A final product's quality, preservation, and appeal largely depend on the materials used in its packaging and manufacturing. One such material that has gained popularity worldwide is paperboard. It is essential to comprehend its diverse applications, starting with the basics and defining what paperboard is.

Paperboard is a thick material that is often thicker than regular paper and is made from cellulose fibers obtained from wood, recycled paper products, or other plant sources. Its lightweight, structural rigidity, and affordability make it an excellent choice in various industries. Paperboard can take on different forms and serve different purposes depending on the intended use.

Types of Paperboard

Having grasped a rudimentary understanding of paperboard, let us now steer toward the different types available in the market and how each style lends itself to various applications due to its distinct properties.

SBS is a high-quality paperboard crafted from bleached virgin wood pulp. It presents a clean, bright appearance with a superior printing surface, which makes it an excellent choice for packaging high-end products, including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Coated Unbleached Kraft (CUK) or Solid Unbleached Sulfate (SUB)

This type retains a more natural look owing to its higher recycled content. Its strength and moisture resistance characteristics make it the go-to option for beverage cartons and frozen food packaging.

Folding Boxboard (FBB)

Known for its lightweight and excellent printing surface, FBB finds extensive use in pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging, greeting cards, and various other graphical applications.

White Line Chipboard (WLC)

Often manufactured from recycled fibers, WLC is a more economical option with a lower strength profile, making it suitable for dry food packaging and other lightweight products.

Exploring these different types of paperboard provides a glimpse into the versatility of paperboard as a material, enabling it to meet a range of specific requirements across various industries.

Common Terms

As we navigate further, it is beneficial to acquaint ourselves with the vocabulary of the paperboard industry to grasp a more detailed understanding of this topic. Here, we will elucidate some standard terms frequently used in the industry.


It refers to the thickness of the paperboard and is generally measured in thousandths of an inch or micrometers. A higher caliper indicates a thicker board, which typically offers more rigidity.


Grammage denotes the paper weight expressed in grams per square meter (gsm). It helps in determining the heaviness and thickness of the paperboard.

Burst Strength

This term refers to the ability of paperboard to withstand pressure without breaking. It is a critical metric in determining the suitability of paperboard for various packaging applications.

Understanding these terms not only aids in a more profound comprehension of paperboards but also facilitates informed decisions while selecting the paperboard for specific needs.

Paperboard vs. Cardboard

With a nuanced understanding of paperboard types and terminology, let's discuss a common point of confusion: the distinction between paperboard and cardboard.

Although interchangeable in casual parlance, paperboard and cardboard refer to different materials. Cardboard relates generally to a heavier-duty material known for its rigidity and strength. It is usually used to manufacture corrugated boxes and is widely used in shipping and packaging.

On the other hand, paperboard is lighter and more flexible, allowing for more delicate, detailed work, including creating custom packaging for retail products, graphical printing, and intricate artwork. It provides a superior surface for high-resolution printing, making it a preferred choice for premium packaging solutions.

Knowing the difference between the two assists in selecting the appropriate material and understanding the unique characteristics that lend themselves to various applications.

Paperboard Thickness Chart

As we traverse deeper, it is imperative to have a concrete understanding of the different thickness levels that paperboard can present and how these levels correspond to its usage in other industries.

Paperboards are available in many thicknesses, generally ranging from 0.010 inches to 0.030 inches. The thickness, denoted by its caliper, directly affects its strength and rigidity.

● 0.010 - 0.014 inches: Suitable for lightweight products such as business cards and brochure covers.
● 0.015 - 0.020 inches: Commonly used for medium-weight packaging solutions, including cereal and shoe boxes.
● 0.021 - 0.024 inches: Employed for more substantial products needing a blend of rigidity and cushioning, such as electronics packaging.
● 0.025 - 0.030 inches: Used for the heaviest products, offering substantial rigidity and support, such as packaging for furniture and large appliances.

Having a chart to refer to facilitates selecting the correct paperboard thickness, depending on the specific demands of a project.

Commonly Used For

As we approach the concluding section of this discourse, it is time to address the diverse applications of paperboard, which are a testament to its versatility and utility in the manufacturing and packaging industry.


Paperboard stands as a linchpin in the packaging industry. Be it the intricately designed cosmetic boxes or the sturdy cereal boxes, paperboard caters to a multitude of packaging needs owing to its blend of lightness and strength.

Graphic Printing

Owing to its smooth surface, paperboard offers an excellent canvas for graphic printing, serving as a primary material for business cards, postcards, and other printed materials.

Container boards

In collaboration with corrugated fiber boards, paperboard functions as a liner and medium in container boards, and it is significantly employed in the shipping and packaging industry for its durability and strength.


In furniture manufacturing, paperboard is a material for ready-to-assemble furniture and other lightweight, economical furniture solutions, showcasing its potential beyond packaging and printing.


As we draw to a close, it is evident that paperboard stands tall as a versatile, adaptable, and economical material, deeply entrenched in various industries, from packaging to furniture manufacturing. Its diversity in types and thickness offers a rich palette for sectors to choose from, catering to a spectrum of needs and requirements.

Understanding paperboard in-depth, from its genesis to its applications, not only equips one with the knowledge to make informed choices but also provides a window into the fascinating world of material science that supports our daily lives.

The journey through the intricacies of paperboard has equipped you with a richer understanding and deeper appreciation for this remarkable material, encouraging a perspective that sees beyond the surface to the foundational elements that bring products and packages to life.

What kinds of product packaging are made from paperboard?

Paperboard is commonly utilized for packaging various products, with the grade of paperboard chosen based on the product's specific requirements.

Who is using solid bleached sulfate:

● Medical packaging

● Paper cups

● Gable top cartons

● Aseptic drink boxes

● Cosmetic and perfume packaging

● Frozen food packaging

● Candy boxes

● Stand up displays

Who is using coated, unbleached Kraft paperboard:

● Frozen food packaging

● Pharmaceutical packaging

● Beverage carrying containers

Who is using uncoated recycled paperboard:

● Shoeboxes

● Composite cans and fiber drums

Who is using coated recycled paperboard:

● Soap and laundry detergent packaging

● Cookie and cracker packaging

● Paper goods packaging (facial tissue and napkins)

● Cake mix packaging

● Cereal boxes

● Other dry food packaging