How to Choose the Right Cardstock: The Ultimate Guide to Cardstock Weights, Thicknesses, and Print Compatibility

When it comes to printing, not all papers are created equal. The choice of paper can drastically affect the appearance, feel, and durability of your printed project. This is where cardstock printer paper comes into play, offering a sturdier, more premium option compared to standard printing paper. But with various thicknesses, weights, and finishes available, selecting the right cardstock can be a daunting task. In this guide, we'll dive deep into the world of cardstock thickness, helping you make an informed decision for your next project.

1. Understanding Cardstock Thickness

Cardstock thickness is often measured in points (pts), where one point equals one-thousandth of an inch. This measurement directly correlates to the stiffness and durability of the paper. Cardstock thicknesses typically range from 10 pt (thin) to 18 pt (thick), with higher numbers indicating thicker paper. Thicker cardstock is ideal for business cards, postcards, and other applications where rigidity and a premium feel are desired.

2. Weights and How They Compare

Weight, measured in pounds (lbs) or grams per square meter (gsm), is another critical factor in choosing cardstock. It refers to the weight of 500 sheets of the standard size of the paper. For example, 80 lb cardstock is heavier and thicker than 65 lb cardstock. Weights commonly range from 65 lb to 110 lb (about 176 gsm to 298 gsm), offering a spectrum of durability and feel for different applications.

3. Finishes and Their Impact

The finish of cardstock printer paper affects not only the aesthetic appeal but also the practicality of the printed material. Common finishes include matte, glossy, and textured. Matte finishes provide a classic, elegant look, ideal for invitations and business cards. Glossy finishes are perfect for photos and graphics, enhancing color vibrancy. Textured cardstock, such as linen or felt, adds a tactile element, elevating the perceived quality of the print.

4. Common Uses Based on Thickness and Weight

The choice of cardstock thickness and weight largely depends on the project at hand. For instance, 65-80 lb (176-216 gsm) cardstock is excellent for flyers, brochures, and standard postcards. Heavier weights, such as 100-110 lb (270-298 gsm), are preferred for business cards, greeting cards, and wedding invitations, where a substantial feel is crucial. Understanding the demands of your project will guide you in selecting the appropriate cardstock.

5. The Most Common Cardstock Weight/Thicknesses

Choosing the right cardstock for your project involves understanding the most common weights and thicknesses and their typical applications.

  • 67 lb vellum (147 gsm): This is our lightest-weight of cardstock (even though the number 67 is larger than 65 - because it's actually 'fluffier' and less compressed than other cardstocks. The vellum finish gives it a rough, toothy touch. It works well in all printers and copiers.
  • 65 lb (176 gsm): This weight is flexible and versatile, making it suitable for projects like flyers, posters, and inserts. It’s a common choice for personal and professional projects that require a step up from regular paper without being too thick for standard printers.
  • 80 lb (216 gsm): A bit stiffer than 65 lb, 80 lb cardstock is excellent for more formal uses, including presentations, business cards, and the covers of reports or booklets. It strikes a balance between thickness, flexibility, and printability.
  • 100 lb (270 gsm): With a noticeably thicker and more rigid feel, 100 lb cardstock is ideal for premium business cards, invitations, and greeting cards. It offers a substantial feel that conveys quality and durability.
  • 110 lb (298 gsm) and up: This category is where cardstock starts to feel more like thin cardboard, perfect for packaging, premium business cards, and other applications where maximum stiffness and durability are desired.

6. Ideal and Maximum Weight/Thickness for Regular Printers and Copiers

Not all printers and copiers can handle the heavier and thicker cardstock options. Understanding the limitations of your equipment is crucial to avoid paper jams and damage.

  • Inkjet Printers: Most home inkjet printers can comfortably handle cardstock up to 90 lb (about 240 gsm). Going beyond this might require manual feeding and adjusting printer settings for thicker media.
  • Laser Printers: Laser printers generally have a higher tolerance for thicker cardstock, often up to 100 lb (270 gsm). However, because laser printers use heat, it's essential to ensure that the cardstock is laser-compatible to prevent melting or warping.
  • Professional Copiers: High-end copiers and commercial printers are designed to handle a wide range of paper weights and thicknesses, often up to 110 lb (298 gsm) or more. For very thick cardstock, professional printing services are recommended.
  • Maximum Thickness: Most consumer-grade printers have a maximum thickness they can handle, typically around 0.010 to 0.016 inches (10 to 16 pts). Check your printer’s manual for the maximum thickness to avoid issues.

FAQ about Cardstock Thickness

  • What does "pt" stand for in cardstock thickness? "Pt" stands for points, where one point equals one-thousandth of an inch. It measures the thickness of the paper.
  • How does weight affect the choice of cardstock? Weight (in lbs or gsm) reflects the paper's heaviness and thickness. Higher weights indicate thicker, more durable cardstock suitable for premium applications.
  • Can the finish of cardstock affect print quality? Yes, the finish (matte, glossy, textured) can significantly impact the look and feel of the printed material, influencing color presentation and the tactile experience.
  • What are some common uses for different cardstock thicknesses? Thinner cardstocks are used for flyers and brochures, while thicker cardstocks are ideal for business cards, greeting cards, and invitations requiring a premium feel.

Understanding the nuances of cardstock thickness, weight, and how they interact with your printing equipment can significantly influence the success of your projects. From the most common weights and thicknesses to the limitations of standard printers and copiers, making informed choices ensures your projects turn out exactly as planned. Whether you're working on a simple home project or preparing materials for a professional presentation, Church Paper offers an extensive selection of cardstock options to meet your needs. If you're unsure about the best cardstock for your printer or project, contact us for guidance and samples. Let us help you achieve the perfect balance of quality and practicality for your next endeavor.



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