How Paper Weight is Determined - Difference Between US and Metric Paper Weights

Demystifying Paper Weights

There is a particular quiet joy to be found in the time spent crafting with beautiful paper. There are so many color, pattern and texture options available that you’ll find selections for every project that you can possibly conceive of. The actual nature and grading of paper can be confusing at times, though. Unfamiliar manufacturing industry terms can further cloud your research.  

When discussing paper, you are looking at several different specifications that define the characteristics of that particular paper type. First, there are many different types of paper so they are classified by size, weight, thickness and finish. While this gives a variety of options for craft projects, the selection can be overwhelming. As papers can range from very thin tissue paper to heavy cardstock or even cardboard, understanding the terms and uses for each is helpful.

Paper manufacturers assign each type of paper a weight in grams per square meter (gsm) or pounds (lb). In the United States paper weight is usually specified in pounds. This standardization allows users to differentiate between selections.  This means, a particular paper type rated at 100 lbs will be thicker than the same kind of paper rated at 80 lbs. In the case of most of the AC and Bazzill cardstock we carry, the 216 gsm rating which you will see in the product description means that a square meter of the cardstock (39.37 inches square) weighs 216 grams. By comparison, the 100 lb Card Shoppe cardstock is 271 gsm.

This comparative relationship is true when considering any paper but, in the United States, the comparison is only accurate if you are comparing the same paper type. Paper thickness is also measured in the thousandths of an inch.  The term most frequently heard is “points”. A sheet of plain copy paper measure approximately 0.004 inches thick (4 thousandths of an inch), also called four points. So whether you are looking for tissue paper, origami paper or scrapbooking paper, you’re really looking for papers with different weights and thicknesses. 

Another area of confusion is the industry terms “text weight” paper and “cover weight” paper. Text weight paper is a general category of lightweight papers.  They are most often used for stationery, book pages and crafting projects.  The cover weight category of papers is better known as cardstock. These heavier papers can be used for a variety of applications ranging from paperback book covers, folders, menus and scrapbooking. For comparison, copy paper is shown as 20# text while most business cards are rated 80# cover. Most of the American Crafts and Bazzill cardstock sold at 12x12 Cardstock Shop is 80 lb cover. One of the main reasons this cardstock is so popular is its durable and heavy nature.

See chart below to compare US Bond Weight, Text Weight, and Cover Weight with the Metric Weight typically used outside the US (lb vs gsm). 

In terms of general usage, lighter weight papers can be printed on and manipulated more easily. Heavier papers or card stock may be more difficult for crafters to print on and fold but are useful for creating sturdy backing and mounts. These two different types of papers can be combined together into a single project to get the best of both worlds. You may choose to print on a light weight paper then mount it on a heavier piece or combine several attractive elements to finish a unique, creative design. 

To break it all down, look at the following examples of different weights and suggestions for using them.

Lightweight paper – Also known as Text Weight

  • Commonly used in crafting for printed text
  • Easily folded without having to be scored
  • Category includes translucent and covering sheets
  • Similar to copy paper in weight which is 20 lb text
  • 60 lb text is similar to letterhead paper
  • 70 lb text is used for letterheads and important documents
  • 80 lb text is slightly heavier than letterhead paper
  • Easily printed on with a home printer

 Medium Weight Paper

  • Thicker than standard copy paper
  • Weights are between 65-80 lb cover
  • Similar to weight used for greeting cards and postcards which are 65 lb cover
  • Scoring is required to fold it
  • Can be printed on with a home printer

Heavy Weight Paper (sold at 12x12 Cardstock Shop)

  • Paper weight is generally 80 lb to 110 lb
  • Business cards are typically 90 lb cover
  • Scoring is required to fold it
  • May not work in a home printer

Extra-Heavy Weight Paper

  • Paper weight is 110 lb cover and up
  • Similar to the cardstock used to make gift boxes

This gives you a few reference points when deciding the weights of the papers you would like to use in any given project. As you begin experimenting with a variety of both lightweight papers and cardstock, you’ll develop preferences.  Trying out different papers will also give you a feel for how they are best manipulated. 

At 12x12 Cardstock Shop, we are your source for crafting and scrapbook papers. Shop by color, texture or pattern to ignite your creative juices. As you peruse the selection online or in person, you’ll find quality papers from Bazzill, as well as, American Crafts. These lines are recognized for their high quality products for scrapbooking and other paper crafts. As they are acid-free and archival quality, they are perfect for preserving a lifetime of memories. Take time exploring the online inventory or come into the shop to spark your next creative venture.

Below is a Comparative Chart that shows US paper weights (given in lbs) versus the International Metric weight (given in gsm). The two rows highlighted in blue compare 80 lb cover and 100 lb cover (3rd column) which represent the vast majority of the cardstock sold in our store:

 Paper Weight Chart compares US bond, text and cover paper weights with metric weights

Notes: gsm = grams per square meter

Typically the metric system is not used in the United States. For some reason we choose to continue using confusing and inconsistent methods of measurement. We get used to it because we grew up with it. For instance, there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 5,280 feet in a mile, and so on (where's the rhyme and reason for that?). Well, we have established similar, and very confusing, methods for measuring paper weight. Instead of weighing all different paper types based on the same unit (as in a square meter of the paper), in the US we choose to have a different "base size" for each paper type. For this reason, it is very hard to know how weights of different types of paper really compare to each other. Can you remember how many rods in a furlong? How about bushels in a peck? Square feet in an acre? Neither can I. Who knows?! Personally, for paper weight, I like to refer to the gsm because it compares ALL paper types on the same measuring scale. Let's hear it for the metric system!


  • 12x12 Cardstock Shop

    Sus- That’s hard to say without the context, but I would suspect that was being used in place of gsm. GSM is determined by measuring 1 square meter of a paper in grams, so they may have just listed what should be gsm as grams.

  • Sus

    I have seen paper listed as 190 gr. How does that translate to gsm or lbs? Thanks

  • Michelle

    James- 110# cover is 297 gsm.

  • James

    Totally agree with the confusing Imperial system of paper weight.

    What I am trying to find is what is the weight in gsm for what is called 110# Card stock?

  • Bonnie

    Thanks, Dan, for simplifying papers and their weights. I prefer gsm as my reference point, too. It is the only way to compare paper “apples to apples.” Yay metric!

    Thanks again! Your chart is right beside my printer.

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