Cardstock is good for a million different things, from making your own tickets to hangtags to rack cards. However, cardstock comes in a multitude of different sizes, and finding the right size isn’t just about convenience—it’s about costs, too!
Today, I’ll describe the various cardstock sizes, as well as cover the various weights associated with this super-versatile material.
What Is a Cardstock?
Cardstock is a type of heavyweight paper. There are various types of cardstock, which are distinguishable by their surface appearance, caliper (thickness in thousandths of an inch), and thickness. The different caliper and thickness weight ratings will determine how sturdy or how flexible the cardstock is. However, compared to regular sheets of paper, all cardstock, regardless of its weight, will always be thicker.
This material differs from cover stock, even though the two are oftentimes used interchangeably. Cover stock goes through the same production process, but it is measured by paper basis weight, not caliper or thickness.
When it comes to determining a cardstock’s quality or lack thereof, you shouldn’t look at the thickness rating alone. The “best” cardstock is made of the finest fibers and wood pulp, which will typically determine how long-lasting the material can last.
However, the absolute “best” cardstock is that which suits the user best in terms of physical size, type, and weight. So, let’s take a look at all of these qualities, starting from cardstock sizes.
Cardstock starts off as a large sheet that is later cut into different size proportions. The different sizes will determine what the cardstock can be used for.
In general, cardstock is sold in the following sizes:
8.5 × 11 inches (216 × 279 millimeters)
The most typical cardstock size has the same dimensions as letter paper. It’s the size that we were all familiar with during our early school years, when our teachers asked us to express our creativity through paper-based crafts. This cardstock size is perfect for printing at home since your printer won’t need much setting up to accommodate the size. In addition, you can do a hotdog fold (folding the sheet along the shorter side) to create A9 cards (5.5 × 8.5 inches).
8.5 × 14 inches (216 × 356 millimeters)
If you add an extra 3 inches to the long side of a letter-size sheet of paper or cardstock, you will end up with legal paper. Like letter paper, legal paper doesn’t require additional tweaking to get your printer to know its dimensions, making it another great option for doing your own printing. This is the optimal size for making certificates or cutting down to create multiple small cards.
11 × 17 inches (279 × 432 millimeters)
If you were to somehow connect two sheets of letter paper, you would end up with tabloid or ledger paper. It’s quite large, and some printers might not be able to accommodate its sheer size, so if you want something as large as this, your best bet might be to go to a local printing shop. This is the cardstock size that is typically used to print restaurant menus and small marketing ads. Also, because of its size, if you want to print a design that bleeds (the ink will seep into the blank margins), you can print it on tabloid sheets and cut the design to size.
12 × 12 inches (305 × 305 millimeters)
This sheet size is cut from a blank cardstock template and doesn’t have an official name, despite its popularity in scrapbooking. Unlike other cardstock sizes, this one is a perfect square, which might make it a bit awkward, but most home printers can print on this cardstock size with very little setting-up. In addition, you can cut 12 × 12-inch sheets of cardstock into multiple square cards for making business cards and nametags.
Types of Cardstock
Cardstock comes in a variety of types and styles, which are determined by its appearance and texture. Let’s take a look at the most common cardstock types that you can easily get your hands on.
Solid-white cardstock is what will pop into mind when a layman thinks about cardstock. It’s made from tree pulp and is bleached to give it a pure-white color and matte finish. This type of cardstock serves as a basis for making colored cards.
Cotton cardstock is made almost entirely from cotton. It has a smooth, matte finish and absorbs more liquid than other types of cardstock, making them safe to print photos and other highly detailed designs.
Linen cardstock is designed to mimic linen’s matte look and textured feel. The slight lines found on the cardstock are great for concealing imperfections in your printed design, so it’s a forgiving type of cardstock for first-time and DIY printers.
Kraft cardstock is made of recycled cardstock, so it’s not the highest-quality type you’ll find. It has a matte finish that looks a lot like the traditional paper bag, though some Kraft cardstock will have a glossy finish and smooth texture.
When looking at cardstock weight, there are two figures you have to keep an eye out for the paper weight and the GSM (grams per square meter) rating.
The paper weight refers to how much a ream (400 sheets) of the cardstock will weigh, whereas the GSM figure will determine the overall weight of a blank cardstock template prior to being cut down to size.
To demonstrate, a common weight for 400 sheets (one ream) of cardstock is 80 pounds, but it will weigh 225 GSM. This cardstock weight is typically used for business cards. If you go one step further, you’ll find 110-pound cardstock with 360 GSM for 500 sheets, which is used for handmade invitations, certificates, and other formal documents.
Below, I’ll describe the most common cardstock GSM and their common uses.
75-90 GSM—The lightest type of cardstock available, which is not ideal for printer and marker ink. You can use this type of cardstock to make flashcards and presentation notes.
120-140 GSM—This is still a thin, flexible cardstock weight, but it is typically used for posters and travel brochures.
210-300 GSM—This is a heavy cardstock weight that is stiff but still relatively easy to crease. You’ll find this type of cardstock used for printing magazine covers, as well as posters and flyers.
350-450 GSM—The thickest, heaviest type of cardstock around, this is used for formal documents and high-quality wedding invitations.