The best GSM for printing is determined by the print job itself. Each print job calls for a certain GSM. Letterhead, resumes, and color images call for a heavier weight of paper. While reports, emails, or bulletins can use a standard paper weight.
In my experience most printers can handle between 60 to 300 GSM. Any higher or lower can cause issues. Print jobs for this range of GSM are:
- 60-90 GSM is ideal for copy or multipurpose paper
- 90-120 GSM is ideal for color or two sided printing
- 120-140 GSM is ideal for letterhead, brochures, resumes
- 130-300 GSM is ideal for photo paper
- 200-300 GSM is ideal for business cards, greeting cards, or signs
These ranges are guidelines. If you want to use a lighter paper for a resume you can. However, paper weights impact perception. Heavier paper gives the impression of a more important document or image.
Heavier paper also costs more. So if you’re going to do a mass mailing 300 GSM might not be the best choice. Unless it’s just business cards.
In my experience going for slightly heavier paper usually turns out well. At least up to a point. Many home printers struggle with weights approaching 300 GSM. I usually don’t go any higher than 250 GSM. I’ve also found 105 GSM sublimation paper does better than 125 GSM.
GSM vs Pounds
Grams per square meter is a universal standard for paper weights. It’s based on a square meter of paper instead of its dimensions. Meaning whether it’s letter or tabloid size GSM accurately reflects a papers thickness.
On the other hand pounds are measured by the weight of 500 sheets of paper. The dimensions vary based on paper type. For example, cover is manufactured in 20 x 26 inch sheets of paper. While Index is made in 22½ x 30½ inch.
So 500 sheets of larger size paper is going to weigh more than 500 sheets of slightly smaller size paper. Thickness is not going to be accurately reflected by comparing the weights.
On the other hand using the weight of one square meter will reflect a paper’s thickness, regardless of the final size of paper. The higher the GSM the thicker the paper.
When comparing the same paper types, the higher the pounds the thicker the paper. Pounds should not be used when comparing different paper types.
The best paper for printing isn’t just based on GSM. For example, using heavier copy paper isn’t going to improve color print quality.
In my experience, a good 24 lbs laser paper produces far better color print quality than a 32 lbs copy paper. I’d avoid using copy paper if you want the best paper for printing. A good multipurpose or laser paper is much better than copy paper.
Copy paper is the cheapest paper available. At the same GSM, index paper is stiffer than copy paper. Index paper makes better business or greeting cards than copy paper.
Copy, multipurpose, color, and laser paper vary in quality. Paper quality is based on its fibers, coating, and brightness.
Paper made from finer fibers has a smoother finish than paper made from coarse fibers. A coating improves the color print quality. Not all papers come with a coating and not all coatings are suitable for laser printers. The brighter the paper the better.
You should also consider these factors besides GSM when deciding on which paper is best.
Certain weights of paper are better suited for different purposes. Different types of paper are also better suited for different purposes.
Besides GSM, other factors to consider are whether a paper has finer fibers, a coating, and a higher brightness. These factors determine the best paper for printing on inkjet or laser printers.
80-90 GSM is excellent for printing.
Higher GSM is generally better for printing. At least to a point
200 GSM is an ideal heavy weight paper for printing.
The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on scanners, printers, copiers, and faxes since 1994. When I’m not fixing them I’m writing about them. Although, I’m probably better at fixing them. I’ve worked with every major brand. As well as several types of processes. If it uses paper I’ve probably worked on one.