A Quick Paper Tutorial to Help You on Your Next Business Card Design Project….

For someone that may be starting out, or for someone that hasn’t designed business cards before, the choices with paper that face us can be a little overwhelming and if you do not understand the lingo, can sometimes be confusing.

‘When you are designing, you need to consider the type of paper you want to use and how heavy you would like your business card. So how do you know what you want?

The following breaks down the meanings behind paper types & what different weight options mean.



When you setting out to print your business cards, I’m sure you have come upon some choices for your paper like 14 or 16 pt. OR 80lb vs 100lb paper. So what’s the difference? What does it mean?

Many first time or even many time printers don’t always know the true difference between pts or pounds for paper stock. I will be asked; I want a good paper stock but often that client doesn’t know the jargon to articulate what they mean.

When paper is referred as either pt or pound it is determined by the manufacturer. The pts are referring to the thickness of an individual sheet or card (in thousandths of an inch). Typically, there should not be more then a + or – 5% variance within a sheet. If your print job requires high stiffness, make sure the paper is “manufactured to caliper,” thus guaranteeing a specific thickness and stiffness.

Basis Weight/Pound (lb) is the designated fixed weight of 500 sheets (one ream), measured in pounds. Each main grade of paper has a basic size that is used to determine its basis weight.

Note that a coated sheet is heavier than the same size uncoated sheet but has less bulk. You must also consider the added weight of ink. If you want a thicker and sturdier paper stock, use pt stocks.  Otherwise, you are better served using lb paper stocks since they are flexible and can be easily folded without being scored. (this is great for things like trifold brochures or greeting cards).




Oh.my.God.   This is a very large area to cover. There is really an infinite amount of choices out there but there are a few essentials to keep in mind.

First of all there are 2 categories for paper if you will. Card stock (or Cover stock ) and Text.

‘Card stock’ is often used for business cards, postcards, playing cards, catalogue covers, and other uses which require higher durability than regular paper. ‘Text’ is usually smooth, but can be textured, metallic, or glossy.

When card stock is labeled as cover stock it often has a coated finish on one side or both sides (This is referred to as CS1 or CS2 – Coated one side, Coated 2 side) to produce a glossy look and smooth texture, especially in use for the printing of business cards and book covers.

uncoated business cards

1:Uncoated: Uncoated paper is the most basic of paper types.  It has a raw appearance to the paper.  When using this paper, ink will absorb into the card stock and can create a darker finish then intended. It is good to refer to Pantone colours Uncoated as comparison to your design to get the right colour choice



2: Matte: Most people think Matte is the uncoated card stock, however this has a coating on it. It gives the card a smooth feel to the some believe this is great option for photographs.


3: Aqueous:
 I believe Aqueous is a great option for photos.  It is a simple, subtle and ideal for the most conservative companies.  This can produce a finish that is hard to write upon even though it does not look very shiny.



4: Full UV (shiny):  This card looks most like plastic as it has a very high sheen to the card.  This is great for making bright colours pop and definitely can not be written on. This is a good place to introduce ‘spot uv’.  This is an effect that can be applied on either matte, aqueous or silk laminate card but it applies ‘spots’ of gloss to create a cool effect.



E: Silk Laminate: The suede-like luxurious feel of this product will never be mistaken for an average coated card; the smooth finish will complement any design. This remarkably silky texture creates a pleasing contrast to the subtle aesthetic, with no added shine to interfere with your design.  This also can be ordered in a variety of thicknesses.


F: CS1 or CS2: This refers to whether or not 1 or both sides are coated. If you are designing a card that is single sided, it is worth considering the CS1 option for cost savings. However, this card can be thought of as being a little more flimsy.



So my questions I ask when choosing paper:

1: What design effects will I use? Will I use Spot UV or a Foil Effect? 
Different paper gives a better contrast depending on the effect you are choosing.  If I am using a Spot UV, I would go with a Matte or Silk Laminate for extra contrast.  When using Foil for example, an uncoated paper will add drastic contrast.

2: Will I be using Photos? 
If I am using photos, the Aqueous coating works best with photos. (as well as Full  UV / Glossy). Ink stays on top of the paper rather then be absorbed so the colours pop & images stay crisp.

3: Do I want to Print offset or Digital? 
Digital has come a long way but for the longest time, they could only feed certain widths through the machine. A standard paper for the printer is a 12 pt or 100lb paper.  Additionally, you will be looking at matte or CS1/CS2 type of paper. Offset allows for a lot of choices.

4: Are we using a lot of dark colours or will I be using Bright Happy ones?
This is important to know as mentioned above the Uncoated Paper absorbs ink quite heavily and will make the design darker then intended. Additionally, dark colours can seep through on thin paper, so a thicker card stock is important.  Bright colours really pop with the Full Gloss coating. However, often times, there is a ‘cheaper’ feel to this coating so when working with a high end business, I would select a matte or uncoated paper.

5: What kind of Budget are we working with?
This is the ultimate question. A small budget will determine that you are working with pretty basic standard paper. You definitely will not be using effects.  I would go with the Aqueous or Full UV choices as they often go on sale.



So, what are your specific questions about making paper for your Design? Do you already have some favourites or tips to share? Where do you find the best value for printing?