The Ultimate Guide to Cardstock Paper and Craft Paper

Cardstock History and Definition

Cardstock (card stock) is a type of paper that is thicker, heavier, and sturdier than regular or standard paper. The earliest known history of paper was traced back to China, back in 105 CE, by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun. Initially, paper production started with simple fiber sources such as recycled fibers from used textiles called rags. The advent of construction paper, also known as sugar paper, led to the creation of cardstock paper. In the late 19th century, industrialized paper and synthetic dye technology were combined, paving the way for the first construction paper. The term "sugar paper" was coined because construction paper was used as bags for sugar. Back in 17th century England, confectionery bakers used “blue paper” in baking “Regency ratafia cakes (or macaroons).” This was how construction paper became known as “sugar paper.”

Construction paper is colored cardstock paper. Since it is mainly wood pulp, the paper’s surface is slightly rough and unfinished. This has been one of the very first craft paper used for different projects. Construction paper also gained popularity when, initially, the animated television series Blue's Clues and South Park used it along with stop motion animation. 

Colored cardstock paper

What is cardstock?

To put it simply, cardstock paper is a thicker and more durable type of paper. It is more flexible and thinner than paperboard and cardboard, making it perfect for arts and crafts. Since it is heavier and sturdier than standard or regular paper, it is also the best choice for paper crafting and card making.

Due to its durability, cardstock is generally used for business cards, postcards, playing cards, catalog covers, and scrapbooking. Its smooth surface can be glossy, metallic, or textured. According to Wikipedia, “when card stock is labeled cover stock, it often has a glossy coating on one or both sides and is used especially in business cards and book covers.” 

Industry Updates (Latest News and Trends)

Cardstock Paper in Paper Crafting

Cardstock paper has been a staple in modern paper crafting because it lends itself to a wide array of techniques such as folding, curving, bending, cutting, gluing, molding, stitching, or layering. With regular paper, using too much liquid or applying heavy embellishments will cause it to warp or tear. In the past, there were fewer cardstock colors and cardstock sizes for paper crafters to choose from. Today, however, a wide range of colors, textures, and weights are available for any kind of paper crafting project.

paper crafting

Even in the digital age, paper crafting is a booming industry worldwide. According to Statistica, the total spending on paper craft supplies in the U.S. from 2010 to 2016 was $4.57 billion. While painting and drawing take the number one spot as the “craft and hobby that Americans spend the most money on,” paper crafts aren’t far behind, taking the number five spot. In 2019, the combined sales of arts and crafts stores Hobby and Lobby and Michaels was six million US dollars. With paper craft supplies being popular, cardstock and envelopes also became in demand. In fact, the value added by paper products manufacturing in the US (from 1998 to 2019) reached $61.2 million. 

Cardstock Paper in Card Making

The history of card making can be traced back to either the ancient Chinese sending greeting cards on New Year’s Day or the early Egyptians sending greetings using papyrus scrolls. According to Wikipedia, it was in the 1850s when “the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication, due largely to advances in printing and mechanization.”

cardstock for invitations

This led to the increased demand for cardstock paper, cardstock for invitations, and cardstock crafts, among other paper craft supplies. Creating handmade cards, either for personal or business purposes, has become so popular that craft paper (mostly cardstock) is now a staple in a paper crafter’s stash.

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Manufacturing and Materials

Before the industrialization of paper production, recycled fibers from used textiles, also known as rags, are the most common fiber source. These rags were usually from hemp, linen, and cotton. With the introduction of wood pulp in 1843, paper production became independent from ragpickers and other recycled materials. Over the years, the papermaking process has evolved. Wood pulp is created either through chemical pulping or mechanical pulping. Recycled paper, on the other hand, is produced by mixing either chemically or mechanically produced pulp with water and applying mechanical action. 

colored cardstock

Manufacturing of Construction Paper

Construction paper (also known as colored cardstock) has been around since the late 19th century. During that time, it was “primarily advertised for classroom settings as an effective canvas for supporting multiple drawing media.” Colored cardstock paper was created through “a machine-oriented process that exposes the paper to dyes while it was still pulp, resulting in a thorough distribution and brilliance of color.” Back then, Germany was the leading producer of aniline dyes, the primary dyes for producing construction paper. However, its involvement in World War I made them cease the export of these dyes. This led to a shortage in dyes, forcing manufacturing to use substitute coloring methods instead.

Card stock is typically made with a combination of hardwood and softwood materials. The paper’s proper formation is due to the hardwood, and the softwood fibers provide strength. Because every mill uses different fibers at different ratios, there is a wide range of cardstock sizes, weights, finishes, and qualities.

Types of Cardstock

There are different types of cardstock on sale either in arts and crafts stores or online. Check out the different kinds of paper cardstock based on cardstock sizes, cardstock textures, weights, finishes, and cardstock colors.  

Weight and Size

Paper cardstock dimensions are usually measured in inches, while its weight ranges from 65 lbs to 110 lbs. The standard weight is 80 lbs. A piece of card stock’s weight is determined by the weight of 500 sheets of paper that are 20 x 26 inches.

Cardstock Sizes

6 x 6 inches

8 x 8 inches

8 1/2 x 11 inches (standard handmade card size)

12 x 12 inches (standard scrapbook page size)


Paper cardstock

What is GSM? 

GSM stands for “grams per square meter.” This article states that various paper types’ weight is measured from a sample sheet cut to one square meter in size. No matter the length or width the paper becomes, the weight measurement is always taken from the square meter sheet.” 

A paper that weighs 55 gsm will be much lighter and thinner than a paper that weighs 400 gsm. The latter will be heavier, thicker, and much more durable. In short, the higher the gsm, the sturdier the paper is.

Cardstock Weight (according to OfficeXPress)

75-90 gsm – This is found in sketch pads or notebooks. It’s thick enough to draw on with a pencil, but heavy ink or marker may bleed through.

90-100 gsm – This is the weight of most types of household printer paper.

120-140 gsm – The weight of your average promotional poster. Some examples are movie posters hanging on a teenager’s bedroom walls or product posters hanging in store windows.

210-300 gsm – This thicker type of paper is stiffer but still bendable. You’ll see it used for some magazine covers and higher-quality flyers. This is also the weight of most paper used for watercolors or painting.

350-450 gsm – The highest GSM paper is pretty much cardstock paper. This is the stiffest, sturdiest paper and is used for business cards and cardstock for invitations.


Glossy Cardstock

Matte Cardstock

Vellum Cardstock

Texture and Finish

Here are the most common types of paper cardstock based on texture and finish.

  • Glossy Cardstock - This has a shiny or lustrous coating.
  • Matte Cardstock - This one has a dull or lusterless coating.
  • Vellum Cardstock - Vellum is a fine parchment paper made from a calf, kid, or lamb’s skin. It can range from almost transparent to almost opaque.
  • Textured Cardstock - This is made up of various fiber or other content that gives it a unique texture. Standard textures include linen, canvas, wood, etc.
  • Glitter Cardstock - This has a colored glitter coating.
  • Iridescent Cardstock - This one’s coating displays a spectrum of colors that shimmer and change as the observer's position changes. 

(Source: Create For Less)

cardstock sets

  • Gradient Cardstock - To make crafting easier, Altenew has come up with gradient cardstock sets. These are 80lb in weight and 3” x 6” in size. Each set comes with eight sheets in three different shades from the same color family. These color-coordinated cardstock sets will make creating embellishments easy peasy! You can use them with 3D dies, layered stamps and dies, or simply use them as colorful accents on your project. 

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Uses of Cardstock

Since cardstock is basically just paper, it is very versatile, flexible, and easy to use. There are a plethora of cardstock crafts readily available online - from Instagram to Pinterest. Whether it’s paper crafting, card making, scrapbooking, journaling, or mixed media art, the possibilities are endless when it comes to cardstock ideas

cardstock ideas

cardstock crafts
cardstock craft

Cards

Scrapbook

Mixed Media

Altered Art

Cardstock for Invitations

handmade cards and greeting cards

background pages or layouts

journals

Artist Trading Cards (ATC)

cardstock for wedding invitations

announcements

embellishments

planners

embellishments

birthday invitations

place setting cards

tags

cards

tags

Thanksgiving 

gift tags

borders

scrapbook layouts

borders

Christmas 

menus

matting photos

home decor

photo mats

Barbecue

postcards

mini album

DIY projects

envelopes

New Year


From clean and simple to more complex and decorative ones, there are so many cardstock crafts that you can try today. With just a few craft paper and other paper craft supplies, you can whip up something in no time! Here are a few quick and easy cardstock ideas for you!

paper cardstock

  • DIY tags and bookmarks

  • Creating DIY tags and bookmarks is probably one of the easiest ways to use your cardstock paper and craft paper. In this blog post, design team member Maryam showed how to create three different and elegant DIY bookmarks with paper cardstock, a mini stamp set, some embossing inks and powders, and other mixed media supplies. The process is the same for each bookmark, but the results are different. 

    You can also whip up some quick gift tags or holiday tags with just white cardstock, some embellishments, sequins, ribbons, and a handful of paper crafting supplies. This blog post will teach you a fun and easy way to create DIY gift tags in less than 10 minutes!       

  • Handmade cards

  • Let’s face it; it’s easier just to drop by a store and grab the first greeting card you see. After all, it’s already been made for you! All you need to do is write your name and the recipient’s name, and you’re good to go. However, there is nothing better than the thoughtfulness and heartwarming feeling of a simple handmade card. Whether you use colored cardstock or white cardstock, here are several card making ideas that you can try today.

    Thank you card

  • Mini album
  • What better way to preserve your precious memories than to create your own mini photo album? If you have a few paper cardstock, you can go for white or colored cardstock, you can start doing this right away! Check out the blog posts here for some quick and easy cardstock ideas.

    Personalized Scrapbook

  • Scrapbook layout
  • Using your cardstock to create scrapbook layouts or pages is one of the most fun cardstock crafts. To start, grab a few 12” x 12” white cardstock, some adhesives, embellishments, pens, and photos. If you need colorful cardstock, Altenew has a variety of cardstock on sale right here. Check out some of these scrapbook layout ideas.

    Memories Cardstock
    Family Cardstock

  • DIY home decor
  • Decorating your home is always fun! Did you know that you can easily create DIY home decor and other craft paper ideas with just a handful of colorful cardstock? You can make Christmas ornaments like these, holiday decor, Easter decor, Thanksgiving decor, a vision board like this, embroidery hoop decor, door decor, framed decor, altered book page, gift box, tea light box, and more!   

    Holiday decor

    Closing Note

    Cardstock is an essential and staple tool in any arts and crafts enthusiasts’ stash. It is similar to a painter’s or an artist’s canvas. Most arts and crafts start with plain white cardstock. Not only is it simple and easy to use, but it’s also versatile and durable. Whether it’s white cardstock, colored cardstock, glossy cardstock, or craft paper, there is an abundance of cardstock on sale both online and in physical stores. If you are still searching where to buy cardstock paper, you can check out Altenew’s collection right here.

    Buy Cardstock and Craft Paper Now!

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

    Q1: Where can I buy cardstock paper from?

    A1: Cardstock paper is available in every arts and crafts store. While you can find some on Amazon or Walmart, it is still best to buy cardstock paper online from reputable and trusted crafts stores such as Altenew. You can also check out Neenah Paper since they are well-known for their cardstock. 

    Q2: What do you use cardstock paper for?

    A2: Nowadays, cardstock paper is mainly used for paper craft, crafting, card making, scrapbooking, mixed media art, and other DIY crafts.

    Q3: Is cardstock the same as scrapbook paper?

    A3: While all cardstock can be considered as scrapbook paper, not all scrapbook paper is considered as cardstock paper. In short, you can use cardstock paper for scrapbooking. Other types of scrapbook paper are patterned paper, Kraft paper, vellum paper, metallic paper, glossy paper, parchment paper, etc. Because of its durability and size, a 12” x 12” cardstock paper is ideal for creating scrapbook pages. 

    Q4: How do you scrapbook with cardstock?

    A4: You can scrapbook with cardstock by choosing a 12” x 12” white cardstock paper. This will serve as your base or your background. Next, decide on the color scheme or the theme of your scrapbook page. Then, start adhering embellishments, stickers, and photos onto your cardstock paper. Finally, add some journaling, stamping, die-cuts, or other mixed media art.  

    Q5: What is the best weight cardstock for making cards?

    A5: The standard and best weight cardstock for card making is 80lb. It is recommended to use cardstock paper that weighs somewhere between 80lb to 110lb especially for stamping, die-cutting, and other mixed media techniques.