Everything You Need to Know About Cardstock

Everything You Need To Know About Cardstock

From jotting down notes, to being handed a receipt, wrapping a gift, and the enormous world of paper crafting, paper is a paramount part of our lives, even in this digital age. With all of the different needs in the world that paper fulfills, it’s easy to get lost within the different types, weights, uses, and more… and what does all of that even mean anyway?!

Below, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about craft paper! First, lets break down a few instrumental terms for determining which paper you need, then, we go through the different paper types, expanding upon those terms to give you in-depth information on each!

My hope is for this handy paper guide to give you the paper knowledge you’ve been looking for so you can leave better equipped to choose the next paper you need!

Where Was Paper Invented?

Paper, as we know it today, can be traced all the way back to 105 AD, in China. A man named Ts’ai Lun is credited with the invention. It was his idea to utilize bark from mulberry, hemp waste, old rags, and fish nets. Before 105 AD, dating as far back as 3000 BC, papyrus was the main surface for writing and was used in Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Papyrus is paper’s predecessor, as it isn’t exactly paper, but simply sheets of papyrus stem cut, softened in water, then interwoven to form a mat. After being woven, it is pounded to be as flat as possible and laid out in the sun to dry to create a thick “mat” that can be written and drawn on.

Where Did Paper Get its Name?

The word paper comes from the Latin word papyrus (the plant used to make original “paper”), which comes from the ancient Greek word papuros!

How is Paper Made?

“Normal” paper that you find in the store (like printer paper, scrapbook paper, cardstock, etc.) is made at a Paper Mill where wood is ground down into a wet pulp (additives are occasionally thrown into the pulp to create different desired effects).

After the pulp is created, it passes into a machine where it is formed into a paper shape. If the end goal is to create a paper with texture, this is the stage where that happens. After the wet pulp has been shaped and possibly textured, it is pressed so the water can be squeezed out (fun fact: about 6% of the water remains in the paper after pressing!).

Depending on the type of paper being made, it is pressed with either a heated press or an unheated press. Using heat gives the end result a different effect than using an unheated press

After the drying process, the papermakers then choose whether or not to add a finish or sizing to the paper, or to leave it uncoated. This depends on where the paper is going and what it will eventually be used for!

Which Paper Weight Should I Use?

When you need a piece of paper for a project, consider the project you’re making and what exactly that piece of paper will be doing in that project. Is it acting as a base for a card you plan to cake with embellishments? You’ll want to choose a heavier weight cardstock. Is the piece of paper acting as a border for a picture? A lighter weight paper will suffice. Generally, paper weight ranges from 10-140 lbs.

  • 35gsm – 55gsm: Light weight paper
  • 90gsm – 100gsm : Medium weight paper
  • 120gsm – 140gsm: Heavy weight paper
  • 210gsm and up: Extra heavy weight paper

Here’s a good way to decide which weight to choose:

  • 35gsm: You need a paper to jot down a note or make a copy. Thickness doesn’t matter.
  • 90gsm: You need a paper that can be printed double-sided without it showing through on the other side, but still don’t need it to hold much weight (like embellishments).
  • 120gsm: You want a paper that is heavier than copy paper, but it isn’t going to hold too many embellishments or liquid adhesives. This is a common weight for lighter patterned scrapbook paper, drawing paper, and lightweight card stock.
  • 210gsm: You need a base for a card or a sturdy layout page. You’ll be using liquid adhesives, embellishments, and might add some mixed media elements. This is the same weight as business cards.
  • 300gsm: You want to create high quality invitations or announcements. This is a heavy, high quality cardstock (perfect for heavy embellishments, paints, paste, ink, mixed media, and more). 110 lb paper is a great standard for card makers who want to add lots of embellishments.
  • 350gsm: You plan to be using lots of water on your paper (i.e. watercolor) or mixed media inks and other items. You need a thick, heavy paper that will have limited buckling, warping, and/or hold weighty embellishments.

Different Types of Paper

There are many many different types of paper. Below are common types of paper and their uses.

Scrapbook Paper

Scrapbook paper is an all-encompassing phrase that includes any paper made for and associated with scrapbooking. Scrapbooking paper can include (but isn’t limited to): Acetate, Cardstock, Kraft, Patterned Paper, Printing Paper, Vellum, and more.

Acetate Paper

What Is Acetate Paper?

Acetate paper is a transparent paper that is commonly used in scrapbooking and card making. It’s mildew-proof, easy to cut, and inexpensive. Some pocket pages and page protectors (used to store and protect layouts, photos, ephemera, and more) are made with acetate as well.

Acetate paper can be purchased clear, in solid colours, or with patterns and designs to create pages that are partially transparent, partially opaque!

When To Use Acetate Paper

Aside from pocket pages and protectors, acetate is used in a variety of ways in crafting. Some of its most popular uses are as a decorative overlay on layouts or cards, and when creating cards with windows. It’s a fun and easy way to add layers of dimension to your projects.

Acetate Paper Thickness

Acetate paper is available in a variety of thicknesses, from a very thin film to a thicker, sturdy sheet. When purchasing acetate paper online, make sure to read the product descriptions and look at the pictures to determine whether or not it’s the thickness you need for your project.

Can You Print On Acetate? 

Most home printers were not designed to print on acetate. Make sure you always check your printer recommendations to see what it can and cannot print on. However, with that being said, many crafters do print at acetate on their home printers, using Inkjet Acetate.

If you do print on acetate at home, make sure you print on the rough side of the acetate paper, not the glossy, smooth side. If both sides of the acetate paper are glossy, printing on it is not recommended. Always read information about your printer and its uses – and always proceed with caution if unsure.

Acetate Paper Common Uses

  • Pocket Page Scrapbooking
  • Cards with Windows
  • Shaker Cards
  • To Create Artistic Layers

Cardstock Paper

What Is Cardstock Paper?

Cardstock paper is a common paper for crafters, as it is more durable than regular printer paper and comes in a variety of sizes and finishes. Nowadays, cardstock paper is typically acid and lignin free, but make sure to double check when purchasing so you can keep your memories preserved without the worry that acidity is lurking!

When To Use Cardstock Paper

Acid-free cardstock is commonly used as the base for layouts in scrapbooking,  since it can hold weight, won’t buckle with the use of liquid adhesive, and won’t destroy your beloved family photographs and ephemera. It is also often used as a base for cards in cardmaking, tag making, and die cutting. Use cardstock paper when you need a heavier paper to withstand the weight of glue, embellishments, and other decorative elements.

Cardstock Paper Finishes

Standard Cardstock: Uncoated paper

Irridescent Cardstock: Coated cardstock that shines and shimmers when you move it back and forth, typically showing a beautiful variety of subtle color as light passes over it.

Glitter Cardstock: Cardstock that has a coating of glitter over the top. Glitter cardstock comes in a variety of colors with the glitter-quality varying. Some papers have large chunks of glitter, while some have very fine particles of glitter. It completely depends on the designer and company creating the paper. Some glitter papers leave a glitter residue on your hands, while others leave much much less, occasionally none at all.

Glossy Cardstock: Cardstock finished with a beautiful, shiny coating.

Matte Cardstock: Cardstock that does not shine or shimmer when you move it in the light. The coating is dull and not lustrous at all.

Textured Cardstock: Cardstock that has been textured during manufacturing to look a variety of ways. It may have been embossed to have small polka dots bumped up (for example), or perhaps it has a bumpy, organic texture. It may also have additives that give it an extra texture, like pieces of confetti or chunks of glitter.

Textured cardstock is commonly found to look like canvas or linen.  If you love patterned paper, they are a must to have in your repertoire.

Can You Print On Cardstock?

Yes. Most cardstock papers can be printed on. Printing on glitter or heavily textured cardstock is not recommended, as it will not print evenly and may smudge and smear.

Cardstock Paper Common Uses

  • Card making
  • Die Cutting
  • Scrapbook layouts
  • Stamping

Patterned Paper

What Is Patterned Scrapbook Paper? 

Patterned Scrapbook Paper is paper designed specifically for scrapbooking (neat, right?)! However, nowadays, patterned scrapbook paper is used for all types of paper crafting – from scrapbooking to card making, and die cutting to bible journaling! It can usually be purchased in 12″ x 12″ single sheets, or in collection pads. Patterned Paper can be single-sided or double-sided.

When it is double-sided, the design is usually different on the back, but pairs nicely with the design on the front.

How Is Patterned Paper Different Than Cardstock? 

Cardstock is typically heavier and thicker than patterned paper, tends to have more texture, and is more likely to be embossed.

Specialty Patterned Paper 

With patterned paper, the possibilities are nearly endless. When it comes to the patterns available, the sky is the limit. When it comes to true specialty options, the finish of the paper is the name of the game.

Patterned Paper with Foil Accents: Patterned paper with accents of shiny gold, silver, copper or other coloured foil accents. These can be polka-dots, stripes, and more.

Patterned Paper with Glitter Accents: Patterned paper with finishing touches of glitter.

Glossy Patterned Paper and Varnished Patterned Paper: Patterned paper that has a glossy finish to make it sheen.

Vellum Paper

What Is Vellum? 

The word vellum actually defines two different kinds of paper – one, being a type of paper that isn’t as smooth as standard paper, and the other being a translucent paper. Here, we’re talking about the latter. The majority of papers are made from trees, but vellum paper is made out of cotton, which makes it less porous and not quite as strong. Vellum comes in a variety of weights, but is always on the lighter side, heavy weighted vellum being lighter weight than cardstock.

What Do You Use Vellum For?

In crafting, vellum can be used in ways that mirror other paper types. Vellum can be used as decorative accents, borders, overlays, and more. Because it can be purchased in a variety of weights, the potential uses depend on the heaviness of the paper.

A very lightweight vellum might work beautifully as an overlay, while a heavy weight vellum might be perfect for an invitation or card insert. Because vellum isn’t very porous, inks will take longer to dry on it – so keep that in mind.

Specialty Vellum

Like other papers, vellum can come in a variety of sizes and styles, some with gold accents, some with glitter, and more.

Can You Print On Vellum?

Sometimes. Putting light weight vellum through your printer is not recommended as the printer can eat it, so it crumples and jams. Because of the non-porous surface that vellum has, inks also have a tendency to smudge and smear. Lastly, sometimes your printer won’t even recognize vellum because it’s too lightweight or sheer!

Popular Uses For Vellum

For embellishing cards and layouts

As a card/invitation/program insert

Die cutting

I hope that this article gave you more information on paper that you can utilize the next time you shop for paper. Understanding different types of paper can help you make informed decisions so you can choose the paper that is going to be the best helper in the role you need it for in your papercrafting projects!


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