I love crafting with paper! Paper is so readily available and inexpensive, yet we can turn it into truly gorgeous works of art and super cute crafts. And there are SO many different paper types out there beyond your basic copy paper. Yet, it isn’t always easy to know WHICH kind of paper is best to use for a particular project, especially when you’re trying something new. I encountered this myself recently when I began making my rolled paper flowers. Thankfully, I’ve been in the print media business since high school, so paper is something I know really well. So I’ve put together a handy paper chart as well as complete descriptions and detailed photos for each paper type I think works best for crafts of all kinds … because choosing and using the right paper will make a huge difference in how your project turns out!
Crafting Paper Types Chart
|Type||Paper Weights||Paper Colors||Best Crafts|
|Copy Paper||Medium: 20–24 lb. (75-90 gsm)||Whites, pastels, brights||Origami, Folded Paper Crafts, Quilling|
|Patterned Paper||Medium: 20–60 lb. (75-90 gsm)||Colored patterns||Scrapbooking, cards|
|Card Stock||Thick: 80–100 lb. (218–271 gsm)||Any color||3-D crafts, boxes, bags, cards, cut-outs, models|
|Cardboard||Very Thick: 50lb.+ (130+ gsm)||Gray, brown, colors||3-D crafts, sculptures, models, cards|
|Kraft Paper||Thick: 80–100 lb. (218–271 gsm)||Gray, brown, colors||Patterns, budget-friendly and school crafts|
|Textured Paper||Medium/Thick: 24–80 lb. (90–218 gsm)||Any color||3-D crafts, cards, scrapbooking|
|Metallic Paper||Thick: 80–115 lb. (210–280 gsm)||Metallic/pearlescent colors||Rolled flowers, 3-D sculptures, models, cards|
|Gloss Paper||Medium/Thick: 24–80 lb. (90–218 gsm)||Any color||Cards, crafts that mimic something shiny|
|Marbled Paper||Medium: 80 lb. (218 gsm)||Swirled colors||Bookmaking, scrapbooking, cards, invitations|
|Crepe Paper||Thin/Medium: 15–72 lb. 60-180 gsm||Virtually any color||Paper flowers, pom-poms, butterflies, paper sculptures, piñatas, wedding decor, wreaths, bouquets, and appliqué|
|Vellum||Thin/Medium: 17 lb. – 48 lb. (60–118 gsm)||Whites, golds, silvers, some colors||Cards, invitations, scrapbooking, transferring images|
|Watercolor Paper||Medium/Thick: 90–300 lb. (245+ gsm)||Natural white, bright white||Paper flowers and plants, pinwheels, lanterns, illustrations, paintings|
|Rag Paper||Medium/Thick: 90–300 lb. (245+ gsm)||White, off-white, pastels||Paper flowers and plants, long-lasting things|
|Adhesive Paper||Medium: 20 lb., 60 lb. (75, 90 gsm)||White, clear, colors||Stickers, signs, labels|
|Foil Paper||Medium/Thick: 30 lbs, 45 lb., 60 lb.||Metallic colors||3-D crafts, embossing, relief crafts|
|Rice Paper||Thin: 40-100 gsm||White, colors||Decoupage, lanterns, origami|
|Tissue Paper||Very Thin: 20–24 gsm||Colors||Pom-poms, tassels, piñatas, lanterns, overlays|
To help you visualize the paper types are different from one another, I’ve photographed a sample for each paper type (front and back). Each paper has had the following manipulations attempted upon it:
- Print upon with my inkjet printer (red ink) so you can see if it takes printer ink
- Cut into a detailed shape on my Cricut cutting machine (my signature winged heart shape) so you can see how well it cuts
- Write upon with a marker (black) so you can see how the marker does or does not bleed into the paper
- Brush with watercolor paint (purple stroke) so you can see how the watercolor paint absorbs into the paper
- Dab with acrylic paint (green dab) so you can see how the acrylic paint behaves on the paper
- Fold the wings so you can see how it creases and keeps a fold
Note: If you do not see one of the above manipulations (print, cut, write, brush, dab, or fold) in the photo, then that means that paper did NOT accept that manipulation.
Copy paper is often what we think of as “paper.” This is the white, 20 lb. or 24 lb. paper you load into your printer or copier. You may also hear this called “laser bond” or “xerographic” paper. Yes, it’s simple and unassuming, but you’d be surprised at what you can use it for! It works really well for origami and folded paper art—I used it to make my paper winged heart to great effect. The fact that it is easy to print on also makes it a versatile option for crafting, as not all papers can be printed upon. It’s so easy to print your own design or pattern on a piece of copy paper. The downsides to copy paper are the lack of luster (it’s matte, with no shine or sheen) and it’s not useful for anything that needs to be very light and fluttering or, conversely, very stiff and unwavering. I recommend copy paper for origami, folded paper crafts, decoupage, quilling, and printing.
The copy paper pictured above is from Staples.
Patterned Paper/Scrapbook Paper
Patterned paper, also known as scrapbook paper, is paper printed with a pattern. This is the type of paper you find in craft stores and it comes in a multitude of colors and patterns. The pattern or image is not usually printed on both sides. Sometimes patterned paper is also accompanied by embossing or glitter. I recommend patterned paper for scrapbooking, cards, and flat decorative paper crafts.
The patterned paper pictured above is from a DCWV Stack from Joann.
Card stock, or simply “card,” is our go-to when we want to create a craft with substance. Card stock is stiff and comes in a wide variety of colors. Card stock is less flexible, and is more prone to crushing or tearing when you try to manipulate it, but it CAN be manipulated. I mostly use basic card stock for my rolled flowers and I usually manipulate the paper in some way to add texture and body. When my daughter was into Minecraft paper crafting, we found card stock to produce the sturdiest results. Card stock can be easily printed on, which also makes it very useful! I recommend card stock for 3-D crafts (flowers, boxes, bags), cuttables, and cut-outs.
The cardstock pictured above is from Staples.
Oh, we love crafting with cardboard and poster board in our house—you can make the most amazing three dimensional crafts with it. Cardboard comes in a wide array of thicknesses, everything from what seems to be a thick card stock to a corrugated cardboard that you could make furniture out of! It can be used in lieu of wood for a huge array of crafts—I’ve used it to make gift tags, miniature fairy houses, and signs. I recommend cardboard, paperboard, and poster board for dimensional crafts, wood-alternative crafts, and anything that requires structure.
The poster board in the above photos is cut from a large sheet I bought at Joann.
Kraft paper is the stuff brown grocery bags are made out of, but you can also buy rolls of kraft paper. Kraft paper is made of the leftover pulp produced during paper making, and thus it’s not a high quality paper. But it has a distinctive look that can be appealing in a minimalist sort of way. It’s useful in the craft room for making patterns (I use it all the time for my clothing patterns) as well as simple crafts and school crafts where paper quality is not a concern. I recommend kraft paper for patterns, minimalist decorative paper crafts, and budget-friendly crafts.
The kraft paper in this photo is from the roll in my craft room, which I obtained from ULINE.
Card Stock, and even some lighter paper, can be found with surface textures. The most common texture is a crosshatch that looks like linen, probably trying to emulate a classic linen paper. But you’ll also find raised dots, glitter, stripes/lines, and such. You can get lighter weight papers in a linen finish at office supply stores, too. I recommend card stock for decorative 3-D crafts where the extra texture can really add to the design.
The textured paper pictured above is from the DCWV Cardstock Stack Jewels (affiliate link).
Metallic paper has a fine metallic finish on the surface of the paper, which can result in some truly beautiful crafts. This type of paper has a gorgeous sheen and shimmer, and some even have unusual textures, such as embossed surfaces. Not all metallic papers look metallic either—some have a more pearlescent sheen. It depends on the cover and the amount of metallic flakes used in the paper. Metallic papers come in both text and cover weights, making them versatile. I recommend metallic paper for any craft you want to give more depth and pop to, which can include anything from rolled flowers and 3-D crafts to models and cards.
The metallic paper pictured above is metallic lokta paper from Paper Source. As you can see, it did not like marker, inkjet, or watercolor, and barely shows the acrylic paint. This is typical for metallics.
Gloss paper can be all-over glossy, or it can have spot (UV) gloss in a decorative pattern. It tends to behave like other paper of its weight, except that some inks will not stick to some glosses. It completely depends on the type of gloss used. It can be very eye-catching, however! I recommend gloss for cards, decorative crafts where gloss would make a statement.
The UV spot gloss paper pictured above is from a DCWV Premium Paper Collection. As you can see, the places were the UV spot gloss appear on the paper do not allow for good absorption of the marker.
Ah, marbled paper is a real gem, especially the true marbled paper which is made by floating color in fluid (or size) and then carefully transferred to the paper. You can also buy printed marbled paper, which has its own charms. Good marbled paper tends to be card stock or better as it needs to absorb the color without wrinkling or deforming. You can even make your own marbled paper with food coloring and shaving cream. Marbled paper is traditionally used in bookmaking and invitations, but you can use it for anything for which you would medium paper or card stock.
The marbled paper pictured above is from Paper Source.
You might think of crepe paper as traditional party streamers, but it’s really so much more than that. Crepe paper is also different from tissue paper, in that it is wrinkly and opaque (you can’t see through it very well). Did you know crepe paper is actually several layers of tissue paper glued together and then creased? Crepe paper is typically flexible, and it also stretches wonderfully! You cannot laser or inkjet print on crepe paper, but you can ink or color it by hand. It has an amazing texture, reminiscent of those found in nature, and for that reason it is very popular when creating realistic plant life out of paper. Right now, Italian crepe paper is all the rage as it isthick, pliable and luxurious. You can get crepe paper in nearly any color, and it even comes in some metallic finishes. I recommend crepe paper for paper flowers, pom-poms, butterflies, paper sculptures (perfect for piñatas), wedding decor, wreaths, bouquets, and appliqué.
The crepe paper pictured above is Lia Griffith Double Sided Crepe Paper (affiliate link). As you can see, it was not printable. Also, I could not cut the crepe paper on my Cricut; I had to cut the heart out by hand.
Vellum is a gorgeous, translucent paper, typically made from cotton. If you hold vellum up to a window, it lets in a soft light. You can layer it for a beautiful effect—it’s perfect for making an ombré effect. Vellum also works great for tracing a design, as you can mostly see through it. Vellum doesn’t come in an array of colors—you mostly just find shades of white, gold, and silver. I recommend vellum for cards, invitations, scrapbooking, and for transferring images.
The vellum pictured above is from Paper Source.
You might think watercolor paper is only for watercolor paintings, but the cold-pressed watercolor paper has an unusual texture (“tooth”) and thickness that make for an interesting crafting paper. And, of course, it absorbs color and water well. I’ve used it to make realistic flowers and plants. Watercolor paper comes in both opaque and translucent versions for more versatility. I recommend watercolor paper for paper flowers and plants, pinwheels, lanterns, and illustrations.
The watercolor paper above is Loew Cornell Simply Art Watercolor Paper (Hot Press) (affiliate link). Note: The Cold Press watercolor paper by the same manufacturer did not do well in the Cricut, interestingly.
Rag (Cotton/Linen) Paper
Rag paper contains some amount of fiber, usually cotton or linen. This gives the paper an extraordinary flexibility and strength; rag paper is what the U.S. treasure uses to make paper money. Rag paper usually, but not always, has a textured surface. Rag paper shares some similarities with watercolor paper. Rag paper tends to be archival, meaning it doesn’t have acid that will eventually eat away and destroy the paper. I recommend rag paper for paper flowers and plants, and any craft that will be handled often or needs to last a very long time.
The rag paper pictured above is Southworth 100% Cotton 24 lb (affiliate link). Note that the Cricut was not able to cut the wings very well.
This is paper with an adhesive backing. We typically use this type of paper to make stickers, as it’s easy to put into a printer and cut out your shape. This allows you to create any sticker or seal you could possibly want, perfectly tailored to your project. Adhesive paper normally comes in white, but you can also get it completely clear. I recommend adhesive paper for creating your own stickers.
The adhesive paper pictured above is Avery Full-Sheet Labels (affiliate link).
Foil paper is an eye-popping choice for your crafts, as its made with a thin layer of foil and holds shape really well. This makes it perfect for embossing and other structural, 3-D crafts. You can even put it through most printers. I recommend foil paper for 3-D crafts, embossing, and relief crafts.
The foil paper pictured above is from a DCWV Stack from Joann. Note that the marker, inkjet, and watercolor did not adhere well to the foil, but the acrylic paint worked fine.
Rice paper is a paper made from various plants, not just rice. It has a really interesting texture and comes in wide variety of weights and stiffnesses, though usually it’s quite flexible (and strong) thanks to the plant fibers. Some versions of rice paper are even edible, making them perfect for food crafts. Rice paper is often, though not always, translucent. Rice paper comes in any color and even patterns. I recommend rice paper for decoupage, lanterns, and origami.
The obonai rice paper pictured above is from Paper Source.
This is likely the thinnest paper we use for crafting, and it’s so much more than just gift bag filler. It’s light and airy feel works really well on dimensional crafts as it adds almost no weight. Tissue paper comes in every color imaginable, and you can even print on it. I recommend tissue paper for pom-poms, tassels, piñatas, lanterns, and lightweight 3-D crafts.
The tissue paper pictured above is from Paper Source. Note that the marker tore through the paper and the Cricut could not cut it very well at all.
The paper possibilities for your next craft project are really endless. I like to keep a few of each type of paper on hand (organized and labelled!) so I can experiment with what works best at any time. Once I know what paper works best, I can go out and get it in just the right color, weight, or sheen to complete my project. And all these paper types open up words of possibilities for crafting, too. You can make nearly everything with paper!
Do you have any favorite crafting papers? I’d love to hear about them.
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