Beyond the Size

Unlocking the Mystery of GSM: A Guide to Paper Weight

GSM and Paper Weight

If you’ve ever purchased paper materials, either for printing, drawing, or writing, you may have come across the term ‘GSM.’ But what does it mean, exactly, and why is it so important for paper weight? First, let’s define GSM.

This acronym stands for ‘grams per square meter,’ a unit of measurement that determines the density or weight of paper. GSM refers to the amount of paper material in one square meter of a particular paper stock.

The higher the number, the heavier or denser the paper.

For instance, a paper with a GSM of 75 will be thinner and lighter than one with a GSM of 150.

The thickness of a paper is based on its GSM rating, and vice versa. To visualize the difference, let’s compare some standard GSM ratings:

60-GSM paper is typically used for fax and copy machines, as well as draft printing.

It is a thin, lightweight option that provides a clear, readable print due to its minimal ink absorption. 80-110 GSM paper is the most common paper weight range used for everyday printing, such as flyers, brochures, and business cards.

The paper thickness provides a good balance between durability and functionality. 150 GSM paper is a heavier, high-quality paper choice for printing materials that will be handled frequently or have a long shelf life, like invitations, postcards, or high-end product packaging.

180-200 GSM paper is a thick, sturdy option used for things like art prints and templates, which require a robust texture and factor for their appearance. 250-300 GSM paper is a heavyweight option used for business cards, menus, or promotional materials.

It’s also an ideal option for printing photographs, especially when you’re using glossy paper to exhibit the images’ details. 350-400 GSM paper is a premium, extra-heavy paper stock used to print banners, posters, and architectural plans.

These papers have a super-thick surface and weighty feel, making them ideal for high-end marketing materials. By understanding GSM ratings, you can choose the right paper for your needs.

Lower GSM ratings provide cheaper, lightweight options for short-term or disposable prints, while higher GSM ratings offer more durability, longevity, and aesthetic potential.

Calculating Paper Thickness

Want to measure your paper’s thickness? Some factors affect a paper’s thickness, such as the paper’s composition, finish, or GSM rating.

Below are some formulas on how to measure the thickness of your paper. 1.

Sheet count method

One method is to count the number of sheets in a ream of paper and divide that by the thickness of a single sheet. You can use this formula to calculate the thickness:

(ream thickness) / (number of sheets in the ream)

For instance, an 80-GSM paper would contain about 500 sheets per ream.

So let’s say that a 500-sheet ream of paper is 5 cm thick. To find out the thickness of one sheet, divide 5 cm by 500.

5 cm / 500 sheets = 0.01 cm or 0.1 mm

2. Micrometer method

Another way to calculate paper thickness is by using a micrometer or caliper.

Place the paper between the micrometer’s jaws to measure the thickness of the paper at desired pressure.

US Customary Equivalent of GSM

If you’re accustomed to using the US customary system, you might prefer to refer to paper weight in ounces per square yard instead of GSM. One square yard is about 0.836 square meters.

As a rule of thumb, 60-GSM paper is approximately 16 lbs, while 90-GSM paper is about 24 lbs. You can use this chart as a reference for other GSM-to-pound conversions:

GSM/Pound Equivalents:

60 GSM – 16 lb

70 GSM – 19 lb

80 GSM – 21 lb

90 GSM – 24 lb

100 GSM – 27 lb

110 GSM – 30 lb

120 GSM – 32 lb

140 GSM – 38 lb

150 GSM – 40 lb

160 GSM – 43 lb

180 GSM – 48 lb

200 GSM – 54 lb

250 GSM – 67 lb

300 GSM – 81 lb

350 GSM – 94 lb

400 GSM – 107 lb

Understanding Paper Poundage

The U.S. paper stock market measures the weight of paper in “basis weight” or “poundage.” Paper weight is calculated as the weight of 500 sheets or one ream of the paper stock in question.

For instance, a stock sheet of letter-sized paper that weighs 20 lbs means that 500 sheets of this paper would have a total weight of 20 lbs.

This measurement is critical when purchasing paper in bulk, as it determines the overall weight and cost of the paper.


By knowing the weight of paper you need for your project and understanding the different GSM ratings available, you can choose the type of paper that suits you best. Keep in mind the content of your printing job, the durability requirements, and the purpose you are intending.

With this information, you can print with confidence and leave a lasting impression that meets your standards and goals.

Different Uses for Varying Paper Weights

By understanding the different GSM ratings of paper, you can choose the most appropriate paper for your needs. Below are the uses for each paper weight range, providing a comprehensive guide to help you decide which paper weight suits your specific needs best.

60-GSM Paper and Its Uses

The cheapest paper weight for printing or photocopying is typically 60-GSM paper. It is ideal for producing documents with many pages, and the low cost means it is an ideal option for things like instruction manuals and reference documents.

Additionally, because of its lightweight, 60-GSM paper is most useful for portable books, particularly pocketbooks or mass-market paperbacks.

75-GSM Paper and Its Uses

A slightly thicker paper stock in the 70-75 GSM range is the standard for general office use. This paper can be used for internal documents, such as memorandums, internal reports, and training manuals.

It’s a more substantial type of paper compared to the low-cost 60-GSM paper while also being more affordable than heavier, higher-quality papers.

80-110 GSM Paper and Its Uses

The 80-110 GSM range is the most popular range for printing standard office documents such as letters, forms, and printed notes for conferences or seminars. Paper within this range is high-quality, which allows ink to remain sharp and clear.

Also, it is not too thick, so it can go through a printer with ease, and it is clear enough to use for presentations that require overhead projectors.

150 GSM Paper and Its Uses

A 150 GSM paper stock is ideal for printing high-quality documents, such as brochures, business cards, and flyers. This paper stock creates a smoother, more substantial feel than the thinner printer paper and produces higher-quality, more vibrant images.

Due to their excellent durability and appearance, they are often chosen for use in long-term office materials.

180-200 GSM Paper and Its Uses

Paper with a GSM of 180-200 falls into the category of specialty printing paper. It is a heavyweight paper that is thicker and offers excellent texture, making it the perfect choice for printing glossy or matte finish photographs.

Additionally, its heavyweight makes it more durable and resistant to wear and tear.

250-300 GSM Paper and Its Uses

The 250-300 GSM paper range is a heavyweight paper stock that is ideal for printing professional photographs and high-end marketing materials. This paper is commonly used for printing top-quality photographs, invitations, pre-wedding cards, and even album covers.

Its glossy finish is an excellent choice to help showcase and maintain the sharpness of the images: colors appear more vibrant on the page thanks to the strong paper surface.

350-400 GSM Paper and Its Uses

Cardstock is a heavyweight paper that ranges from 350-400 GSM, making it the top choice for businesses that require highly durable and long-lasting printed materials. Cardstock is an ideal choice for printing business cards, recipe cards, flashcards, and index cards.

Due to its weight, it is commonly used for business cards which need to hold up, not bend, or curl while being stored in wallets or business card holders.


GSM ratings are significant when selecting the appropriate paper to use for the desired job. A general rule of thumb is to use a lightweight 60-GSM paper for everyday printing and photocopying.

For internal office documents, the standard office paper weight is 70-75 GSM. For printing needs with more advanced and quality results, the 80-110 GSM paper range is ideal.

If you’re looking to print glossy, full-color photos or marketing materials, a heavier and thicker paper, such as 180-200 GSM paper or 250-300 GSM paper, is recommended. Lastly, a cardstock paper ranging from 350-400 GSM is a heavyweight option ideal for printing highly durable and long-lasting materials.

Ultimately, understanding GSM ratings will help you make the right paper weight decisions and achieve your desired printing results. In conclusion, understanding GSM ratings and paper weight is essential to selecting the right paper for various printing needs.

Different GSM ratings have different properties that suit different printing and photocopying requirements. Paper weight influences the quality, durability, and cost of different papers, which can be classified into several categories, depending on specific uses.

By getting acquainted with the different paper weight categories, you’ll be able to select the right paper to suit your needs. Here are some frequently asked questions about paper weight for your understanding:

– What is GSM?

GSM is the abbreviation for ‘grams per square meter,’ which is the measure of paper weight or density. – What is the US customary equivalent of GSM?

The US customary equivalent of GSM is the weight of 500 sheets of paper in pounds per ream (lbs.). – What is the right paper weight for office printing?

The most commonly used paper weight for office printing is 80-110 GSM paper. – What is the best paper weight for printing photographs?

For top-quality photographs, the 250-300 GSM paper range and the 180-200 GSM paper range are appropriate for glossy and matte-finished photographs, respectively. – What is cardstock, and what is the recommended paper weight range for it?

Cardstock is a heavyweight paper, ranging from 350-400 GSM, perfect for printing durable and long-lasting materials such as business cards, flashcards, recipe cards, etc.

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