The paper packaging industry uses unique terms and descriptions for measurements, products, syles, and more. These 21 must-know terms are essential to improve your communication with suppliers and manufacturers.

1. Paper basis weight

Paper basis weight is the standard size measured in pounds per 500 sheets or per ream within its category or that basic sheet size. It is the paper’s weight in a full uncut ream of a specific size. Basic sheet sizes may be different in types of paper. For example, a bond paper with a basic size of 17 x 22 in one ream (500 sheets) weighs 60 pounds, then the basis weight is 60 pounds.

2. GSM

GSM or gram per square meter is a metric unit of measurement known as grammage. It pertains to the mass per unit of area in the metric system. A sheet of paper’s grammage is equal to the weight in grams of a one-square-meter-size of that particular type of paper. Take a one-square-meter worth of that sheet and measure its weight to get the GSM.

3. Gusset

A gusset is an indented fold located on the side or bottom of a paper bag that gives more volume. Adding a gusset on the side and bottom allows the paper bag to expand and stand upright on its own when it is placed on a flat surface.

4. Flat bottom Design vs. Pinch Bottom Design

A paper bag design has a flat bottom that can stand on its own because it consists of a gusset. It is the most common paper bag design that can carry more load. The pinch bottom design is sealed with a tapered base like the bottom part of a brown envelope. It cannot stand on its own and does not have a measurement on the side and bottom.

5. Kraft Paper

A kraft paper is also known as a paperboard that is produced using the Kraft process. It is derived from wood pulp that involves a chemical conversion process. It is thicker and more durable than other types of paper often used in packaging products.

6. Disposable

A disposable material or product is only used once. It is thrown away after use for hygiene and safety reasons. Disposable products include bags, utensils, packages, and cutleries made of plastics.

7. Recyclable / Biodegradable/ Compostable

A recyclable product can be processed through machinery and equipment that is recreated into a new recycled item. It is reusable to create new products without harming the environment.

A biodegradable product is made of plant and animal sources, which breaks down naturally as microorganisms like fungi and bacteria consume them in the process.

A compostable product breaks down through external factors like carbon dioxide, water, and biomass, where they don’t produce toxic chemicals. These are made of plant-based raw materials like corn, potato, sugar, and cellulose.

8. Reusable / Repulpable

A reusable product is still reusable more than once, and they are mostly made of paper and plastics. But some paper bags are made of strong and durable materials, making them useful afterward.

A repulpable material breaks down into fibers called the pulp that is useful to produce paper products. The final paper products can be paper bags, boxes, and sheets. They are repulpable because they go through the machinery or equipment, producing zero residues of the original product during the recycling process.

9. Food-Grade

A food-grade product is non-toxic and safe for human consumption. In food packaging, it means the materials used in the paper or plastic packaging are qualified to be used as food storage, packaging, and carrying.

10. Eco-Friendly / Earth-Friendly

An eco-friendly product is made of raw materials or is designed not to harm or has less harm to the environment. The term may also be used as earth-friendly because it describes the product and material that benefits the planet.

11. Dry-Waxed

A wax coating is pressed onto the paper, driving all the wax into the surface. The process involves heating, cooling, and pressure treatment, either on one side or both sides of the paper sheet. Dry-waxed paper is used for food packaging like butter wraps, gum wraps and making it grease-proof.

12. Grease resistant

A paper is grease-resistant when it is repellant to grease oil. Most grease-resistant packaging papers apply to fast-food sandwich wraps, deli wraps, and other types of retail food packaging. They prevent oil spots and greases from penetrating through the paper.

13. Leak-resistant

A leak-resistant paper means it is repellant to any form of liquid like water, oil, and grease. In packaging, the lid, paper bag, and food linen box are safe for contact with any fluids to prevent the paper from getting deformed and soggy.

14. Laminated

Laminated packaging consists of laminated film, usually an overlay plastic for additional protection. Laminated films add strength and durability to the paper if used for packaging.

15. BPA

BPA or Bisphenol is an industrial chemical used in producing certain plastics and resins such as food containers and hygiene products. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Plastic products like food containers, packaging in beverages like water bottles are made from polycarbonate plastics. Epoxy resins are used to coat and seal the inside of metal products like food cans and bottle caps.

16. CMYK

CMKY means “Cyan Magenta Yellow Black,” which pertains to the four primary colors when printing colored images. These are subtractive colors, meaning they become darker when you mixed them. These colors are in contrast to the popular RGB (Red, Green, Blue), which are used for light because they become brighter when you blend them.

17. Digital Mockup

A digital mockup is a concept of a product that is presented in a digital format, usually in 3D, to show the exact customer’s requirements on the paper material, size, and type. It is also referred to as the digital illustration for the customer’s reference without an actual physical sample.

18. Flexo Vs. Offset Printing

Flexographic or flexo printing is a method in printing that uses flexible printing plates, rotary in-line features, and quick-drying semi-liquid inks. It uses a roll-feed web printing process to print a high volume of labels and packaging for flexible materials like paper, plastics, cellophane, fabric, metallic films, and more.

Offset printing is the common printing technique that transfers ink from the plate to the rubber roller and then to the material’s surface. It’s used in printing texts on custom printed paper bags, boxes, magazines, and other smooth surfaces only.

19. Pantone Colors

Pantone colors are the color codes that represent a specific shade. There are more than 1,000 colors that cover the spectrum of shades and colors. Pantone helps buyers and manufacturers communicate and control the exact shade for the design and materials. For example, a specific spot color of blue with the #197ACF code has a lighter shade than the #0D3E69 code.

20. Vector artwork

Vector artwork refers to the artwork made using vector illustration software like Adobe Illustrator. It consists of vector graphics and shapes built upon mathematical computation rather than colorized pixels found in photos. These graphic images can be scaled larger or smaller without losing the resolution, allowing the artist to use them in any form — from small illustrations to massive advertising materials like billboards.

21. Tin Tie

A tin tie is a lined adhesive attached on top of a paper bag packaging made of polypropylene to seal it after opening. It’s a useful resealable tool for paper bags to keep the air from getting through inside. Most paper bag packaging with tin ties contains mostly dry goods such as coffee grounds, candies, and confectionaries.

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