Printing from Concept
to Completion
Since 1981

Paper Glossary

The printing industry is often thought to have a language all its own, and it is fluid as new terms are created with new technology. Call us at 512-459-1339 and one of our Customer Service Reps will be happy to explain any term or process used in our industry. However, if we are not available at the time you want an answer, please review the glossaries we have compiled. One glossary is specifically about paper, and the other contains terms about creating files, producing jobs, and bindery operations.

Quick Start. . . Click on the Letter of Your Choice


Acid-Free Paper
Paper made from pulp containing little or no acid (neutral 7.0pH) so it resists deterioration from age (40-50 year life). Similar papers are alkaline paper (200-year life), Archival Paper, neutral pH paper, permanent paper and thesis paper.

Against the Grain
See Grain Direction.

Archival Paper
Acid free (neutral pH) and lignin free paper that lasts longer than other papers and holds color well.


Basic Size
The basic size of paper is a customary standard sheet size that is used to determine the basis weight for 500 sheets (ream) of paper. Each grade of paper has its own basic size. The basic size is not necessarily the same size as how the paper is sold to consumers. For example, bond paper used in desktop printers in North America is typically sold in 8½” x 11” sheets but the basic sheet size is 17” x 22”.

Basis Weight
The weight, measured in pounds, of 500 sheets (a ream) of paper cut to a standard size is its basis weight. The standard size (basic size) is not the same for all paper grades. The major paper grades such as bond or cover have their own standard sizes which determine the basis weight for that grade of paper regardless of the final cut size of the paper used or sold to consumers. A ream of all-purpose letter-size desktop printer paper may have a basis weight of 20 lbs. but that doesn’t mean that the ream of letter-size paper weighs 20 lbs. The 20 lbs. is based on 500 17×22-inch sheets of that particular paper.

Bond Paper
Category of paper commonly used for stationery and business forms where strength, durability and permanence are essential requirements. There are generally two types: cotton fiber and sulphite. Surfaces accept typewriter, printer, and offset printing inks, and erase easily. Also called business paper and writing paper.

Book Paper
Category of paper suitable for books, magazines, catalogs, advertising and general printing needs. It is available in a wide range of weights and finishes. Finishes include English Finish, Antique (wove and laid), Supercalendered, Vellum, and smooth.

Bristol Paper
General term referring to paper 6 points or thicker with basis weight between 90# and 200# (200-500 GSM). Used for products such as index cards, file folders and displays. See Index Bristol and Printing Bristol.


C1S and C2S
Abbreviations for coated one side and coated two sides.

In the paper making process, paper pulp is pressed between cast-steel rollers with polished ground surfaces to increase the paper’s smoothness of its surface.

Thickness of paper or other Substrate expressed in thousandths of an inch (mils or points) or thousandths of a millimeter (microns).

Carbonless Paper
Paper coated with chemicals that enable transfer of images from one sheet to another with pressure from writing or typing. Also called by a brand name, NCR (No Carbon Required).

Cast-Coated Paper
High gloss, coated paper made by drying the paper pressed against a polished, hot, metal drum while the coating is still wet.

To keep paper in the pressroom for a few hours or days before printing so that its moisture level and temperature equal that in the pressroom.

Coated Paper
Paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity, ink holdout and produces a smooth finish. Surfaces are generally described in one of four major coated categories: Cast, Gloss, Dull and Matte.

(1) Category of thick paper used for products such as posters, menus, folders and covers of paperback books. Many covers made to match coated, text and book papers, or with a variety of special surface textures, coatings and finishes. Also called card stock.
(2) Thick paper that protects a publication and advertises its title on the front, and possibly spine.

In paper, the distortion of a sheet due to differences in structure or coatings from one side to another, or due to absorption of moisture in the air (humidity).

Cut Sizes
Paper which has been cut from parent-sized sheets to the sizes commonly used with office machines and small presses: letter (8.5 x 11), legal (8.5 x 14), and ledger (11 x 17).


Deckle Edge
The untrimmed feathery edges of paper formed where the pulp flows against the deckle, which is the width of the wet sheet as it comes off the wire of a paper making machine. In most cases, it is cleanly cut off during the papermaking process. When left in place, it becomes a decorative, textured edging.

Dull Finish
Smooth paper with a low gloss finish; slightly smoother and more lustre than matte. Also called suede finish, velour finish and velvet finish.
Duplex Paper

Duplex Paper
Thick paper made at the paper mill by pasting together two thinner sheets, usually of different colors and/or finishes. Also called double-faced paper and two-tone paper.


English Finish
A grade of book paper with a smoother, more uniform surface than machine finish; smoother than eggshell, rougher than smooth.


Felt Finish
An Uncoated, uncalendered paper that has a surface texture created by pressing the paper with patterned woven wool or synthetic felt belts during manufacture.

Felt Side
The side of the paper that does not touch the wire on the paper machine during the paper manufacturing process. It is usually smoother than the bottom or Wire Side and, as it is considered the top of the sheet, it is generally the preferred side for printing.

Fine Papers
Papers made specifically for writing or commercial printing, as compared to coarse papers and industrial papers.

Surface characteristics or texture of paper.


Paper or card stock with a surface luster or brightness (shiny stock). Luster can also be added post-press by UV or aqueous coating or varnish, or laminating.

Grain Direction
Predominant direction in which fibers in paper become aligned during manufacturing. Paper folds more smoothly when the fold follows the grain (folds with the grain). Paper is stiffer in the grain direction. When exposed to moisture (humidity), paper expands or contracts more in the cross grain direction.

  • Grain Long Paper: Paper whose fibers run parallel to the long dimension of the sheet (machine direction).
  • Grain Short Paper: Paper whose fibers run parallel to the short dimension of the sheet (cross direction).
  • With the Grain: Folding or feeding paper with the grain direction of the paper parallel to the blade of the folder or the axis of the impression cylinder.
  • Against the Grain (cross grain): Folding or feeding paper at right angles to the grain direction.

The unit of measurement for paper weight (grams per square meter). The larger the number, the heavier/thicker the sheet.



Index Bristol
Characterized by stiffness and receptivity to writing inks, index is used wherever a stiff, inexpensive paper is required. Smooth and Antique finishes are available.




Paper intended for printing on one side only, with the reverse side being adhesive gummed at the mill, or dry gum (needs to be moistened for adhering). Label paper can come in sheets, or in shapes kiss-cut with a die.

Laid Finish
Paper on which a pattern of parallel lines at equal distances giving a ribbed effect. Laid lines are close together and run Against the Grain; chain lines are farther apart, run With the Grain and appear as straight opaque lines.

Laser Bond
Bond paper made especially smooth and dry to run well through laser printers.

Letter Paper
In North America, 8.5” x 11” sheets. In Europe, A4 sheets (8.25” x 11.5”, or 210 x 297mm).

Linen Finish
Embossed finish on text paper that simulates the pattern of linen cloth.


Paper used in the makeready process at any stage in production. Makeready paper is part of waste or spoilage.

Matte Finish
Flat (dull, not glossy) finish without luster on photographic paper or coated printing paper.

Metallic Paper
Paper coated with a thin film of plastic or pigment whose color and gloss simulate metal.

Paper (7.25” x 10.5”) and envelope (7.5” x 3.875”) sizes often used for personal stationery.



Paper similar to coated and uncoated book papers except for sizing.

That property of paper (having more fibers and fillers) which minimizes printing on one side from showing through to the other side.

Not transparent.


Paper Grade
Classification of different types of paper based on the type of pulp, treatments, and the end use of the paper, such as Bond, Book, Bristol, Cover, Index etc. You might choose to use cover paper or index paper grade instead of the more common choice of book paper for a brochure but you need to be aware of the differing characteristics (such as bulk, opacity, or available finishes) that can make certain paper grades more or less suitable for a particular type of document.

Paper Weight
Paper weight differs by grade of paper. Bond is going to be the lightest; Book/Text/Offset heavier; Cover/Index/Bristol the heaviest. However, consumer confusion arises because some papers in different grades are equivalent to each other. For example, a 20# bond is equivalent to a 50# Offset.

Parent Sheet
The larger size sheets of paper used by commercial printers which are either printed to fold into smaller sizes such as for booklets or brochures; or printed then cut into smaller sizes. Knowing the parent sheet sizes can help when designing documents by allowing the designer to plan for ways to eliminate paper waste and control costs. The use of bleeds or of non-standard finished or trim sizes can necessitate the use of larger parent sheets which increases cost.

Printing Bristol
Generally stiffer than index, printing bristols have a good level surface of antique, vellum, smooth or plate finish. Print well on either offset press or letterpress.



Rag Paper
Stationery or other forms of stock having a strong percentage content of “cotton rags.”

500 sheets of paper, or 250 sheets of card stock or cover stock.


Satin Finish
Alternate term for dull finish on coated paper.

Substrate (paper, cover, card, envelope, etc.) to be printed.

Stocking Paper
Popular sizes, weights and colors of papers available for prompt delivery from a merchant’s warehouse, as opposed to a “mill item only” which, as it says, is stocked only at the making paper mill and therefore would be a special order.

Substance Weight
Alternate term for Basis Weight, usually referring to bond papers. Also called sub weight.

Any surface or material on which printing is done.

A process in papermaking that produces a thin paper with an extremely smooth finish by passing it through a second calender stack using alternating chrome and fiber rollers.


Using a broadsheet (17” x 22”) as a measure, one half of a broadsheet (17” x 11”) and twice the size of standard letter paper (8.5 x 11).

Grade of dense, strong paper used for products such as badges and file folders. The caliper of tag ranges from .007 to .015.


Uncoated Paper
Paper that has not been coated with clay. Also called offset paper, it is more absorbent than coated paper.


Vellum Finish
Somewhat rough, toothy finish.


Translucent logo in paper created during manufacturing by slight embossing from a dandy roll while paper is still approximately 90 percent water.

Wire Side
Side of the paper that rests against the fourdrinier wire during papermaking, opposite from Felt Side or top side. Usually not quite as smooth as the top/felt side, so is not the preferred side for printing.

With the Grain
See Grain Direction.

Woodfree Paper
Made with chemical pulp only. Paper usually classified as Calendered or Supercalendered.

Paper manufactured without visible wire marks, usually a fine textured paper.