Which cover stock should I use to print my business cards?
The business card paper guide

Why did we write this article?  So many clients need business cards and, intuitively, they will ask for the cheapest business card, because they don't think it matters. In our experience, that is the simple answer that we all provide when we don't know enough to make a different decision.

We hope that this article helps you identify your options and inspires you to consider additional reasons to select one substrate over another.  Knowing the purpose will make your selection process very smooth.

The ultimate two questions that we'd like to help you answer are 

  1.  "What is the purpose and why do I want my business cards for?"  
  2.  "What paper should I print the business cards on?"

How Many Options of Paper and Cover Stock are Available?

Short answer: There are so many options!  As a matter of fact, there are dozens of substrates that can be used to produce business cards. From uncoated to recycled materials, all the way to coated, laminated, plastic, and aluminum substrates are available in the menu of options.

Compare the height of 50 business cards printed on different papers

Some substrates will make your business card feel fancy, others will simply be convenient.  On occasion, the cheapest paper works.

Take a look at the many styles and options of business cards available by clicking here


Let's explore some of the options of paper, cover stock, and other materials that can be used:

  • For Printed at Home Business Cards:

    There is cardstock that you might be able to print using a home-printer. It is usually a thinner cardstock. It could be Index, 80# coverstock, or 65# coverstocks. These might make it through some printers. Getting front and back registration in small devices could be tricky. 
    These light stocks can be used as well for massive distribution of business cards made at street events.
  • Paper Guide for cards printed by a commercial printing company.

    These most popular options will produce thicker and sturdy cards that feel truly professional.  These thicker cardstocks, once printed,  can be further embellished with varnishes,

    Thickness with different finishing: Under this group, the most popular alternatives are
    - 100# cover,
    - Gloss Finish: 14 point coverstock with UV coating, As in this example.
    - Gloss Finish: 16 points coverstock with UV coating As in this example.
    - Gloss Finish: 18 point coverstock As in this example.
    - Matt + Spot UV: 14 or 16 point coverstock As in this example.
    - Uncoated: 32 to 38 point coverstock. As in this example.
    - Plastic Frosted 20 point cards. As in this example.
    - Matt + Raised spot UV 16 point cards. As in this example.
    - Matt + Foil Premium 16 point cards. As in this example.

    Varnishes, embellishment, and decoration: Besides the fact that the stock can be coated or uncoated, UV coatings, spot UV, and dimensional raised UV,  provide a large number of options when it comes to uniqueness just by using finishing techniques. 

    Finishings: Gloss and Satin finish are the most typical, but patterns applied through spot UV or other methods can add almost an additional dimension of sophistication to your card.
  • Looking for a High-End "feel" of your card? 

    That feeling is usually related to sturdiness, softness,  and novelty. Therefore the perception of sophistication: Tiple play thick cards are manufactured using three distinguished layers of cardstock. The central one is colored, so the final business card feels very elegant. 

    Plastic substrates, either white, clear, or frosted, can be made into very elegant business cards. 
    Aluminum is now available as a substrate. The cards are pretty distinctive and unique.
    Lamination and soft-touch finishings 

"There's a perception connected to your business card"

"Thickness, softness and elegance create a perception"

Create a card that aligns with your goals

The choice of paper or cardstock can have an effect on the outcome of your business dealings and personal relations.

Since perception and first impressions play a significant role in human behavior, a thought-out selection will probably align better with your personal and business goals.

 Factors that connect business cards to the outcome:

  • Too flimsy could feel cheap in certain circumstances, but perfect for other occasions.
  • Too luxurious might position you as providing expensive services/goods, or going out of your way to show your commitment.
  • Elegant, with detail in the finishing side could position you as a careful and detailed artist or business person
  • If your card looks just like anyone else's, it's difficult to stand out.


Other factors that affect the selection of paper. Which affects the most?

  • Budget and Production Time.

    - 14 point cardstock cards, printed in full color with UV protection are considered the most standard option at this time. Production time is fast and the price is low.

    - 16 point cardstock is slightly more expensive but might delay production by a day or two.

    - Multi-layered stocks and painted edges These are more difficult to make and therefore of higher cost, and production time. From a graphic design perspective, you might want to think about the look and feel of the card with some more detail.

    - Finishing options Embossing is pretty distinctive but adds to the cost.

    - Plastic and aluminum substrates are more expensive and require a more customized production process which takes longer.

    - Embellishment options such as spot UV, raised spot UV, lamination, foil, rounded corners or shaped cards add complexity to the project both from the production side, as well as from the file preparation side.
  • Carrying space and portability

    - In the wallet Wallets became thinner so there is less room for carrying card. If you want your business card to go there, have a strategy so that it can happen.

    - Be distinctive People often have a hard time when looking at business cards that they have received at trade shows or business events for different reasons. Align your business card with your company's purpose or strategy so that making a future connection becomes more likely.
  • Psychology

    - Be in sync with your audience Impression and perception matter. Don't look too frugal or too lavish when the occasion doesn't call for it. Align with your reality.


Choosing the paper or cardstock to print your business cards sounds as a trivial question. There are many reasons to choose one stock, or plastic, or another. Here are the questions that we get asked the most.


Q: How thick is a business card? What is a POINT and how much does it measure in inches? 

A:  In the US the thickness of paper is measured in POINTS, abbreviated as pt. or pts. One point is 1/1000th part of an inch. So a a10pt thick card will measure 0.01 inches, equivalent to 0.254mm (ISO system)

thickness of Triple Play layered cards
Thickness of 50 cards.
Model 38point Triple Play

The thickness of a set of 50 cards is about 2"

Thickness of 50 14pt thick cards
Thickness of 50 cards.
Model: 14point w/ matt finish

The thickness is of about 7/8"

Thickness of 50 cards.
Model 10pt coverstock

The approximate thickness is 1/2"

Q: Does adding more information on the card increase the cost to the card itself?

A:  The standard printing method is full-color process, a printing technology that reproduces quite well a certain color gamut.
Adding color-critical elements, or adding additional colors that look great on screen but can't be printed easily could add to the cost of the card.
Technically it is not the content, but the printing technology that has an impact.

Q: Can you print QR codes on any of the papers, cardstock, or materials offered?

A:  As long as the QR code is big enough, it can be printed on any of the substrates. Do not use spot UV, nor raised UV on top of the QR code area to avoid false readings.

Q: Does your company offer the best design service and high-end quality?

A:  Our team clearly understands the challenges involved in the design and production of business cards. All of our expertise and experience are used with every card and every client.

Q: Which are the main factors to consider when selecting the paper?

A:  Our opinion is that the business card should support your business by doing what you need. The cost should not be the main deciding point. A business card opens up your business to the world.

Q: Is a thicker card better than a thinner one?

A:  The thickness and the type of substrate should be selected based on different factors: Where will people keep it, How long do you expect the card to last. How much of an impact do you want to create. In our opinion, there is no better or worst answer. The circumstances will determine the best option.

Q: I want my business to look professional. Which paper should I choose?

A:  Looking professional is the result of a combination of several skills: We don't think that there is a single factor but many. Examples: Having a good design that truly represents your brand. Providing the necessary information in a clear and easy to read way.  Using a reputable commercial printing company to manufacture the cards. Using a substrate that is just right, that does not feel cheap, not out of touch. 


When you decide which option suits you better, make sure to consider not only the cost of the cards but the impact in your activity that the cards would have.  We learned that "inexpensive does not always serve you well"

example of business card



Not decided yet? Call us for help!

Gustavo Baner from ColorCopiesUSA

Gustavo Baner

Team ColorCopiesUSA.com

Date Published: 2020-02-07// Updated: 2020-12-18

Topic: Business Cards   Click to Read More About  Business Cards: