Paper For Your Board Game – Explanation and Sample Quote Request

So, we’ve talked about digital vs. offset printing, now let’s talk about paper. Specifically: how not to overpay for paper.  I’ll talk about both prototyping and final game production in terms of paper.

General Words on Paper

Paper jargon is hard to follow. It’s true.  Paper thicknesses are referred to in “weight”, #(pound), Lb. (pound), GSM (grams per square meter), and by terms like Text/Bond, Index, Pt (point), Cover, and chipboard. And of these, only pt actually refers to thickness!  The rest are literal weight or strength.

To get an idea as to how the range works: Bible paper, or Onion Skin is around 45gsm or 9lb and a traditional paper chess/checkers board is 60pt chipboard covered in 80lb gloss text.

“Cover” refers to cover stock, what people call “card stock”  and is the generic name of the stock (stock= paper) you want for cards and play mats. “Index” is a thinner cover stock, not really necessary for anything and not all that common.

“Text” refers to thinner writing papers, what people use in copiers, notepads are made of, and stationary is printed on.

“Chipboard” is used as to supplement printed products but not for printing. Cardboard chits/tokens, game boards, the backer for stacks of money are all chipboard.  (Example: the backer for yellow legal pads) For the chits/tokens and board they are covered in a lamination process by a text weight paper that is good for printing. This comes in different thicknesses measured in points. 60pt = .06 inch.

Pay close attention to the “text” or “cover” designation – both 80lb text and cover exist but are vastly different in thickness.  GSM will ALWAYS increase with thickness while lb/#/pounds (refers to strength) do not necessarily except when within the same parent “designation”, i.e. text or cover, index, etc.



For your prototype you want to go cheap but sturdy for cards, boards, instructions, and any play mats that are needed.  An 80lb gloss cover will do nicely.  It gives you weight and simulates an offset coating.  If you have lots of small text I recommend 80lb dull cover – this is still a coated stock but the text pops a little more, making it more readable overall.  This will create cards that will shuffle and feel just a hair thinner than your final cards.  If you want to spend more, ask for 14pt C2S (coated two sides) – it will give you that thickness but you’ll pay for it.

Final Production

Your box wrap and board wrap (the shiny top that is printed) go with 80lb gloss text, it doesn’t need varnish or aqueous coating to look great – which saves you money.

Board base and chit/token base go with 60pt chipboard.   80pt or 100pt just add weight to the game (thus increase shipping) and cost more to produce.  The board should be wrapped in a text weight linen finish (usually black or blue) uncoated stock – this is usually dictated by the manufacturer.  Chits may be produced single or double sided, if double sided you will be paying for double the paper and ink as well.

Cards are trickier.  You can stay with 80lb cover or move up to 100lb cover in dull or gloss. This is your cheapest route.  You can upgrade slightly from that by adding a varnish or aqueous coating in matte or gloss or even reticulated (textured).  You can get playing card stock in 270gsm (87lb-93lb) which has a colored core paper and is actually two papers laminated together.  You can upgrade to linen finish playing card stock (usually from France or Germany) which is the most expensive.  It’s up to you.

A note about saving money on cards: Depending on the quantity, it may actually be cheaper AND get you a better card quality by going with the 80lb cover with the reticulated varnish instead of the linen finish playing card stock.  NOTE: this suggestion works BEST with cards that are “full coverage” – that is not a lot of white on either side.  Having more ink coverage reduces their opacity – though since you aren’t running a casino this probably won’t even be an issue.


How do you ask for quote?

(1000 sets of 52, unique front, common back) 2.25″w x 3.5″h, .25″ radius corner, 4/4 full bleed, on 80# gloss cover, white.  Trim and packaged in collated decks.

This is a quote request for a normal poker playing card deck.

Unique front assumes that all or almost all your cards are different. Common back means the backs of all your cards are the same.

Replace 1000 with your quantity.

Replace 52 with the number of cards in your deck.

Replace 2.25″w x 3.5″h with your size, .25″ with the corner radius you want or state “standard radius corner”

4/4 means four color process on both sides – 4 inks (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black “CMYK”) on front, 4 on back and full bleed means they can’t “gang” the prints, that the color goes all the way to the edge so they must leave .25″ between prints to allow for cutting margins. If you are printing with black only you would list as 1/1 or 4/1 if just the back is black and white and the front is color.

Last replace 80#…, white with the stock you’ve chosen.

Next time we’ll talk about color.  PMS, CMYK, RGB… so many colors!


Do you have a paper question or quoting question?  Ask below!

Leave a Reply