Do you find yourself confused, eyes glazed over when trying to decipher details on a ream of office paper?  Paper Brightness? Basis weight? Opacity? What do those mean, and are they even important? It’s no secret that the terminology used is not always the clearest.

The following article should hopefully clear up some misconceptions and provide you with a quick, easy to follow guide for the next time you’re looking to purchase office paper.

Basis Weight

A common misconception is that basis weight refers to the weight of the paper box. The truth? Basis weight equals the ream (500 sheet) weight of the base size sheet. Now, while that may mean much to someone not in the paper industry, the main thing to know is the heavier the basis weight = thicker and sturdier the paper. Utilizing office paper with heavier basis weights (24 lb. +) helps minimize show-through for double-sided printed office documents. They also feel better in hand – great when you need to make an impact. Additionally, cover basis weights (60 lb. Cover +) are great for documents that will handled repeatedly, such as menus or report covers. The table below highlights a quick way to cross-reference use with the application:

Paper Weight:

Good For:


General copies/Email/Internal memos


Letterhead /Special Projects/Resumes


Marketing Flyers/Brochures/Reports


Light Card Paper/Invitations/Flyers/

Paper Brightness

Typically, the higher the brightness number, the more contrast or simply put the whiter and brighter the paper looks. The whiter and brighter the paper = the more your documents will have bolder images, crisper text and brighter colors. When selecting brightness, keep in mind what will be printed on the paper. When you want your documents to look their absolute best for things like customer meetings or presentations, the recommendation is to go for a higher brightness to give the reader a lasting impression.


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 documents that are double-sided.

Looking for products that encompass the best of these attributes? Try our Xerox® Vitality®, Xerox® Bold Professional™ and Xerox® Bold Digital™ office and printing 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