When you’re faced with shelves upon shelves of paper at your local craft store…
Or you are clicking through page after page of paper choices on the website of your favorite online craft store…
How on earth are you supposed to know which is the best paper for card making?
Well, that’s exactly why I wrote this post.
But before I go through the best paper for card making, there is one basic paper property that’s important for you to understand. And that is paper weight.
Understanding Paper Weight
The subject of paper weight can be very confusing.
My goal here is not to give you an exhaustive explanation of paper weight. Rather, I want to give you enough information to help you choose the best paper specifically for card making.
Now there are two elements that make up paper weight.
The type of paper, and the actual weight of the paper.
There are many different types (ie categories) of paper – bond, book, text, index, bristol and cover (also referred to as cardstock) to name a few.
And there are three different measurements that can be used to describe the paper weight. There is the US basis weight (lbs), the metric weight (gsm or grams per square meter), and the points (or mils) system.
Here in North America, the standard paper weight measurement is in lbs (pounds) – so that is the measurement you’ll see me using here at Make Beautiful Cards.
Weight vs Type
One of the things that it’s important to know when choosing paper is that you can’t just look at the weight of the paper. You also need to look at the type of paper.
For example, let’s say you see a package of 24 sheets 100 lb weight cardstock listed at $10. Then you go to your local office supply store and see 100 lb weight copy paper priced at $10 but it’s for 500 sheets! So you buy the 500 sheets because you’re thinking that it’s a way better deal!
100 lb copy paper is NOT the same thing as 100 lb cardstock. If you try to make a card out of 100 lb copy paper you’ll be really disappointed!
So how can two different papers have the same weight, but not be the same weight?
I’m glad you asked!
How Paper Weight is Determined
Each category of paper I mentioned above has it’s own standard sheet size.
The weight of 500 sheets of that specific sheet size, for that specific category of paper, is the paper weight. So let’s say 500 sheets of text paper weighs 100 lbs, that text paper is referred to as 100 lb weight paper.
Other categories of paper will have their own standard sheet sizes. Alos, paper will also be lighter or heavier depending on how it’s made and what it’s made of. These things will all affect the weight of the paper.
Here’s a graphic I found to that gives you a bit of an idea of how paper weights compare (Source: Cardstock Warehouse). Remember, cover is the same thing as cardstock.
Which Cover Weights To Choose for Card Making
So the first thing to know is that cover weight paper is universally used for card making.
Which cover weight you choose is going to depend on what you want to use it for.
Here are the three main weights of cover paper you’ll find at your local and online papercraft stores:
- 60-65 lb: This is the common weight for lighter weight patterned paper. It’s a heavier weight than your typical copy or printer paper, but lighter than cardstock. It won’t hold many embellishments, and it won’t stand up to a lot of glue. It’s not suitable for creating a card base.
- 80 lbs: This is a great weight for creating card layers. Some people even use it to create their card base, however if you tend to add a lot of layers and embellishments, it might not hold up. It’s about the same weight as a typical business card.
- 100-120 lb: This is the perfect weight for creating the base of your card (you’ll hear me refer to it as your card base). It’s thick and sturdy and will hold up to a lot of layers and embellishments.
In the world of papercrafting, a lot of companies usually don’t list the paper weight on the packaging. But the paper weights I gave you above tend to be fairly universal.
Okay friends, enough of the technical stuff. Let’s talk about some different type of paper I recommend getting and for what.
How To Choose The Best Paper For Card Making
As I walk you through the best paper to choose for card making, I’m going to start with the must-have’s and then move to the nice-to-have’s. If you click on each image below, you’ll be able to see the exact papers that I use in my card making.
White 100 – 120 lb Cardstock (Must Have)
The first type of paper you’ll want is a heavy-weight cardstock for the base of your card (ie. card base).
The most common cardstock sizes are 8 ½” x 11″ (North America) and A4.
I always choose white, and my cardstock of choice is Stampin’ Up!’s Whisper White Thick cardstock (100 lb).
Well, I love the look of a white card – very clean. But it also tends to be less expensive than colored cardstock.
Now if you want your card to be a different color, you simply cut a cardstock panel to the exact size of your card front (usually 4 ¼” x 5 ½”) and glue it to the front of your card base.
The other reason I choose white for my card base is because it’s a lot easier to write in a white card than a card made out of a darker color of cardstock.
Now if you’re not big on white, you could also choose a cream-colored cardstock like Stampin’ Up!’s Very Vanilla Thick cardstock.
Ultrasmooth Cardstock (Must Have)
Ultrasmooth cardstock (sometimes called super smooth cardstock) is cardstock that has a smooth surface. You’ll notice the difference right away when you compare it to regular cardstock.
If you plan on stamping, coloring, or incorporating ink blending techniques into your cards, then you’re definitely going to want to have some ultrasmooth cardstock.
You’ll notice right away that your stamped images will be more crisp and clean. And when you’re coloring or ink blending – the color will glide on smoothly.
Having a smooth surface that is also absorbent enough to handle color is essential when you’re coloring. Especially when coloring with alcohol markers (my favorite way to add color to a stamped image).
My cardstock of choice is Stampin’ Up!’s regular 8 ½” x 11″ Whisper White cardstock.
Colored 80 lb Cardstock (Must Have)
Although I love a white card base, I don’t always want my entire card to be white. Sometimes I like to add a pop of color.
For some cards, I cover the entire front of my card base with a colored cardstock panel. For other cards, I like to add a colored cardstock border around one of my layers.
I would recommend buying a variety of different colors along with a few neutrals (black, grey, kraft). As to which colors? I would say buy an assortment of your favorite colors.
Stampin’ Up! offers 50 different colors of 80 lb cardstock, plus white, cream and black – in both 8 ½” x 11″ and A4 (depending on what country you are in).
One of the things that is great about Stampin’ Up! for beginning card makers is that you can buy assorted packs of cardstock colors in Stampin’ Up!’s color families like the one shown in the picture above.
Patterned Paper (Nice To Have)
Patterned paper can make a great starting point for cards.
Let’s say you can’t decide what colors you want your card to be. Easy! Choose a patterned paper you love, and then let that guide your color choices.
Patterned paper can also add that perfect finishing touch to your card. Let’s say you want to add some visual interest, depth or some complexity to your card – just add a little bit of patterned paper!
There are a huge assortment of different patterned papers – with every pattern, color, and style you can possibly imagine.
The two most common sizes of patterned paper you’ll find are 6″ x 6″ and 12″ x 12.”
Although you don’t usually see a paper weight listed on patterned paper packages, most regular patterned papers are around 65 lb.
You can also find specialty patterned papers that include embossing, or foiling. And these tend to be a heavier weight.
When choosing patterned papers, it’s all about personal preference. Buy what you love. What I would suggest though is that you look for papers that coordinate with the ink and cardstock colors that you already have. Or, if you don’t have coordinating inks and cardstock, then make sure you get some at the same time you buy your patterned paper.
I always buy my patterned paper through Stampin’ Up!, for several reasons. First off – all their products are designed to coordinate. Remember when I told you that Stampin’ Up! has 53 colors of cardstock? Well they have the coordinating inks too. And all their patterned paper will coordinate with their cardstock and ink colors.
The other thing I love about Stampin’ Up!’s patterned paper is that each package comes with 12 double sided sheets. That means that I have 12 different patterns in all to choose from, and all 12 patterns coordinate one with the other. How great is that?
Specialty Papers (Nice to Have)
This next section of papers is by no means comprehensive. What I have done is simply touched on some of the specialty paper types that I enjoy using in my own card making.
Foil sheets are cardstock sheets with a highly reflective surface that has a metallic look to it. They are perfect for adding metallic accents to your projects.
You’ll often see vellum cardstock used in wedding invitations. It’s cardstock that is translucent, which means that when you add it to your card, you can see through it to the layer below. Vellum cardstock is perfect for adding a touch of elegance and luxury to your cards.
Glitter cardstock is cardstock that has been coated with glitter on one side. It’s perfect for adding little glittery details to your cards. I’m really excited about Stampin’ Up!’s new Rainbow Glimmer cardstock because it gives you multiple colors of glitter paper in each sheet.
Velveteen or Flocked Paper
This type of specialty paper is paper that has been coated with a soft flocking giving it a texture that feels a lot like velvet. As with the other papers we’ve talked about, it’s perfect for adding elegant little touches to your cards.
Acetate is a completely transparent sheet that is made out of plastic, rather than a paper. Acetate paper is usually clear, although you can also find it in solid colors, or with patterns and designs.
Acetate is often used in the creation of specialty cards like shaker cards. You can also use them to add clear accents to your cards, or even to create card boxes.
Laser-cut paper is a specialty paper that has been pre-cut into a variety of shapes, or with a variety of patterns. As with all the other specialty papers we have talked about so far, it is used to add beautiful accents to your cards.
Watercolor paper is paper that has been specially formulated to be able to absorb a lot of water. It is used specifically when you want to incorporate watercolor techniques into your cards.
There you have it friends! I hope this post has helped clear up any paper confusion, and that you now know which paper is best for all your card making projects! As I share card ideas with you I’ll be sure to point out which paper types I used.
11 thoughts on “How to Choose The Best Paper For Card Making”
Andrea, Thank you for this info, been making cards since spring 1998 and always learning more about the products available
Thank You for this information I have been making cards since 2012 but learning new things all of the time
Hi Andrea, finaly found afuul guide for paper used for card making.
I usualy buy a white 100 lb paper in Michaels store. I came across one problem: when i score the paper and fold it later, the paper is tearing along the folding li e. Not all the way thru, just very top layer of paper. I do not like the way my card looks. I tried to use some water when scoring, it helps a little, but i still would like to know if i am doing anything wrong, maybe using incorrect type of paper, or what?
I will appreciate if you will be able to give me some tips.
Hello Irina, I am a card maker and am always folding various cardstock. One tip I can give you is: when scoring a piece of paper which you intend to fold, the scored side (the side with the “valley” in it from the scoring) becomes the outside fold of the card. It seems like the valley created when scoring would be the inside fold – however, scoring the paper actually “stretches” the fibers and allows them to be the outside fold of the card. Hope this helps with the cracking problem.
Follow-up to my first reply: Also, because Bristol paper is created by glueing layers of thinner paper together, Bristol may not be the best to use for card bases.
I’m new to card making and this information was what I needed.
thanks so much.
GREAT INFORMATION! I JUST WISH I KNEW THIS AS A BEGINNER IN CARD MAKING. NEVERTHELESS, I LUCK OUT JOINING A STAMPIN UP GROUP AND WAS ABLE TO PURCHASE PAPER FROM STAMPIN UP FOR CARD BASE ESP.,, AND USE DSP.
GREAT INFORMATION! I JUST WISH I KNEW THIS AS A BEGINNER IN CARD MAKING. NEVERTHELESS, I LUCK OUT BY JOINING A STAMPIN UP GROUP OF ADVANCED CRAFTERS. I LEARNED A LOT ON HOW TO USE AND ORDER STAMPIN UP PAPER AND INKS, ETC.
Thank you for posting something like this
Wow…I really appreciate this information about sizes, weight and textures of paper for card making. I am brand new at this and was searching for these answers and then I found your blog. Thank you so much!