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Know your paper terms: What is GSM

If you’ve even casually glanced at a paper catalogue, you’ve almost certainly seen the paper products listed by GSM.  

For most purposes, GSM can be very easily explained: all you really need to know is that GSM effectively denotes paper thickness. The lower the GSM, the thinner the paper; the higher the GSM, the thicker.

If you’re looking for the optimum paper for a particular job, and you were curious about what GSM was all about, you can probably stop reading now and you’ll have all the info you need. 

Technically speaking, though, there’s a bit more to it than that. 


Paper weight

GSM stands for grams per square meter. It is a measure of what is technically known as the grammage of paper. As the name indicates, that is a measure of weight. 

A higher GSM paper will be heavier duty (think food packaging) while a lower GSM paper will be lightweight and comparatively flimsy (think of a newspaper, which may be made of paper as low as 35gsm). 

But bear in mind, as the name implies, ‘grams per square meter’ is not strictly a measure of thickness. Though it is generally a reliable guide to how thick a product is, in the case of certain speciality papers, a paper may be more or less thick than the GSM would seem to imply. 

For that reason, it’s always a good idea to discuss your next project with an experienced paper professional, especially if you are likely to be using specialty papers or boards. 


What the right GSM for my product?

The most obvious reasons for choosing a lower of higher GSM paper relate to function. A newspaper needs to be easily foldable, office print paper should be reasonably durable but flexible, and food containers need to be sufficiently robust and tear resistant.

But there can also be more intangible reasons behind choosing a particular GSM. Think of a business cards on luxuriously thick paper. Even though there is no obvious practical utility to using paper with a high grammage, the higher GSM adds a more upmarket feel to a product.

For a better idea of the variation of products, just take a look at our massive paper catalogue, which you can filter according to GSM. 

Of course, GSM is only one element in choosing the right paper for any given application. For example, if you want to prioritise a premium look and feel, should you go with an uncoated or coated paper? Matt or gloss?

Ultimately, choosing the right paper isn’t about any one thing, but finding just the right combination of specifications to produce the functionality you need and the look and feel you want.

As South Africa’s biggest paper distributor, Peters Papers understands that choosing from such a huge array of paper specification can be daunting. That’s why we’re committed to helping all our customers find the perfect paper for their next project, no matter how large or small. Give us a shout and an expert consultant will be in touch.

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