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What Is Paper Stock?

Have you ever wondered what makes a brochure appear luxurious or a business card striking? Maybe you have been impressed by the texture or vibrant colors of printed material. Well, the secret is in the paper stock. What is paper stock exactly? 

This is a critical component of printing, influencing not only the aesthetics but also the feel and the quality of the printed material. In this guide, we will explore the world of paper stocks, including different types, key characteristics, and common uses. 

What Is Paper Stock? 

Paper stock is a term that we use to describe the type of paper we use for our printing projects. It encompasses properties such as texture, finish, color, and brightness, all of which can impact the look and feel of the prints. 

Thereby, we can say that different types of paper stock are suitable for different purposes. Consequently, the choice of paper stock can impact the appearance, durability, and perceived value of the printed materials.

Not all designs suit all printing papers. Thus, choosing the right paper is essential for creating quality prints. For instance, a business card printed on thin material may not make the best impression, whereas a booklet containing crucial information may not require an affluent look.

What Is Paper Stock? 
Source: / Photo Contributor: New Africa

Understanding Paper Stock 

A common question we receive is about paper stock composition. More specifically, what is paper stock made of? As we have mentioned above, paper stock isn’t a specific material. Instead, it is a term that describes the type and quality of the paper that we will use for printing.

Paper stocks can be made from various materials. The most common ones include wood pulp, cotton, linen, and recycled paper. In addition to the material, they may also contain additives to enhance the properties of the paper. 

Looking to learn more about how a paper stock affects printing? As a long-term provider of commercial printing services and book printers in the US, we will give you all the details. Whether you are a designer, printer, or simply curious, our guide can help you make decisions that work best for your printing process. 

What is the standard paper stock?

Now that you are more familiar with paper stock, you may wonder what the standard looks like. Actually, there is no universal standard, but rather, the choice of paper depends on what you intend to use it for and the printing techniques you will use.

However, there are some common uses associated with paper for printing. For our everyday printing tasks, the standard paper commonly has around 75 gsm. This is a lightweight and inexpensive type of paper.

For documents that feature a lot of text, we often use a slightly heavier stock of around 90-105 gsm. Our goal is to provide a better feel and opacity for better-enhanced reading. When it comes to card stock, we use paper with a weight of around 175gsm or even higher, as it gives materials a professional look. 

Note: Keep in mind these are general guidelines. The best paper stock depends on personal preferences, such as the purpose of the printed piece, the desired look and feel, and, of course, your budget.

Characteristics affecting the quality of paper stock

We describe paper stock using several attributes, including texture, grain brightness, and color. Let’s have a look at some of the critical characteristics.


Paper texture refers to the feel of the paper’s surface. That said, paper stock comes in a variety of textures. It can be smooth with a flat surface for printing quality images and text or laid paper, adding elegance to prints like invitations and certificates. 

You can also find linen paper, which is excellent for packaging and high-end stationery. These textures add depth and dimension to the printed materials, influencing the overall aesthetic and the tactile experience. 

Color and brightness

Paper stock is also available in a broad spectrum of colors. From bright white options to cream, deep black, and everything in between. You can make a choice based on the desired look that you would like your printed piece to have. 

Paper stock also comes in multiple brightness options. They intend to offer better readability and a vibrant display of ink colors. The paper’s opacity also shows how well the print will block the light.

It can be an opaque paper that is entirely see-through or a white translucent paper that enables some light to pass through. For instance, you can use opaque paper for printing creative business cards or translucent paper for tracing sheets. 

Color and Brightness
Source: / Photo Contributor: Libor Píška


Paper weight determines the thickness and sturdiness of the paper. The measurement unit we use is grams per square meter (gsm) or pounds per ream.  Generally, heavier paper stock papers (around 100gsm) are of higher quality.

Higher paper quality tends to offer more substance and stability. Such paper is ideal for high-end prints like postcards, business cards, book covers, and brochures. Lighter weights are better suited for everyday printing and printing jobs like flyers and leaflets.


The finish of the paper stock refers to the texture and the sheen of the surface of the paper. It affects the appearance and the feel of the paper. The stock paper typically has a gloss or matte finish.

Glossy finishes offer a shiny and reflective surface. They produce sharp images with vibrant colors, making them ideal for photos and high-impact graphics. Matt finishes, on the other hand, provide a subdued and non-reflective surface for a subtle look.

A matte finish is a good choice for printing invitations and text-heavy documents. Paper can also be uncoated, meaning it can have a natural and textured surface. They are suitable for writing and absorbing ink, hence for printing notebooks and letterhead.

Types of Paper Stock for Printing

Paper stocks come in a myriad of options, each with its own characteristics and applications. In general, at CityPress INC, we categorize the paper stocks into coated and uncoated. 

Coated paper

As the name suggests, coated paper is a paper coated by a polymer or a mix of materials. It offers vibrant color reproduction and features a smooth and glossy surface. Thus, we use such paper to print brochures, flyers, and magazines. 

Uncoated paper

Compared to the coated paper, the uncoated one has a natural and textured feel. It is suitable for print projects that require a more rustic and organic look. This includes printing materials such as envelopes, stationary, and packaging. 

Bond paper

Also known as writing paper, this is a lightweight yet durable paper with a weight

greater than 50 g/m². It was initially made for documents like government bonds. We commonly use it for stationery, letterheads, forms, and general office printing. 

Offset paper

Due to its versatility, offset paper is suitable for a wide range of applications. This includes magazines, catalogs, and brochures. Such paper offers excellent printability and is available in various finishes and weights. 

Cardstock (cover stock)

Cardstock is thicker than regular printing paper. As a result, it is characterized by high durability and a professional finish. Its sturdy composition makes this paper ideal for invitations, greetings, covers for booklets, and business cards. 

Cardstock (Cover Stock)
Source: / Photo Contributor: KONSTANTIN_SHISHKIN

Text paper

Compared to card stock, text paper is lighter and thinner but flexible. This type of paper is available in different weights and finishes. Hence, we often use it for book printing such as interiors, as well as for newsletters, and flyers.

Recycled paper

With the rise of environmental consciousness among companies worldwide, recycled paper is a popular choice. You can find such paper in various weights and finishes. Due to its eco-friendly properties, it is suitable for a broad range of applications. 


What is paper stock is a commonly asked question when it comes to printing materials. The term includes various types of paper materials, each with specific characteristics for different printing needs.

Selecting the right paper is essential for not only achieving the desired look but also for the feel and durability of the prints. This includes considering factors like intended use, printability, texture, and environmental impact.


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