Printing Lingo: What does “Caliper” mean in reference to Paper?
In the US, a paper's caliper is expressed in thousandths of an inch. For instance, the caliper of 20# bond paper averages around four thousandths of an inch (4/1000ths or .004").Because most paper stocks are extremely thin, caliper measurements must be taken with a precision measuring device such as a micrometer or other specialized thickness gauge.
What is a Point?
Sometimes, the caliper of various papers is given as "Points." In this case, each point refers to 1/1000th of an inch or .001".
The point nomenclature is generally used for thicker papers and cardstocks, such as 10PT (.010"), 12PT (.012"), 14PT (.014"), etc. The higher the "point" designation, the thicker the stock.
What is a Mil?
Occasionally, you may also see the caliper of a substrate conveyed as "Mil." Mil is an engineering term for 1/1000th of an inch (.001").
Some people may assume Mil is short for millimeter, but that is not the case. The term "Mil" actually originates from the French word "Mille" which means one thousand.
Laminate film, which is sometimes applied over a printed piece to add sheen and durability, is almost always designated by its Mil thickness. For example, 1.5MIL laminate (.0015") or 5MIL laminate (.005").
As you can see, there are various ways in which the caliper of a given substrate might be communicated. For example, 10/1000ths of an inch can be expressed as .010", 10PT or 10MIL.
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