What does “point” refer to (as in 10-point or 12-point paper stock)?

Answered by Sabine Lenz, founder, PaperSpecs.com

Text and cover stocks are usually referred to in their respective weights, such as 50# text or 80# cover. So why are some papers referred to in points?

When it comes to paper-making, three variables come into play: weight, caliper (or thickness) and smoothness. Mills can only control two out of the three.

Paper is made by using a specific amount of fiber and fill to create a sheet of a fixed weight. To achieve a certain level of smoothness, the fibers get highly compressed and smoothed by calendaring (similar to ironing). This process causes the paper to lose thickness and therefore stiffness but the weight of the fiber is still the same.

Mills manufacture paper with a certain emphasis. If a paper is called out by point (pt), the caliper and stiffness of the sheet are guaranteed, which is essential when it comes to projects with postal requirements or packaging. The weight of an 8-pt sheet can vary from the equivalent of 68 to 85 cover.

Mills that concentrate on weight refer to their papers by weight, as in 80 Ccver. In some cases these sheets also have a .008" (or 8 pt) caliper, but from brand to brand the caliper of an 80 Cover sheet can range anywhere from .007 to .013.

So if a project requires paper with a certain stiffness, paper that is called out in its point size (i.e. 10 point), or guaranteed by the manufacturer to measure up to particular requirements such as the US Postal Service, should be specified.
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