Posted by Kevin Vaughan on Tue, Sep 15, 2020 @ 09:00 AM

Like any other industry, the wide-format equipment sector is extremely competitive. As such, you typically will not find many companies openly sharing positive information about their direct competitors.


But, this is one of those rare, shining moments when I am bucking the trend and actually giving one of my rivals a “tip of the hat.” After all, good info is good info.


Chris Johnson at CAD Supplies Specialty in Austin, TX published a column in their November 2015 Newsletter explaining differences in wide format plotter paper weights. I thought this article was very insightful.



After all, it can be quite confusing when trying to visualize different weight variations such as mils, pounds, and the infamous GSM (grams per square meter).


Understanding the weight of paper is not common sense and may be a bit confusing and seemingly conflicted. I’m going to take a run at explaining the common terms used to understand and communicate the weight of paper.


The U.S. Basis Weights are the most confusing, primarily because the same paper can yield different values based on the “Basis Weight” applied while manufacturing the paper, and higher values don’t always equate to heavier/thicker print media.


The “Basis Weight” is defined as the weight of 500 sheets of paper in its basic unit uncut size which means before being cut to ‘letter’ size or ‘legal’ size, the paper is weighed and categorized. If 500 sheets of Bond paper (17 x 22 inches) weigh 20 lbs., then a ream of paper cut to ‘letter’ size will be labeled as 20 lb.


With that same thinking, if 500 sheets of ‘cover’ paper (20 x 26 inches) weigh 65 lbs., then a ream of this paper trimmed to tabloid size would be marked as 65lb. Fortunately, there is a metric measurement that is often displayed alongside the U.S. Basis Weight. The metric measurement, called grammage, is the actual weight of one sheet of media cut 1 x 1 meter square.


Basis weight and grammage are terms used in the pulp and paper industry and also for fabric industry to denote a measure of mass of the product per unit of area for a type of fabric, paper or paperboard. - Wikipedia


Because the same size sheet is always being weighed, GSM or g/m2 (grams per square meter) provides a more uniform scale to judge a paper’s weight and thickness.




G/M2 in Practice – What to expect.

What do different paper thickness and g/m2 represent in real life? Here is a rough translation of these seemingly arbitrary numbers into commonly occurring paper you will have bumped into before now – some small format, some large format


35g/m2 to 55 g/m2: This is very thin paper. Most newspapers are printed on this paper thickness. As a reference, the average Translucent Bond Paper (JST) = 67g/m2


90 g/m2 to 100 g/m2: This is the weight range of most printer paper. This is the stuff you can pick up in packs of 500 sheets at the office supply store. Bright White Inkjet Paper (JPP20) = 90 g/m2


120 g/m2 to 140 g/m2:This range covers the paper thickness of most posters that are not meant to be used long-term. Paper with this g/m2 is sturdy enough to withstand a bit of wear and tear. Consider Heavyweight Coated Paper = 130 g/m2 and although it’s more durable than paper, Everyday Matte Polypropylene (CGFTRM) has a weight of 120 g/m2.


210 g/m2 to 300 g/m2:This weight range has us moving into a thick and premium class. This collection is approaching card-stock thickness, but will likely still have a bit of a bend when held with two fingers. Think of Matte Litho-realistic Paper = 270 g/m2, or our Premium Instant-dry Satin Photo Paper at a weight of 210 g/m2.


350 g/m2 and up:This range of g/m2 is often what people would refer to as ‘card stock’, but that can be a dangerous label. It’s not just the thickness of media that matters, but its flexibility too that matters. An example of this weight would be Colorfast Adhesive Vinyl WITH the liner = 345 g/m2, once the liner is removed, its 190 g/m2. our Opaque Scrim is a fat 490-510 g/m2.


As you can see, there is quite a bit to think about when it comes to different wide-format media, especially higher-end graphics stock.


Ultimately, don't let it frustrate you. Contact a TAVCO specialist and let them know exactly what you have in mind for the final product. 


Content source:

Article originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020.



Kevin Vaughan

Written by Kevin Vaughan

Kevin Vaughan is the Vice President of TAVCO and heads up Sales, Digital Marketing, and E-Commerce channels. With over two decades of experience, he has received various awards for sales performance and channel growth. Published articles focus on AEC technologies including laser scanning, 3D cameras, CAD software, and large format plotters. When he is not geeking out on new technologies, you can find him hanging with his wife and kids, playing guitar, or Scuba diving.