The Complete Guide to Card Stock and Paper Weight

Posted by: Marsha Jones on Feb. 21st, 2011
Paper Weight Image

When creating the perfect business card, there is more to it than meets the eye. Your business card says a lot about you, your organization, and your products and services. The weight and thickness of the card stock paper you select for your business card is a reflection of you and your business.

If you have ever tried to research paper weights and measures, you may have been surprised to learn about the complexities of this much-needed material that we call paper. If you are ready to design your business card, here is what you need to know.

The Language of Paper

To the average business person, card stock paper varies from firm to flimsy. This translates to a host of paper weights and measures, of which you may need to know a little, or a lot. Here are some basics:


The world of paper has its own set of language, but we only need to identify a few common terms surrounding our goal to create the perfect professional business card.

  • Bond Paper — Paper with rag content that was originally used for bonds and bank notes, often used for documents, letters, and general printing. This is the stuff we usually by in 500-sheet reams, measured in pounds. Bond paper is also called text weight paper.
  • Cover Paper — Heavier card stock paper generally used for business cards, greeting cards, covers, menus, and postcards, etc. Cover paper is also called card weight paper, or card stock.
  • Finishing — A texture that is applied to the business card, usually matte or glossy, in a range of varying textures (metallic, antique, etc.) and colors.
  • Point — A point (pt) is used to indicate the thickness of cover (card stock) papers. Common point sizes are written as 8 pt, 10 pt, 12 pt, and 14 pt paper. The higher the pt value, the thicker the paper. A point—or pt—equals .001 inch.
  • Thickness — The thickness of paper is measured in points (pts), the thickness of a sheet in thousandths of an inch. Card stock thicknesses generally range from 8-14 pts (8-11 pts flimsy, 12-14 pts firm).
  • Weight — Weight is the term used to measure the heaviness of paper in pounds, and based on grams per square meter. Weights range from 20 to 80 pounds for bond paper and 50 to 140 pounds for card stock. In terms of grams per square meter (gsm), the range is usually from 60 gsm to 150gsm.

Firm Card Stock

Using firm card stock paper that is thicker feels more substantial and lends visual weight to your business card. This firm, heavy weight paper signifies importance and seriousness in your business card and in turn your business.

  • Printing on firm card stock. Thicker papers hold up well with heavy ink coverage used for bold typefaces and images. Industrial printers handle thicker papers better than desktop printers do. Printing on the proper card stock paper creates a quality look that shows you mean business.
  • Reading from firm card stock. Reading text and viewing images created on firm card stock creates visual satisfaction, especially when good ink absorbs properly into quality card stock paper.
  • Handling firm card stock. Presenting your contact with a firm business card creates a valuable and lasting image for your business.

Flimsy Card Stock

Using flimsy card stock paper that is thin cheapens not only the business card but also the business image you may be seeking. Flimsy, lighter weight paper signifies how little you care about your customers.

  • Printing on flimsy card stock. Cheap paper will absorb ink and color while those papers that are coated will seem cleaner and brighter. Avoid printing on perforated papers from home. Ink quality appears poor and soaks into the flimsy card stock.
  • Reading from flimsy card stock. Often thin paper portrays cheap desktop printing from home. Perforations make unattractive borders, the overall appearance is cheap looking, and feel of the business card is disappointing.
  • Handling flimsy card stock. Presenting your contact with a cheap, flimsy business card creates a poor image for your business.

Paper Weights and Measures

The difference between firm and flimsy business cards is all in the paper and the printing. When ordering business cards, ensure the card stock paper the company uses is firm and of a specific weight and thickness. Beware of discounted business card offers, since often these offers result in flimsy and lower quality business cards. Since paper weight and thickness are not always options selected during the ordering process, you may be in for a surprise when your business cards arrive.

Explaining Paper Thickness vs. Weight

Cover/Card Stock varies in thickness and weight. For example, a 10 pt card is 0.010 inches (0.254 mm) thick (roughly corresponding to a weight of 250 grams per square meter); a 12 pt card is 0.012 inches (0.3048 millimeters). See Figure 1—Cardstock Thickness vs. Weight.

Paper Thickness vs. Paper Weight

Explaining Grams Per Meter

Just when you figured out how paper varies in thickness and weight, there’s more. Paper is measured using a number of other systems. See Figure 2—Card Stock Measures.

Grams per Meter

Selecting the Best

The optimum card stock weight for most professional business cards resulting in the best quality printing, viewing, and handling can be narrowed down to just a few measurements. See Figure 3—Best Business Card Stock.

Best Card Stock Options

The Bottom Line

Card stock means business!

What marketing tool do you use more of than anything else? For most companies, small and large, the answer is business cards. Business cards are one of the most important tools in the success of your business. They usually give the first impression in potential business relationships. Your business card is an opportunity waiting to happen. It holds the key to you, your organization, and your products and services. Your business card can influence and win your customers.

Cover grade paper, or card stock, offers superior dimensional stability, a uniform printing surface, and excellent embossing, die-cutting, scoring, and folding qualities. Card stock comes in many different colors and surfaces and can add great dimension to your design.

To impress potential customers, you need an impressive business card—one that looks good, feels solid, and projects a firm and strong image about your business. Make sure to order our full color business cards (printed on sturdy 12pt card stock) to project a professional image.