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Our easy-to-follow guide to print terms & paper thicknesses

Guide to paper thickness and print optionsIf you don’t spend your days immersed in design and print, then you might feel a bit confuddled by the different paper types and weights when it comes to choosing what would be best for your brochure, leaflets or business cards.

The paper weight you choose will impact on how much you would need to spend on postage for a direct mail campaign, as well as the feel, substance and perception of quality of the item.

One of the great things about working with an experienced graphic designer is that we have an exceptional grasp of all the different options and can advise you on what would work best for your promotional materials. Most graphic designers also have a strong network of print suppliers – we certainly do at Grafixbiz.

You may also be surprised at how much choice there is these days when it comes to affordable but high-quality environmentally-friendly paper.

If you’re beginning to think about having some marketing materials created and printed and wondering what options might be available, you should find this guide a helpful starting point.

The language of printing

When we talk about printing, you’ll hear certain words and acronyms that may be unfamiliar:

  • CMYK – A colour system that uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and delivers better results for printed items than RGB.
  • Coated paper – Coated paper is manufactured with a thin coating, typically made from clay, to give a range of finishes, e.g. matt or gloss. We tend to see coated paper in magazines, brochures, posters and catalogues. Coated paper is great for when you’re printing vibrant images.
  • GSM – Grams per square metre: the larger the GSM, the thicker the paper.
  • Digital printing – With digital printing, the printer works from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media, typically using high-volume laser or inkjet printers to print the work.
  • Gravure – Method of printing using metal cylinders etched with millions of tiny wells that hold ink.
  • Greyscale – Strips of grey, ranging from white to black.
  • Litho printing – Litho printing or lithography is a process for printing from a smooth surface, called a plate, to a layer such as paper. It tends to be used for medium to large print runs.
  • RGB – This is a colour system, which uses a mix of red, green and blue. The RGB system is better for websites and on-screen designs.
  • Uncoated paper – Uncoated paper tends to have more of a textured feel to it (think newspapers and notebooks) and soaks up ink more easily than coated paper. Uncoated paper is often the best choice for stationery and printed materials that feature a lot of text.

Understanding paper weights

80gsm-100gsm
This is the usual thickness of paper that you would use in a photocopier.

110gsm-120gsm
You would probably expect stationery paper, such as letterheads and compliment slips to be this thickness. Before ordering stationery on this weight of paper, it’s worth asking for a sample to check whether it runs through your inkjet or laser printer without problems.

130gsm-170gsm
These papers are a good thickness for leaflets, pamphlets and flyers. You might also want to consider these paper weights for the interior pages of your company brochure, annual report or prospectus.

170gsm-200gsm
This is a midway point between paper and card. These paper weights are ideal for posters and more substantial leaflets and flyers.

200gsm-250gsm
This tends to be the starting point for heavier card and is ideal for brochure covers.

300gsm-400gsm
This falls into the board category; most business cards are printed on board within this weight range because it’s durable and has a high quality feel. You can use this weight for your brochure cover but this may have some stitching and folding implications.

400gsm+
Luxury business cards are often printed on board of 400gsm or above. You can even choose weights up to 1200gsm for a really durable, luxurious finish.

Before you have anything printed, you’ll be able to handle paper samples and get our advice about your options. Keep your eyes peeled for our forthcoming blog on paper materials, which should help you understand your printing options even more.

 

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