What does paper GSM mean? – GSM Paper Guide

If you have ever shopped around for anything print related one of the main descriptions used to describe the paper stock or the paper used for printing is “GSM”. 

GSM – or grams per square metre – is quite important of a consideration to make when choosing what product you’d like printed so we have put together this quick guide to answer any questions you may have about GSM and how it matters when choosing memorial cards. 

So What exactly is GSM

GSM is the abbreviated term used for grams per square metre and refers to the weight of the paper being used to print. The higher the number the heavier the paper. This also has a bearing of perceived quality as heavier paper is generally regarded as being higher quality. 

A good example of this is common everyday A4 printer paper which is usually something like 80gsm or 100gsm – this paper is easy to fold and bend but wouldn’t be what most would regard as high quality. If you then think of a high quality brochure, menu or business card printed on 300gsm not only is it noticeably heavier and harder to bend or fold it also feels much better quality to the touch. 

Is GSM important?

Simply put GSM is probably one of the most important considerations when choosing what product you want printed and how you’d like it to turn out. 

To give an example of this compare a greetings or memorial card with a folded flyer. A greetings or memorial card requires a high GSM paper as the card needs to be more durable and also needs to be free standing whereas a folded flyer doesn’t need a high GSM paper as durability or finished quality doesn’t really matter as much and the flyer doesn’t need to be free standing. 

GSM is also important when thinking about quality and how the quality of the product you want printed will be received. For example a business card printed on 200gsm card would be very flimsy and what most people would consider of poor quality. If that same business card is printed on something like 350gsm or 400gsm board the quality would be received as very good. 

A lot of greetings cards or luxury paper stocks used for things like wedding invites often are only available in 300+gsm with the most common paper weight being 350gsm. This helps printed items like greetings cards and wedding invitations feel much more substantial and luxurious which is an important consideration when printing these. 

Does GSM effect price?

Unfortunately yes, it’s very much a case of you get what you pay for. The price difference between lighter stocks such as 130gsm and heavier stock like 350gsm is generally substantial so that has to be taken into account when choosing what is best for what you need printed. 

For memorial cards and any greetings cards we only every print on 350gsm paper stocks and above. The cost consideration here is an easy one for us as even though using heavier paper is vastly more expensive the quality that we can get with them far outweighs any price. We really don’t have the option to use lighter paper!

Do you need special machines to print heavy paper?

You absolutely do! Most standard inkjet or laser printers can’t print on heavy paper. In fact most of them can’t even go above 200gsm! 

To print on heavy paper like 350gsm card you need digital production machines that are spec’d for the job! We use Konica Minolta machines which are easy able to handle 350gsm card and print in great quality on it too!

Printing on heavy paper also tends to take it toll on machines when you compare to printing on lighter stocks so the machines have to be maintained regularly to produce the best results. 

Consideration also has to be put into what machines can be used to finish items printed on heavy card. Things like guillotines need to be production quality machines and be regularly maintained for the extra stress of cutting heavy card. Things like guillotine blades also have to be changed regularly as cutting heavier higher GSM papers blunt blades quicker than light paper. 

For cards printed on heavier paper machines like creasers are also needed to score the paper as folding heavier paper without doing this will result in a very poor fold like and toner and paper cracking. 

Is GSM and paper thickness the same?

In a roundabout way no. GSM just refers to the weight of the paper whereas microns is what is used to refer to how thick a piece of paper is. 

The two can most certainly be correlated though, for example 350gsm paper can be thought of as thicker paper whereas 100gsm can generally be thought of as thinner paper. 

To give an example of this we will compare two different brands of 350gsm silk card stock:

  • The first brand is Pro Digital Silk by Morim – this card is 350gsm in weight but the thickness of this card is 380 microns. 
  • The second brand is Creator Silk Digital – This is also 350gsm in weight but is slightly thinner at 357 microns.

Now although the above are only slightly different as far as thickness to the trained hand you will most definitely be able to feel the thickness difference. The difference in this may be a little more obvious when you feel a card printed on each. The paper we use for memorial printing is usually 370 microns and thicker, it’s not really the most important consideration but the brands we find the best tend to be around this thick and upwards. 

GSM and Memorial Card Printing

GSM is quite an important consideration when printing memorial card and other memorial printed items. A lot of printers will try to use lesser quality cheaper 300gsm stock and below – mostly to cut down on costs but some have to use it as their production printers can’t handle anything heavier.  

We never print anything on less than 350gsm paper! It’s all we buy and it’s 99% of what is ran through our machines. We try to stick with the same brands of paper also to ensure consistent great quality across our products. 

We don’t scrimp of cost of our papers either, we only use Irish based suppliers who we know always supply us with great quality paper than has been stored correctly and sourced and manufactured responsibly. 

Have questions on GSM?

If you’ve read our article and are still unsure on anything GSM replated please feel free to reach out to us! We’d be more than happy to answer any question you have. 


Director of Memorial Printworks Ltd
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