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Thickness levels - and what it actually means

 Quick facts




  • Flimsier products can feel unsubstantial and can lend an aura of being less important, cheaper, disposable, throw-away, temporary rather than the heavier, thicker papers
  • Most likely for print to "show through"
  • Most economical
  • Better jam resistance
  • Lighter weight paper is less bulky to carry and it is easier to bind a greater number of printed documents together
  • Mailing costs can be cut dramatically by using lightweight paper and can also keep a document from crossing the next higher postage rate boundary
  • Shipping/transportation costs and storage space can be reduced


  • Heavier, thicker papers can feel more substantial and can lend an aura of importance and seriousness not found in flimsier products
  • Provides crisper text
  • Offers less ink bleed
  • Virtually no "show through"
  • Smoother finish
  • Better looking colour













General Overview:

Paper thickness is measured between two plates set at a defined pressure, and depends upon the grammage and volume of the paper. Several measurements are carried out and the results are averaged.  Typical A4 printing paper is 80gsm and the higher the gsm (grams per square metre), the thicker the paper.  

Every printer has a maximum paper thickness that it can handle, so ensure you check your printer spec to avoid damage to the printer.

Test Methods include:

ISO 534 - quantifies two methods for measuring the thickness of paper - the measurement of a single sheet of paper and the measurement of a pack of sheets of paper as a bulking thickness.  It also specifies various calculation methods for apparent bulk and sheet density and volume.  It is not applicable where materials have a grammage higher than 225g/m2.

Tappi T 411 - quantifies the measure of thickness of a single sheet of paper, paperboard, or combined board by the use of an automatically operated micrometer when a specified static load is applied for a minimum specified time. Because of the relatively high pressure (7.3psi) used in this test, it may not be suitable for measurement of tissue or other soft or low density materials, because the structure may collapse.

Tappi T 500 - quantifies the thickness of paper, provding for measurement of the overall thickness of a stack of book paper under pressure of 35 psi.


Paper and Media