Papers and boards

Types of papers and boards and their uses

Papers and boards are formed from wood pulp, which comes from trees. This squishy wood pulp is rolled out into thin sheets in paper mill factories to form the papers and boards that we use.


Papers are made from wood pulp. Their density is measured by their weight, in grams per square metre (gsm). The lower the gsm, the thinner the paper will be. Paper comes in standard sized sheets - the smallest is A10 (roughly the size of a postage stamp), and the largest size is A0 (a large bed sheet). The most common sizes are A4 and A3.

Tracing paper (40-90 gsm)Thin, translucent (see-through), smooth and strong, doesn’t absorb ink easily and drying times are longerFor copying drawings, sketches and intricate details
Layout paper (50 gsm)Smooth finish, translucent (see-through), cheap to buyFor sketching and developing design ideas
Copier paper (80 gsm)Smooth surface, bright white (bleached) to show print clearly, uncoated surface, takes colour well, cheap and readily availableFor printing and photocopying
Cartridge paper (80-140 gsm)Thick, textured surface, usually creamy, off-white colour, heavier weight than copier paperFor all colour mediums, including ink and watercolour, crayons and pastels
A pencil sketch of a design on tracing paper.
Tracing paper


Board is categorised by weight as well as thickness; the weight is measured, like paper, in grams per square metre (gsm) and the thickness is measured in microns. One micron is 1/1,000th of a mm.

Corrugated card (3,000+ microns)Strong but lightweight, made from two layers with at least two or more fluted (crimped) sheets between, available in different thicknesses, not water resistant, can be recycledCorrugations make it strong, protective and insulating; used in packaging
Mounting board (1,400 microns)Rigid with smooth surface, available in a range of colours (commonly black and white)Picture framing mounts, production of architectural models, to support concept designs for presentations
Folding boxboard (300-1,600+ microns)Often made from recycled paper, isn’t very thick but has good stiffness, can be easily recycled, scores well and bends without splittingPackaging - particularly associated with packaging of goods found in a supermarket, eg frozen food boxes or cereal packets
A close-up view of rolled up corrugated card in green and brown.
Corrugated card