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What is Construction Paper?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Construction paper is characterized as a stiff, heavy, inexpensive matte or eggshell finish paper that is not durable. Made from groundwood pulp, it is available in a variety of colors, and its primary application is children's arts and crafts and school projects.

Features. One important characteristic to keep in mind is that the color of most construction paper fades very quickly. This can be put to use if you wish to use the paper to make sun prints, but if the project needs to last, look for the words “light stable” or “fade resistant.” Another characteristic that may prove important is that, while some construction paper is flame-retardant, most is not. In addition, some is noted as being laser and inkjet printer compatible, but this is not a common feature. Most readily available brands are acid-free and lignin free.

Use. This paper is put to many and varied uses, including cutting and pasting projects and projects that involve drawing, sketching, or coloring. Some other uses include making posters, collage, weaving into placemats and baskets, picture mounting, napkin rings, holiday decorations and ornaments, gift tags, bookmarks, paper sculpture, finger puppets, masks, and mobiles.

Colors. Individual colors or multi-color packs of 25 or 50 sheets, as well as classroom packs containing as many as 2,000 sheets of construction paper, are available. The color assortment includes bright 8-crayon-box colors, as well as fluorescents, multicultural skin colors, pastels, two-tone marbled colors, and inclusion paper with embedded glitter.

Weight. Paper is described in several ways: by point sizes that measure the thickness of a single sheet in thousandths of an inch, and by basis weight, a measurement in pounds of the weight of 500 sheets of the standard size of the paper, whatever that may be. Because the size of different types of paper is not consistent, comparing basis weights is complicated. Nevertheless, this is the system chosen by most manufacturers to describe their construction paper.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) paper industry standard is considered the most consistent way to compare paper weights. The ISO measures weight in grams per square meter (gsm). With this measurement system, it is much easier to see what construction paper means:

10–35 gsm tissue paper
35–70 gsm lighter textweight
70–100 gsm medium textweight
100–120 gsm heavy textweight/light cardstock
120-150 gsm regular cardstock
150-200 gsm heavy cardstock
>200 gsm super heavy cardstock

Virtually all construction papers are described as “heavyweight” paper, and they range in basis weight from 65 to 80 lb. The 80-lb paper gives its ISO weight as 120-130 gsm, so using the above chart, we can estimate that the lower weights are around 100 gsm.

Size. Construction paper comes in a few basic sizes, either in sheets or bound into pads. The typical sizes are:

9 x 12 inches 229 × 305 mm
12 x 18 inches 305 × 457 mm
18 x 24 inches 457 × 610 mm
24 x 36 inches 610 x 914 mm
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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for HomeQuestionsAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By anon107631 — On Aug 31, 2010

I just wanted to clarify that Pacon's SunWorks brand is not made of recycled paper. It is recyclable. We do have other brands of construction paper that are made with recycled content, though.

By cupcake15 — On Jul 15, 2010

Great article- I just want to add that Office Depot sells an assorted pack of construction paper by Pacon Sunworks. It is high quality paper made of recycled material.

It is also made with strong fibers so that it cuts and folds evenly. It comes in a 9 x12 size. I prefer buying this assorted pack.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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