Your Guide to Cardstock

By Nicole Tinkham


Last week we featured a blog post on the many options that come with choosing copy paper. As mentioned in that post, paper is a never-ending topic whether it’s for the office or for an art project. Since we can’t fit all of that info in just one post, we’re going to host a series of posts featuring paper, hopefully answering all paper related questions. Today we will focus on cardstock. We always get a ton of questions about this heavy-weight paper. With so many options, it often gets confusing. This guide should help you differentiate the many types of cardstock, making you the ultimate cardstock expert!

What is cardstock?

Cardstock (also called cover stock) is much more durable and thicker than your average copy paper. This type of paper is often used for business cards, scrapbooking, catalog covers and anything else that requires higher durability. The main options you have when it comes to cardstock are weight, color, finish, and size, all of which we will discuss in this blog.


Weight refers to a paper’s thickness. This is often measured by the lb but you may also see a GSM (grams per square meter) number that indicates the actual weight of the paper. It’s much easier to understand the lb measurement though, as you will see this most often. Your typical copy paper runs anywhere from 20lb to 32lb. Any paper over 32lb is often considered cardstock.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Sometimes you’ll see an index or bristol cardstock, rather than the typical cover stock. Bristol is the lightest form of cardstock at 67lb. Index cardstock is a smooth cardstock that often comes in both 90lb and 110lb (sometimes 140lb). Cover stock comes in 65lb, 80lb, and 100lb. For more information on the ideal uses for these various weights, view our Understanding Paper Weights blog post.


Don’t think you’re done with the decision making just yet! Cardstock comes in a variety of different surface types (this is the fun part!). Let’s take a look at your options!

  • Matte: A matte surface is NOT glossy. It has a chemical added to it to produce a satin finish. Dye inks and pigment inks both work well on this surface. If pencils or chalks are used, they should be sealed as they tend to smudge. This type of cardstock is often used for greeting cards and scrapbooking.
  • Glossy: Glossy cardstock has a very shiny surface. Dye inks will dry on the surface but pigment inks require embossing since the surface in non-absorbent. You may notice the weight of glossy cardstock measured in points (just to make it even more complicated). The higher the point, the heavier the paper.
  • Coated: You may run across coated cardstock in which a coating is applied to enhance the opacity. Colored pencils and markers work fine on this cardstock, however, pigment ink must be embossed.
  • Colors: You will either find cardstock in a ream containing one color, an assorted pack, or by the sheet. When it comes to assortment packs, you have many options such as bright colors, pastels, pearl tones, parchment colors, and more. Individual specialty cardstock are often found with other art supplies. These can vary in size but often come in 12” squares (whereas reams are 8.5” x 11”).
  • Patterned: Patterned cardstock is either printed on one side or both and is ideal for scrapbooking.
  • Mirror: Mirrored cardstock has a metallic effect that really pops. The mirrored look can either be on one side or both, depending on the sheet. This cardstock is perfect for a dramatic look.
  • Glitter: Glittered cardstock has glitter embedded into the paper, ideal for those who love glitter but hate the mess!
  • Linen: The linen texture gives the cardstock a fabric effect.


As mentioned briefly above, cardstock can be found in a variety of sizes.

  • 6 x 6
  • 8 x 8
  • 8.5 x 11
  • 12 x 12


It’s important to look for archival or acid-free cardstock. These are made to last a long time without the acid that causes paper to yellow and break down.

What you can do with cardstock

Cardstock can be used for a variety of projects. If you fall in love with a cardstock and aren’t sure what to do with it, here are some ideas:

  • Cards – Greeting cards, invitations, post cards, announcements, etc.
  • Scrapbooking – Borders and background pages.
  • Rubber stamping – Create cards, scrapbooking, tags, etc.
  • Artist trading cards
  • Business cards

Share with us! How do you get creative with cardstock? Leave a comment below or share on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest for inspiring ideas!

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