Small businesses use card stock — a specialty paper — in a variety of ways. With a myriad of choices of styles, weights and colors, you're bound to find the right kinds of card stock to suit your needs.

What Is Card Stock?

Card stock, sometimes known as cover stock, is paper that is thicker, heavier and sturdier than standard writing or copy paper. It can be used for business cards, greeting cards, scrapbooking and other business and art projects. Card stock comes in many different weights, colors and textures that are suitable for a number of purposes.

Card Stock Thickness and Weight

Like other business papers, card stock is classified by weight. The card stock weight gives you an indication of card stock thickness. Standard office and copy papers are usually marked between 20-lb. and 32-lb. That's the weight for 500 sheets of paper. Obviously, 32-lb. paper is heavier than the same number of sheets of 20-lb. paper. It's because each sheet is a bit thicker.

Card stock measures from 80-lb. to 110-lb. weight, making it stiffer and heavier than standard office and copy papers. The heft and thickness mean you may not be able to use card stock with a desktop printer or small copier. Check the operator's manual (which may be available online) or an office machines specialist to find out what weights of paper and card stock can be accommodated.

Paper Type Is Important

In paper manufacturing, paper types are described with terms including text, cover, bond, index and bristol. Knowing the attributes of each type of paper will help you understand why 80-lb. text is actually thinner than 59-lb. cover. The paper industry sells its papers by type and by weight that is measured in grams per square meter (GSM). Each type of paper has a size range. The higher the GSM, the heavier and thicker the paper.

Paper Weights and Uses

Use your supplier's card stock thickness guide to choose the best papers for your needs. Here's a quick guide to paper weight and best application:

Lightweight papers, often called text, include standard business papers used for general purposes and in printers, copiers and fax machines. This category also includes bond paper, slightly heavier paper that may contain some cotton or linen fibers and feature a textured finish. With a more luxurious look and feel, bond papers are often used for resumes and formal correspondence.

Medium-weight papers are classified as 65- to 80-lb. cover papers. They're typically scored before folding, unlike lightweight papers, which are very flexible and fold easily. Cover papers are often used for flyers and brochures.

Index is a type of cover paper, the thickness and stiffness of a standard index card. Standard greeting cards are made of index or cover papers. Index papers are also good for flyers and brochures. They're sturdy enough to stand in brochure holders or to be mailed as a trifold without an envelope.

Heavyweight papers are cover papers 80 lbs. and above. They must be scored before folding and may be too heavy for home and desktop printers. Heavyweight papers, especially 100-lb. cover and above, are best for interior signage, invitations and business cards.

Best Papers for Your Business

Which papers are right for your business? It depends on a number of factors, including budget, purpose and the image you want to project. For most applications, you want the best quality suitable to your needs. It's a waste of money in the long run if you purchase paper that's cheap but flimsy. Likewise, you don't want to spend money on a card stock weight that's too heavy for the job.