Paper facts

All you need to know about GSM

GSM is an acronym standing for ‘Grams per Square Metre’. Quite simply, it allows print buyers and print suppliers to know something about the quality of paper that is being ordered. The higher the GSM number, the heavier the paper  - but not necessarily the stiffer or better quality.  Yes it is a bit more complicated than that unfourtunately.

Being specific about the GSM you’re after can make all the difference and you’re likely to be taken more seriously by a printer (not at Minuteman of course – we take everyone seriously) if you ask for a specific GSM rather than just asking for thick or thin paper.

The most common paper GSM’s are :  80gsm, 90gsm, 100gsm, 120gsm, 150gsm, 170gsm, 200gsm, 250gsm, 300gsm, 350gsm and 400gsm. Specialty papers come in a vast variety of odd numbered gsms and often will be stated as 105gsm, 118gsm, etc – depending on the nature of the stock.

The GSM is often misleading in terms of how the paper feels. For instance a good quality 120gsm uncoated letterhead stock can feel stiffer and thicker than a 150 gsm gloss coated stock. Contrastingly a very expensive specialty stock can sometimes feel thinner/flimsier than a cheap stock of the same gsm. It depends how the paper was made and what treatments have been applied.

Still with us??  Don’t worry it is all about the end result.

It is important to select a GSM that suits the purpose of the item.  Quality flyers for instance are usually printed on 150 or 170 gsm paper.  The cheap and flimsy flyers we sometimes receive in letterbox drops can be anywhere from 100gsm to 120gsm and usually glossy paper. If you wish to portray an image of quality the thicker stock would work best. If you want to suggest your prices are bargain basement a cheap stock may have the desired effect.

What paper thickness do different GSMs represent in real life?

Selecting a paper’s GSM without touching and feeling the paper can be a bit daunting. At Minuteman you can pop in and check what we have or we can send samples to you.  This is much better than taking a punt if you are unsure.

Here is a general guide to help you out:

  • 35gsm to 55gsm: This is very thin paper indeed. Most newspapers will commonly be printed on this paper thickness.
  • 80gsm to 100gsm: This is the weight of most household printer paper. The paper you might pick up in packs of 500 sheets at the office supplies shop is usually 80gsm.  It is also the stock used for bulk black and white copying and printing. At Minuteman we use 100gsm and above for colour printing unless directed otherwise by our client.
  • 110gsm to 120gsm: This GSM, as a uncoated stock, is the thickness normally used for office stationery such as letterhead, followers and with compliments slips.
  • 150gsm to 170gsm: Most better standard flyers and brochures are printed in this GSM range. Usually this will be coated gloss or silk stock. Paper with this GSM is sturdy enough to withstand a bit of wear and tear and gives a better feel. This range has the advantage that it is still suitable for folding.
  • 200gsm to 300gsm: Moving onto premium flyers now. This GSM range will cover most of the sturdy printed flyers you receive. This paper stock range is approaching card but will still have a bit of a bend when held with two fingers. Think of the magazine covers you see on the racks at newsagents. The downside is that folding now generally requires scoring for a neat finish.
  • 350gsm to 400gsm: This GSM is essentially card. It will stand up under its own weight and is most commonly associated with marketing cards and business cards. As well, it is likely to be the stock that high-quality invitations are printed on.

We talk about different paper types elsewhere. Ie gloss, satin, uncoated  and  specialties such as linen.