Physical paper weight reference

So here’s the thing. When I send an order to a printing shop, I never know what kind of paper I really need. So I just ask them what paper they’d propose me after I explain them the futur use of the print. (ie: flyers, congress name badges, etc.)

Since I didn’t have any references, I ordered a couple of free samples from some printing company, such as Moo, Jukeboxprint, PFL and VistaPrint. Of course, it gave me an idea about their product and some paper weights, but I don’t find it professionnal enough, neither complete enough.

Also, their standard seems to be quite different. For paper weight, some use “Pt”, other use “#” (as in 120#). Sometimes it’s “Lb”, other times it’s “gsm”. It’s really confusing. I know, there is conversion charts (ex:, but it would be nice to have a universal physical reference. Pretty much like any color reference bar :

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So, does anyone know where I can find that? If such thing exists.



Such a thing does not exist, unfortunately. The sheer number of paper and board suppliers, the vast number of substrates that most of them produce and the constant innovation mean that you could never really have a universal standard set of papers. Even if you were to source something standard (like 150gsm semi gloss coated) from a handful of different suppliers, there would be variances in the appearance and feel of the stock from each one.

The best course of action, in my option is:

  • If you have a favourite printer (or printers) then ask them for a sample of each of the standard stocks that they carry. Most printers will have a range of papers and boards that will cover most eventualities. They should be able to supply with some kind of folder or book with a sample of each, labelled up with the spec, weight, recycled percentage, etc for each one.
  • Secondly, ask those printers who their paper suppliers are and approach the suppliers directly for more information and samples. They will probably have too many different products to send you a sample of every one, so you may have to narrow it down for them or request samples on a case by case basis. By approaching suppliers that your printer(s) already use, you know that they will be able to get you anything that you request, assuming that it will work with their machinery.
  • Finally, hunt the internet for print trade publications (many of which offer free subscriptions) and try to attend the occasional trade show (Packaging Innovations is a good one in the UK) so that you can pick up on new innovations and ideas. Remember that if you find something very new or ‘out there’ then it is a good idea to check it’s viability with the printer before showing it to a client or making it the crux of your project.

Above all, experience is the key. The more projects you complete and more substrates you deal with the more you will learn and understand. Eventually, you will get to a point where you can look at a paper sample (or feel it between your fingers) and just know what weight it is, whether it’s coated or uncoated, etc. You will also develop and taste for certain substrates and a dislike of others.

As with all things creative, it’s rather complicated and very subjective.

Source : Link , Question Author : JFK , Answer Author : Westside

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