

Paper Size guide chart for printed collateral azori
A gsm paper weight guide for different collateral types
Azori A0 Paper Size Guide
A0 Paper Guide
Azori B0 Paper Size Guide
B0 Paper Guide
Azori C0 Paper Size Guide
C0 Paper Guide

And there you have it. You can officially tell the world that you’re clued up on paper weights, finishes & sizes.

Remember, if you’re an Azori client, the team are here to look after you! We will always recommend the best quality paper stock for your printed collateral, keeping in mind your style when selecting the ideal paper weight and finish. We’ll never let you order prints that we know won’t give you the results you want.

If you’re not yet a client and would like some further information, reach out HERE!

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