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Printing Lingo: What does “Caliper” mean in reference to Paper?

In reference to paper, the term Caliper is used to indicate the thickness of a single sheet. Caliper is only a measurement of a paper's thickness, not its weight.

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").

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Measuring paper thickness with a Micrometer
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.

If you have an upcoming print project, give Formax Printing a call at 866-367-6221. Or, if you already know your specs, click here to submit our easy quote form. As always, we look forward to assisting you!

Take care! Rick

About the Author

Rick Stallings is the owner of Formax Printing Solutions in St. Louis, MO. Formax provides a complete array of offset and digital printing services. Specialty areas include book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing, map printing, plus mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Rick is always happy to help. He can be reached at 866-367-6221. Rick and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services since 1985.

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