Paper. It passes through our hands dozens of times daily and many of us are surrounded by piles of it. But because it’s so common, it might be something you don’t think too much about–unless you work here at Ambit Creative Group, of course. Here, we consider the goal, budget and creative aspects of a project in every decision we make, and for printed projects, paper is the foundation.

But if you’re not a paper geek like we are, how do you make sense of it all? How do you decide between cover and double thick cover? What is a caliper? And when should you make sure your white is bright white? Today, we’re sharing insight on paper to help you make informed decisions for your next printing project.


When considering the design and sizing for your print project, remain cognizant of the standard paper sizes that will minimize your waste and costs. By understanding how paper sizing works, you can design a project that is more cost-effective and efficient and produces less paper waste. A few examples of standard paper size are as follows. Consider how your projects will fit on these to give yourself the best cut:

  • Writing & Bond (17″ x 22″): The standard stuff typically used for letters, business forms and copying. (You can fit four 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper on one sheet.)
  • Text (25″ x 38″): Often treated with sizings or coatings for offset printing, this is the type of paper most often found in booklets and brochures. (Here you’ll get eight sheets of standard paper with a little bit of bleed.)
  • Cover (20″ x 26″): Durable, heavier weight paper that is often used as a booklet cover or pocket folder. This type of paper also has ease of scoring, folding, embossing and die-cutting.
  • Tag (24″ x 36″): Fine arts paper for drawing and illustration, paperback book or catalog covers, tags and formal invitations.
  • Double Thick Cover (20″ x 26″): Two papers–either text or cover–pasted or laminated together for a very thick sheet. Most business cards use double thick cover.


Why consider the weight of your paper when designing a print project? The answer is in the palm of your hand–literally. Think about the heft of, perhaps, a wedding invitation as compared to a sheet of newsprint. The newsprint is cheap and efficient for something that will last just a day or two and will yellow over time. The wedding invitation indicates an important event–something that should be kept. A large part of your message will be driven by the tactile impression of your printed piece.

Aside from determining the feel of the project, paper weight also may affect which type of printing press can be used, whether the printing will show through to the other side of the paper and how the items might stand up to handling in a process like direct mailing.


When referring to a paper’s caliper, what we really mean is thickness–a measurement that is different from the paper’s weight but similarly determines durability and stiffness. Caliper is expressed in points, with each point meaning 0.001″ thick and the higher the number of points, the thicker and stiffer the paper or cardstock will be.

While a larger caliper would seem to indicate a heavier weight paper, it’s important to note that a paper’s finish affects the measurement as well. A coated paper can have lower caliper than an uncoated paper of the same weight. It’s even the case that papers of the same basis weight with different finishes can have different calipers.


Many of us have selected bright white paper when choosing, say, copy paper at an office supply store, but what does that really mean? Brightness measures the amount of light reflected by the paper and is measured on something called the TAPPI scale. The brightness number on the TAPPI scale indicates how much light a paper reflects. Black paper absorbs 100% of the light, for example. If you get paper labeled “94 Bright,” this means that 94% of the light is reflected back from the paper. If you ever see anything above 100 on the brightness scale (ex., 108 or 120 Bright), this means it’s from a different brightness scale most commonly used in Europe called the CIE scale.

Is brighter always better? Not necessarily: a blue tinted paper actually has a higher brightness rating than a balanced white sheet, and that can affect the look of colors printed by, for example, making yellows pale and weak. It’s important to compare samples of paper to ensure you’re getting the right brightness.

*Article Sources: Veritiv and the “Ed” series from New Page Corporation


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