Paper Types in Paper Modeling

At the risk of stating the obvious, all paper models start with some type of paper. In some cases the paper is printed with a construction material such as brick, stone or metal. In others it’s printed with a pattern such as the front, side or rear of a building. In most cases you’ll be cutting a shape or pattern from a standard letter (8.5”x11”) sheet of paper.  

The main consideration in paper modeling is the thickness and finish on the paper. Thicker papers are generally sturdier for models but can be more difficult to fold or contour. Thicker paper also absorbs more ink creating richer colors and details. It’s best to experiment with a few different variations to determine which works best for your needs.

However, there are a few rules of thumb. Thinner papers (20# to 60#) are better for base scenery such as grass or mountains. Medium thickness paper (80#) is good if mounting to a base such as foam board or chipboard. Heavy thickness paper (110# and above) should be used when creating the structure solely from paper (without a base).

Paper thickness is measured in pounds. This measurement is based on the weight of 500 sheets of the paper in its uncut state. There are several types of paper, each of which comes in several weights:

  • Bond – Most common type of paper used for most home and office printing.
  • Book – As the name implies this is a thinner paper used in book printing.
  • Bristol – Heavier grade paper with a smooth finish generally used for paperback book covers.
  • Cover – Heavy stiff paper used for folders, cards and book covers.
  • Index – Stiff and inexpensive paper used mainly for index cards.
  • Offset – Large rolls of paper used on printing presses.
  • Tag – Dense strong paper used in the retail trade for product tags.
  • Text – Thin paper generally used for flyers and announcements.

Bond and cover stock paper is the most accessible to the average user. (In most cases, “pound” is represented the symbol “#” when referring to paper.) Bond paper is available from 20# to 60#. Cover stock is available from 50# to 130# stock. Most photo papers fall somewhere the middle – around 50 to 60# weight.

Most papers are available in a matt or gloss finish. Matt finishes are less shiny but also less durable and may have dulled color. Gloss finishes are stronger and feature richer color but may have a slight shine. (This shine can be removed by weathering.) Again, it’s best to experiment with several types and you may want to use different finishes for different paper model applications.