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Card Stock Weights and Paper Sizes Explained

Demystifying the Numbers and the Lingo

Delivering a beautiful greeting card in the mail (or in person) is such an uplifting way to connect with others. This is true whether you're celebrating a special occasion or promoting your work, especially in a digital world where the thoughtfulness of a tangible card is all but lost.

If you’re looking to print art or photography onto greeting cards, you may wonder which card stock is right for you. To answer that question, start by considering a card stock's weight and size — there is quite a range of each. By choosing the right paper weight and size, you can make sure your cards stand out for all the right reasons. Of course, uncoated plain card stock, like what you can find at local craft stores, is always available. But today, we will focus on inkjet coated card stock more suitable for professional use.

While sizes are straightforward, weights can be confusing. Let's take the easy topic first: Sizes.

Common Card Stock Sizes

Below, you'll see a diagram with the standard card sizes followed by a brief description of each. Remember that these sizes represent the dimensions of the card when folded. When designing a card, make sure to account for the fold and any bleed area needed for printing.

  • A2 — Measuring 4.25" x 5.5" folded, this size is often used for smaller, more intimate cards like wedding invitations.
  • A6 — This card measures 4.5" x 6.25" folded and is a popular choice for all types of greeting cards.
  • A7 — A bit larger, this 5" x 7" folded card is the most popular card size. It is the same size you will find on the greeting card isle of a retail store.
  • Square 5" x 5" — Square cards can provide a unique and eye-catching look.
  • 5.5" x 8.5" — The largest greeting card size, it is an 8.5” x 11” US letter sheet folded in-half.

Unique Sizes

As alternates to the above list, Red River Paper offers two options that tend to be noticed among traditional shapes and dimensions:

  1. Panoramic 4” x 9” — Also known as Pano, this is a unique size that stands out from the rest. Great for landscapes and artwork. Starts out as an 8" x 9" sheet, and folds along a prescored line to 4" x 9".
  2. More Square Options — Besides 5" x 5", square cards come in 4" x 4", 6" x 6", and 8" x 8" folded. A distinctive square shape can contribute to an artistic layout.

Custom sizes are also possible, depending on your printing provider and the purpose of the card. Always check with your printer for specific guidelines and requirements.

Paper Weights for Card Stock

Paper weight is the primary way to understand a paper's feel and suitability for a project. You can use paper weight as a proxy for how thick and sturdy a paper will be. As a rule, the higher the number, the denser and more durable the card stock. You want to pick a paper that conveys quality and is sturdy enough to be folded, unfolded, and handled by the recipient. You also want a high opacity so you can't see the outside image through the paper while reading the inside message.

Trio of Standards

There are three standards to measure paper weight:

  • Bond Weight is defined as the weight of 500 sheets of 17" x 22".
  • Cover Weight (cover = card stock) is often used in graphic arts and is the weight of 500 sheets of 20" x 26" paper.
  • GSM (aka Metric Weight) is the best scale because it uses a single standard around the world. It’s the weight of a square meter of paper.

GSM is Red River Paper’s preferred measurement. It's a globally standardized way of indicating the paper's quality and thickness, which can influence its texture, durability, and appropriateness for your purposes. For example, a higher GSM denotes a thicker, more substantial paper.

Tips for Choosing the Right Weight

Ask yourself these two questions to help determine the card stock that’s perfect for your project:

  • Medium Weight – 170-229 GSM is a good choice when you want lower paper cost and better printer feed reliability.
  • Photo Weight – 230-249 GSM has a more substantial feel and stand up to handling well.
  • Card Weight – 250+ GSM conveys a truly professional feel. Be careful as your inkjet printer may not want to feed these heavier papers consistently.

Don’t Just Sit Back ... Stand Out

Digital communications are perfectly acceptable for everyday messaging. But greeting cards can make a one-of-a-kind impression. In fact, if your final product is unique enough, your recipient may even want to frame it!

For further details on this topic, check out these reference pages on our website: Greeting Cards by Size, Paper Weight for Greeting Cards, and Paper Weight Conversion: GSM to LBS.

Whether you are a professional photographer, artist, designer, or business, our paper gurus have firsthand knowledge of all our products. If you have a question, contact us. You’ll receive a lightning-fast response from a real-life human with real-world expertise.

Last Updated November 29, 2023

Last updated: November 29, 2023



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