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Traditional Printing

Traditional Printing Typically refers to various forms of paper stock. We here at Total Custom Solutions include most forms of thin sheet plastics and vinyl stocks. Many individuals tend to try and separate paper stock into tissue paper, paper or text stock, card or cover stock and paper board. In the end, it is all about weight and thickness. Total Custom Solutions Carries the finest papers and prints with the finest inks producing some of the absolute best print products in the USA. The following information proves it. It is technical and eliminates the hype of our competitors.

Fine Printing is broken down to the follow components:

Quality of the graphic art work, layout and design

Quality & weight of the paper / vinyl (substrate)

Quality of the ink and finish used in the project

Quality of the actual print process / resolution

First and foremost we provide extensive graphic layout and design at little or no cost by utilizing students under strict teacher supervision at one of the finest graphic design schools in the USA. Compare that to DIY or templates or on-line design tools there is no comparison in the final quality of the design. We print on new multimillion dollar presses that have the ability to print at ridiculously crazy resolutions. Finally depending on the application we use top quality finishes, additives and premium inks to produce every project based on your needs and applications. Read below to get the technical facts. As for other substrates like thin plastics, vinyl and fiberglass reinforced banner materials we have a very wide selection of materials to satisfy every need, condition and use.

Understanding Paper stock weights and thicknesses

USA manufacturers use a weird way to determine what is  and tend to sort by the ___ pound rating or by the ___ pt stock ratings. That gets very confusing in USA forms of measurements as the USA weight systems are based on 500 sheets of these various thickness papers based on the length and width of the sheets being weighed called basis weights. Which is why we sometimes hear of things like 110# paper stock and 110# card stock but the card stock is twice as thick and twice as heavy. Why? Because they use 500 sheets 20 inches x 26 inches. Whereas text or paper stock uses 500 sheets 25 inches x 38 inches (almost twice the size).

The rest of the world keeps it simple – The use 1 meter by 1 meter for everything and focus on how many grams 500 sheets weigh. Commonly, referred to a GSM or Gm2. Once you understand, that everything about Paper is inconsistent and virtually impossible to accurately measure as it is absorbent and takes on moisture quickly and easily. As it does so it swells and gets heavier and as it dries out it gets thinner and lighter just like a sponge. Additives or coatings are often added to paper which further complicates the measurements. But in short the more it weighs the stronger and thicker it is. The following chart might help. Bold text denotes the preferred way to describe that particular weight paper. Purple text denotes that it could be classified either way.

GSM Offset Text Cover Card Points
34 20 14 1.6
39 24 16 2
45 30 18 2.4
52 35 20 2.8
60 40 22 3.2
68 45 24 3.6
75 50 28 3.8
90 60 33 4.8
105 70 39 5.8
107 72 39.5 5.9
109 73 40 6
117 78 45 6.1
132 90 48 6.2
135 90 50 6.8
147 100 54 7.2
151 100 56 7.3
162 110 60 7.4
166 110 61 7.6
177 120 65 7.8
199 135 74 8.5
203 137 75 9
218 146 80 9.2
245 165 90 9.5
252 170 93 10
271 183 100 11
286 192 105 13
298 200 110 13.5
309 208 114 14
312 220 120 15
341 236 129 16
370 251 137 17
385 256 141 17.5
400 266 146 18
414 275 151 18.5
429 285 157 19
444 295 162 19.5
458 304 167 20
473 314 173 20.5
487 324 178 21
502 334 183 21.5
517 343 189 22
531 353 194 22.5
546 363 199 23
560 372 205 23.5
575 382 210 24



As you can see it is all pretty simple if you look at the GSM paper weight…. Paper or text stock is usually less than 170gsm and Card or Cover stock is usually heavier than 210gsm. In between it could be called either. Over 575gsm you find your paper board sticks and under 30gsm you get your fine or delicate tissue stock.

If you want to wrestle with the USA Basis weight measurements – Here you go.

Basis Weights American paper manufacturers make paper to a weight standard, called the Basis Weight. Basis weight is determined by weighing 500 sheets of any grade of paper in the proper basic size.

Writing and Bond 17″ x 22″ W (Writing), Laser, lb. Originally applied to cotton- content paper for printing stationery, bonds and legal documents.
Text 25″ x 38″ T Popular weights used for text pages in books or booklets.
Cover 20″ x 26″ C Heavier papers used for covers of books or booklets or stand alone pieces such as pocket folders.
Bristol 22.5″ x 28.5″ Made by pasting or laminating two text weights together to form a stiff cover sheet. Named for Bristol, England, where paper was first made.
Double Thick 20″ x 26″ DTC and CB respectively Made by pasting or laminating two text or cover papers, to form a very thick, stiff sheet.


Other factors in considering your paper or your print company are the density, brightness and smoothness of the paper that they use. Total Custom Solutions prefers to discuss the GSM weights as it is the only fair way to understand expenses. We also insist on using only paper with a 96% brightness (Bright White), Ultra Smooth Coated Paper (5-15) with a 98%-100% opacity (Print on the back won’t be visible on the front). This may be technical. For that we apologize. However, NOT all papers are equal. We also print with very high resolution of 122,500 – 562,500 CMYK dots in every square inch instead of the industry norms of only 5,184 – 90,000. Making us 1 of the finest quality printers in the USA if not “THE” finest printer in the USA. Fact not hype.

Here is some information on all 8 Finer Points about Paper Quality and formation from one of our 17 Paper Suppliers Mohawk.


Formation refers to the uniformity and distribution of fibers within a sheet of paper. In well formed sheets, ink is absorbed evenly for smooth solids and clear reproduction. A poorly formed sheet will exhibit more dot gain and a mottled appearance when printed. HOW TO CHECK: Hold the paper up to a light source. A well-formed sheet appears uniform, while a poorly formed paper has clumps of fibers, giving it a cloudy look. Compare a sheet of standard copy paper with a sheet of Superfine to see the difference. Discount printers love to sell poor formation paper as it is rejected by the majority of higher end printers instantly and is low cost.


Opacity measures the amount of light passing through a sheet of paper in values from 1 (the most transparent) to 100% (the most opaque). A paper with a relatively high opacity of 96% will have less (or no) show-through from printing on the reverse side or the sheet below. Selecting a sheet with good opacity is especially important if the design includes solid blocks of color, bold type, and heavy coverage. Basis weight, brightness, type of fibers, fillers, coatings, and formation all influence opacity. HOW TO CHECK: Lay an unprinted sheet of paper on top of a printed page to see how much printing shows through and/or examine a printed sample on the exact paper you are considering.


Brightness is measured as the percentage of light reflected from the surface of the paper. It is not necessarily related to color or whiteness. A blue-white and yellow-white paper can have the same brightness value but look very different. A paper with a brightness of 98 is an extremely bright sheet with almost all light being reflected back to the viewer. Four-color process images “pop” on bright white papers, as they illuminate transparent printing inks. For pieces with a great deal of copy, a natural shade of white is preferable to minimize eyestrain. HOW TO CHECK: Brightness is often listed in swatch book charts. Bright white sheets range from 92 to 100.


Paper comes in a wide range of finishes, with notable differences even among those classified as “smooth.” Finish or smoothness affects ink receptivity and ink holdout. HOW TO CHECK: Ask about the paper’s Sheffield value. A higher value on this smoothness scale typically indicates a rougher sheet—for example, coated paper may have a smoothness of 10-30, a super-smooth premium uncoated will have a smoothness of 45-60, and a vellum text and cover from 200-250. With hundreds of text and cover papers, many designers rely on a few favorites–usually choosing white and smooth papers. Close attention reveals a host of fi ne paper qualities that can make or break a job on press. The more you understand these, the better able you are to make the right paper choice.

Side-to-Side Consistency

Finished paper has two sides: the “wire” side, which comes in contact with the wires on the papermaking machine, and the “felt” side, which does not. Better papers have good side-to-side consistency and will print colors evenly on both the wire and felt sides. HOW TO CHECK: You can usually see and feel inconsistencies such as on a Laid finish paper. To better predict how each side will print, ask your printer to provide an ink drawdown on both sides of the sheet.


The print quality of a paper will be determined by formation, smoothness, brightness, opacity and if applicable, surface coating. HOW TO CHECK: Request samples that demonstrate how a paper prints before specifying it. Your paper merchant sales rep or printer can provide real-world projects printed on the paper, in addition to mill promotions.

Environmental Qualities

For many customers, the use of recycled paper or paper manufactured with renewable energy is important. The variety and quality of recycled papers have grown dramatically, meaning designers no longer have to compromise when choosing an environmental paper.

Paper Permanence

Acid-free papers are manufactured in an alkaline environment, which prevents the internal chemical deterioration of the paper over time. Archival papers will contain an additional 2% calcium carbonate reserve which acts as a buffer, making the paper resistant to the effects of an external acidic environment. They also contain a very small amount, if any, of lignin and meet tear criteria. The life span for alkaline paper measures in hundreds of years, compared to just decades for acid paper. HOW TO CHECK: Ask about the paper company’s ANSI certification for acid-free and/or archival paper. Acid-free information is often incorporated in swatch book copy and charts.


Discussing paper stock is an endless task. However what is less gets into the chemicals, fibers, additives and fake textures that are applied or used in the pulp process to enhance a desired effect.  Examples are cotton fibers to give the paper a soft elegant feel, Acid-free chemicals for paper permanence, NCR coatings for forms OR special embossing rollers for fake linen effects.  Feel free to call and discuss any questions you have with our production management if you have special needs or desires.


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