Paperboard Revealed: Everything You Need to Know

Paperboard, a versatile material often found in everyday life, serves a multitude of purposes across various industries. From packaging to crafting, this lightweight yet sturdy material offers a sustainable alternative to traditional packaging solutions.

Understanding what paperboard is, its composition and its wide-ranging applications can provide valuable insights into its significance in modern society.

In this exploration, we delve into the fundamentals of paperboard, its manufacturing process, diverse uses and its environmental impact, shedding light on its importance in both commercial and consumer realms.

Join us as we unravel the layers of this ubiquitous material and uncover its role in shaping the world around us.

What is Paperboard?

Paperboard, also known as cardboard or boxboard, is a thick and rigid paper-based material made from layers of compressed and glued-together paper sheets. It is commonly used for packaging and construction due to its durability and versatility.

Paperboard can vary in thickness depending on its intended use, with thicker variants being used for heavy-duty applications such as cardboard boxes, while thinner variants are used for food packaging and display materials.

History of paperboard

The history of paperboard dates back to the 19th century, when it was first developed as a cheaper alternative to wooden boards for bookbinding. In 1856, English industrialist Edward G. Curtis patented the first machine for producing paperboard, which revolutionized its production process and availability.

In the early 20th century, advancements in papermaking technology led to the creation of different types of paperboard, including solid bleached sulfate (SBS), coated unbleached kraft (CUK) and folding boxboard (FBB).

These innovations paved the way for paperboard to become a widely used material in various industries.

Composition of paperboard

The composition of paperboard varies depending on its intended use and manufacturing process.

However, the main components include:

  1. Cellulose Fibers: Cellulose fibers are the primary component of paperboard, derived from wood pulp or recycled paper. These fibers provide the structure and strength of the material. Wood pulp is the most common source, obtained from softwood or hardwood trees through mechanical or chemical pulping processes.
  2. Fillers: Fillers are added to the pulp mixture to improve the paperboard’s properties, such as smoothness, brightness and stiffness. Common fillers include calcium carbonate (ground limestone), clay, talc and titanium dioxide. These fillers enhance the opacity and printing quality of the paperboard.
  3. Binding Agents: Binding agents are used to hold the cellulose fibers and fillers together. The most commonly used binder is starch, which is derived from corn, wheat or potatoes.
  4. Additives: Additives may be added to the paperboard mixture for specific purposes such as water resistance, moisture control and color enhancement. These additives include wax, resins, pigments and dyes.
  5. Chemical Additives: Chemical additives, such as wet-strength resins and sizing agents, are added to improve the paperboard’s strength and resistance to water and other liquids.
  6. Coatings: Coatings are often applied to the surface of paperboard to improve its appearance, performance and functionality. These coatings can be made from various materials such as clay, latex or wax.

Manufacturing Process Of Paperboard

The manufacturing process of paperboard involves several steps, including:

  1. Raw Material Preparation: The primary raw material for paperboard is wood pulp. The pulp can be obtained from wood chips, recycled paper or a combination of both. If wood chips are used, they undergo a chemical pulping process to break down the fibers. Recycled paper undergoes a de-inking process to remove ink and other contaminants before being mixed with fresh pulp.
  2. Pulping: Wood chips or recycled paper are mixed with water and chemicals in a large tank called a digester. This process breaks down the fibers and separates them from other components such as lignin, resins and other impurities.
  3. Blending and Refining: Once the pulp is formed, it is blended with fillers, binding agents and additives to create a uniform mixture. The pulp mixture is then refined to improve its quality and strength.
  4. Forming: The refined pulp mixture is then formed into sheets using a machine called a Fourdrinier machine. These sheets are then pressed and dried to remove excess water.
  5. Pressing: The wet paperboard sheet passes through a series of rollers or presses to remove excess water and further consolidate the fibers. This step helps to increase the density and strength of the paperboard.
  6. Drying: The pressed paperboard is then passed through heated rollers or a drying section to remove remaining moisture and ensure uniform drying throughout the sheet.
  7. Coating: After drying, the paperboard sheets are coated with various layers of coatings to improve their appearance and functionality.
  8. Cutting and Finishing: The final step is cutting the paperboard into desired sizes and shapes, followed by finishing processes such as embossing, laminating or printing.

Different types of paperboard

There are several types of paperboard available in the market, each with its unique characteristics and uses. Some of the common types include:

  1. Solid Bleached Sulphate (SBS) Paperboard: This type of paperboard is made from virgin wood pulp and has a smooth, white surface on both sides. It is commonly used for high-end packaging and display materials due to its excellent printability and strength.
  2. Coated Recycled Board (CRB): CRB is made from a combination of recycled paper and fillers, with a glossy or matte-coated surface. It is commonly used for food packaging such as cereal boxes and frozen food containers.
  3. Folding Boxboard (FBB): FBB is made from multiple layers of bleached chemical pulp and has a smooth, stiff surface. It is commonly used for packaging consumer goods such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or cigarettes.
  4. Uncoated Recycled Board (URB): This type of paperboard is made from 100% recycled paper fibers and does not have any additional coatings. It is commonly used for packaging non-food items such as electronics or household products.
  5. Polyethylene Coated Board (PE): The PE-coated board has a layer of polyethylene plastic on one side, making it resistant to moisture and grease. It is commonly used for the packaging of frozen foods, take-out containers and other food service applications.
  6. White Lined Chipboard (WLC): WLC board is made from recycled fibers and is commonly used in applications where a lower-grade board is acceptable, such as cereal boxes, shoe boxes and other consumer goods packaging.

Applications of paperboard

Paperboard has a wide range of applications, some of which include:

  1. Packaging: One of the most common uses of paperboard is for packaging materials such as boxes, cartons and containers. Its strength, printability and versatility make it ideal for protecting and showcasing various products.
  2. Printing Materials: Paperboard is used for printing materials such as book covers, posters and other promotional materials. Its smooth surface and ability to hold ink make it a popular choice for printing.
  3. Construction Materials: Paperboard can be used as an alternative to wood in construction materials such as drywall or insulation. It is lightweight, cost-effective and has good insulating properties.
  4. Consumer Goods: Consumer goods such as paper plates, cups and egg cartons are commonly made from paperboard. Its ability to be easily molded and shaped makes it a suitable material for these products.
  5. Stationery: Paperboard is used to make various stationery items such as notebooks, folders and file covers. Its sturdiness and smooth surface make it an ideal material to write on.
  6. Craft Projects: Paperboard can be used for various craft projects such as scrapbooking, card making and DIY home decor. Its versatility and ability to hold different types of adhesive make it a popular choice for crafts.

Advantages of paperboard

There are several advantages to using paperboard over other packaging materials, including:

  1. Eco-Friendly: Paperboard is made from sustainable and renewable resources, making it an eco-friendly choice compared to other packaging materials that use non-renewable resources.
  2. Recyclable: Paperboard can be easily recycled and used to make new paper products, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.
  3. Cost-Effective: Paperboard is a cost-effective material, making it a popular choice for packaging and other applications.
  4. Versatile: Paperboard can be easily molded and shaped into various forms, making it suitable for different applications such as packaging, construction materials and crafts.
  5. Lightweight: Paperboard is lighter than many other packaging materials, reducing the weight and cost of shipping and handling.
  6. Strong and Durable: Despite its lightweight nature, paperboard is strong and durable, able to protect products during transportation and storage.
  7. Customizable: Paperboard can be printed on or coated with different materials, allowing for customization and branding opportunities for businesses.

Challenges and limitations of paperboard

While paperboard has many advantages, it also has some limitations and challenges that should be considered, including:

  1. Moisture Sensitivity: Paperboard can absorb moisture, making it unsuitable for use in high-humidity or wet environments.
  2. Limited Strength: While paperboard is strong and durable, it may not be as sturdy as other packaging materials, such as plastic or metal.
  3. Limited Heat Resistance: Paperboard has limited heat resistance and can deform or even catch fire at high temperatures, making it unsuitable for certain applications.
  4. Not Suitable for Heavy Items: Due to its lightweight nature, paperboard may not be suitable for packaging heavy or bulky items that require more support and protection.
  5. Limited Shelf Life: Paperboard has a limited shelf life and may not be suitable for long-term storage of certain products that require more protection and stability.

Despite these challenges, paperboard remains a popular material for packaging and other applications due to its numerous advantages and versatility.

With the growing concern for sustainability, paperboard is also becoming an increasingly attractive option for businesses and consumers alike.

Comparisons of paperboard with different materials

Here’s a comparison table of paperboard with different materials:

RecyclabilityYesYesYesYes (with treatment)
Appearance Matte surfaceVariable Variable     Natural grain
Production Renewable resourceSynthetic  Non-renewableRenewable
UsagePackaging, DisplaysPackaging, ContainersContainersConstruction, Furniture

This table provides a comparison of various properties of paperboard with plastic, metal and wood. Keep in mind that these properties can vary based on specific types and grades within each material category.

Where to buy paperboard?

Paperboard can be purchased from various sources, including:

  1. Manufacturers: Paperboard manufacturers such as WestRock, International Paper and Graphic Packaging produce high-quality paperboard for various applications.
  2. Wholesalers/Distributors: Companies like Uline and The Boxery offer a wide range of paperboard products in bulk quantities at wholesale prices.
  3. Retailers: Office supply stores like Staples and online retailers like Amazon also sell paperboard products such as file folders and notebooks.
  4. Specialty Suppliers: Some companies specialize in offering unique and custom paperboard solutions, which offers customizable packaging solutions for businesses.

It is important to do research and compare prices and quality when purchasing paperboard from any source.

Choosing a reputable company like Houston Packaging Solution can ensure high-quality and customized paperboard products for your needs. So, it is always a good idea to check out their product range before making a purchase decision.

FAQs – Paperboard

Is paperboard recyclable?

Yes, paperboard is recyclable and is often recycled to produce new paper products. Recycling paperboard helps reduce waste and conserves resources, making it an environmentally friendly choice for packaging and other applications.

Can paperboard be used for food packaging?

Yes, many types of food-grade paperboard are specifically designed for use in food packaging. It is important to make sure the type of paperboard you are using is suitable for your specific application.  

That’s why it is best to consult with a reputable supplier like Houston Packaging Solution for food packaging solutions.

Can paperboard be customized for specific needs?

Yes, paperboard can be customized in terms of thickness, coating, printing and structural design to meet specific packaging or printing requirements.

Customization options allow for branding, product differentiation and enhanced visual appeal.

Are there any alternatives to paperboard for packaging purposes?

Yes, some alternatives to paperboard include corrugated cardboard, bioplastics and molded pulp. Each of these materials has its unique properties and advantages for packaging applications.

It is important to consider the specific needs of your products when choosing a suitable packaging material.


In conclusion, paperboard is a versatile and sustainable material that finds widespread use in various industries. Its composition, thickness and characteristics can be tailored to suit specific applications, ranging from packaging to construction and beyond.

With its eco-friendly nature and ability to be recycled, paperboard continues to play a vital role in meeting the demands of modern society while minimizing environmental impact.

As technology and innovation continue to advance, we can expect to see even more diverse uses for paperboard in the future. 

We hope this guide has been helpful and has provided you with detailed knowledge about paperboard, enhancing your understanding and assisting in your decision-making process for its application in your projects or products.