Paper Matters Blog
Paper Brightness, Basis Weight and Paper Opacity

What do these specifications mean?

It’s no secret that the specifications on office paper are not always the clearest. Paper Brightness? Basis weight? Paper opacity? What do those all mean? Are they even important?

The answer is yes, they are important, and I hope to provide you with a quick, easy to follow guide for the next time you’re looking to purchase office paper.

Basis Weight
The common misconception is that basis weight refers to the weight of the paper box. The truth is (in the paper universe), basis weight equals the ream (500 sheet) weight of the base size sheet. I realize that may not mean anything to someone not in the paper industry, so what’s important to know is that the heavier the basis weight, the thicker and sturdier the paper. Using office paper with heavier basis weights (24 lb. +) helps minimize show-through for double-sided printed office documents. They also feel better in hand – meaning your work and your messaging will get noticed. Additionally, cover basis weights (60 lb. Cover +) are great for documents that will handled repeatedly, such as menus or report covers.

Paper Brightness
The higher the brightness number, the whiter and brighter the paper looks. The whiter and brighter the paper, the more contrast – which means your documents will have bolder images, crisper text and brighter colors. This is especially important when you want your documents to look their absolute best for things like customer meetings or presentations.

Opacity refers to the property of paper that obstructs the passage of light and show-through of printing. Papers with higher opacity allow for heavier coverage without risk of showing through on the opposite side. In office printing, higher opacity papers should be used when printing things like presentations that are two sided.

Looking for products that encompass the best of these attributes? Try our Xerox® Vitality®, Xerox® Bold Professional™ and Xerox® Bold Digital™ printing and office papers. They are thicker, whiter and brighter, giving the high-performance paper you need to present all your ideas in the best possible light. To learn more, please visit or

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