What are the Different Uses of Bristol Board?

M.C. Huguelet

Bristol board is a type of paperboard which is heavier and more durable than normal paper, but thinner than cardboard. It is usually made by pressing two or more layers of paper together, and is available in different finishes. There are many possible uses for bristol board. It can be used to make items such as invitations, tickets, and book covers. Many artists use it for drawing and sketching, and it can also be incorporated into a number of children’s crafts.

Bristol board can be used to create embellishments for scrapbook pages.
Bristol board can be used to create embellishments for scrapbook pages.

It is believed that bristol board takes its name from the British city of Bristol, which may have been the original site of its commercial production. Generally, bristol board is made from two or more layers of paper which have been pressed together, thus creating a material which is sturdier than normal paper. It is normally available in both a smooth finish and a slightly more textured finish known as vellum. While it is traditionally white, some manufacturers produce the board in a range of different colors.

Bristol board was originally produced in Bristol, in southwestern England.
Bristol board was originally produced in Bristol, in southwestern England.

There are a large number of possible uses for bristol board. Due primarily to its durability as compared to normal paper, it has many commercial applications. For instance, it is frequently used to make invitations and other types of stationery. It is also commonly used to make tickets for concerts, sporting events, and so forth. Furthermore, publishers sometimes use it to make covers for paperbacks and pamphlets.

Additionally, bristol board is a favorite material of many visual artists. The smooth version of the board is often used for drawing and sketching with markers, pens, and ink. With its more textured finish, vellum board is generally more suited to media which need something to “grab on to.” Examples of this type of media include chalk, charcoal, crayons, and pencils.

Finally, bristol board can be incorporated into a number of children’s craft projects. Many children’s art teachers find that the board is useful for making reusable tracing patterns, as it is less susceptible to wear and tear than thinner materials. It can also be cut into strips and used to make a wide array of woven crafts, such as baskets and wreaths. Creative kids and adults may think of a vast number of additional crafts which can be made with the board, such as party hats, finger puppets, holiday ornaments, scrapbook embellishments, and programs for events such as school plays and graduation ceremonies.

A gridded cutting mat makes it easy to cut uniform strips of bristol board for paper weaving.
A gridded cutting mat makes it easy to cut uniform strips of bristol board for paper weaving.

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Discussion Comments


Once a week I meet with some inner city junior high girls and we spend a lot of time working together on crafts.

I am always looking for some new art projects for them to work on, and felt like I hit the jackpot when I went to a garage sale and found a whole stack of bristol board for sale.

I was able to purchase this at a fraction of the cost I would at any kind of art supply store. The bright colors and smooth finish gives you so many art and craft possibilities.

Many of the girls are very creative and artistic and like to make their own personalized greeting cards with bristol board. Once they make these cards, they can sell them at a store at the center where we meet.

They were so excited when they saw me show up with this brightly colored stack of bristol board. I enjoy working with them and seeing them be able to use their artistic talent in such positive ways.


@strawCake - I used bristol board in studio art classes when I was in college too. I remember using it a lot in my design I class.

We did a lot of pen and ink drawings, and bristol board works really well for that. It's sturdy and thick, so the ink doesn't soak through the paper. And since bristol board works well with a variety of different mediums, you can make artwork using pen and ink and paint and pencil if you want.

In fact, I still have a lot of my bristol board projects I made in that class!


I was an art major in college, and a bristol board pad was a required purchase for many of my classes. You can use bristol board for so many different things-it's very versatile.

When I took drawing class, we would use bristol board to make drawings that we were going to turn in. Since bristol board is heavier than sketch book paper, it made more sense to do an actual project on bristol board rather than flimsy paper.

I also used bristol board when I took screen printing. Bristol board isn't the best medium for screen-printing, but we were allowed to use it to practice in the beginning. Nice screen-printing paper is expensive, but bristol board isn't!


@Sara007 - There are tons oh things you can do with bristol board you have. It can be used as a painting canvas, or you can cut it out into numerous shapes and decorate your kid's room with that.

My daughter got an art set last year and it included a Strathmore bristol board pad, which is some really high quality stuff. We ended up tearing out some of the pages and cutting out various shapes that we then painted. We created an entire jungle scene on the one wall of her room, and if I do say so myself, it looked pretty impressive when we were finished. If you're working with your kids just ask them what they like. You can do any sort of theme imaginable.


I am a huge fan of doing arts and crafts projects with my kids and I recently got a whole stack of bristol boards on sale at a stationary store. I am thinking about working on decorating the kid's room with their help and was wondering if there were any good ideas for what I could use the bristol board for?

The bristol paper I have came in numerous colors, some even fluorescent. What I like about the paper most is that it is heavy enough to feel like it is a really quality material. The silky smooth finish of the paper makes me think it would be great to use on the walls of my kid's room.

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