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What is GSM

What are the different paper weights, what the flip is gsm paper weight and what paper weight is best for papercutting?

Ok sweet cheeks, I’ll attempt to explain the best paper weight to use for paper cutting and get you choosing different paper weights like a pro.

What is GSM?

GSM is an acronym for ‘grams per square metre’ and it simply means the weight in grams of 1 sheet  1m x 1m paper or card. So as you would imagine, the heavier the weight or gsm the thicker the paper or card stock. The lower the weight or gsm, the lighter the paper or card stock.

Heavy heavy heavy gsm

300gsm and over is classed as heavyweight card and usually used for business cards, you know the lovely thick ones that are hard to bend. Yeah? That’s the hefty weight and you do NOT what to be papercutting this! You’ll seriously be hurting your fingers and most probably go through a zillion scalpel blades.

240gsm – 290gsm is still quite a thicko, usually used for greeting cards, invitations, menus. There is a time and a place for such weighty stock and it’s not papercutting.

Medium gsm

Anything from 190gsm to 230gsm is classed as medium weight and is usually used for certificates if that helps you imagine it, and greeting cards and gift tags.

180gsm is a lighter card stock and it is possible to cut this card with a scalpel to create greetings cards. It can be a bit hard on the fingers and you’ll need a super sharp scalpel blade. You also need to keep the designs relatively simple and not too intricate if you’re cutting this weight by hand. Don’t say I didn’t warn you?

140gsm – 170gsm in my opinion is a bit BLEUGH. It is too thick to be paper, too thin to be of any use as card. So for papercutting purposes it is best you move on, yeah?

The holy grail of gsm paper weights

135gsm – some of my gorgeous luxurious G.F Smith paper colours are only available in 135gsm, so this is one of the main reasons I say this weight. It’s still a teeeny bit thick but it means the papercut is a little bit more robust when finished. And you are able to cut intricate designs even at this weight. Mmmmmm paper.

120gsm – 100gsm – Ooooh now we’re talking. My scalpel fingers get twitchy just thinking about cutting this weight. One of my favourite papers to cut is 100gsm (flecked cream recycled, fact fans) and the scalpel slides through like a hot knife through butter. It’s also the weight of a slightly posher every day printer paper, you know, all silky smooth. Usually called ‘satin’.

90gsm – Ok we’re getting a bit thin now, it is still possible to papercut with.

Bloody lightweights

80gsm to 70gsm –  this is your bog standard every day printer paper weight. It’s flimsy af and can tear easily. At a push you could use this for practising your papercutting or printing out your practise sheets, but it’s not ideal to create a papercut from. If this is all you have, however, it’ll do.

55gsm to 35gsm – Well hello flimsy! This is the sort of weight your chippy chips are wrapped in (back in the olden days) or the weight of paper newspapers are printed on. And we all know how easily that tears eh?

35gsm to 10gsm – The thinnest of all is of course tissue paper. Now I bloody love tissue paper. I have a stack of gorgeous yellow tissue paper I wrap my finished framed papercuts in, but for papercutting? forget it, daddio!

In summary

If Goldilocks was choosing paper to do a papercut instead of stealing porridge and breaking chairs, then I would show her the following:

TOO THIN – 35gsm to 80gsm

TOO THICK – 140gsm and above

JUUUUST RIGHT – 100gsm to 135gsm

I hope that has helped you in choosing the perfect weight of paper for your papercutting project. I wish I could write a little rhyme for you to remember the weights but even I’m not that sad.

“So when you want to papercut

without doing your nut,

pick one twenty paper weight

and it will feel just great!”

The Paper Song by Kyleigh

Ah ok turns out I am that sad.

I have bought paper from all of these in the past:

Whatever paper you choose, you’re going to need to do it justice with some lovely templates – I’ve got you coveres, check out these papercutting templates, available from £3 instantly downloadable.


What is GSM? how to choose the right weight of paper for your project

Hello, I'm Kyleigh
Hello, I’m Kyleigh – graphic designer, typography geek and potty-mouthed papercutting ninja in rainbow trainers.

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