Fiber Materials

4 Types of Paperboard

Our industry lives and breathes paperboard. The thick paper substrate can be transformed into any number of designs, from simple tuck cartons to intricate, sculpted packages that impart a sense of luxury and wonder. With all that versatility, it’s not surprising that there are many types—or grades—of paperboard to choose from, each with different prosperities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Here are just four grades and the products or end-use categories that most frequently use them.


A premium grade, brilliant white SBS has a clay-coated surface for high-quality printing and a top ply of bleached virgin hardwood fibers for smoothness. The other plies are made of bleached virgin softwood or a blend of softwood and hardwood fiber. Because it is a solid white sheet, SBS is the preferred choice for food packaging and many high-end retail products. Sectors that regularly use SBS include:

  • Cosmetics
  • Wet foods
  • Frozen foods
  • Tobacco
  • Dairy products (butter, ice cream, milk)
  • Meats
  • Perishable bakery products
  • Medical products


Whereas SBS is white throughout, CUK is made from unbleached virgin kraft fiber, which imparts a natural brown color. This board grade is comprised primarily of various southern pine species (softwoods) with some hardwood fiber, particularly in the top ply which is clay-coated to create a smooth, white printing surface. The long, large pine fibers impart excellent strength and tear resistance qualities to the finished sheet. This strength characterizes the CUK grade. It’s commonly used for beer and soft drink beverage containers as well as heavy-duty retail packaging such as hardware and concentrated laundry detergents.


This paperboard grade is made of recycled fibers—those recovered from paper manufacturing and converting facilities as well as post-consumer sources. It generally contains a top ply of white fibers and is finished with a clay coating to improve print performance. Use this recycled board if you’re designing for the following products:

  • Laundry soaps and detergents
  • Dry bakery products (crackers, cookies)
  • Paper products (facial tissues, napkins)
  • Dry foods (pasta)
  • Hardware
  • Cake mixes
  • Cereal


Manufactured from recycled newsprint and old corrugated, this thick paperboard grade is often used as the “body stock” for rigid or setup boxes. The chipboard gives set-up boxes a rigid structure that does not fold or break down for shipping. Once the chipboard is cut and assembled into the desired shape, it is overlaid with a paper wrap that can be printed, foil-stamped, and finished in a variety of ways. With their strength and beautiful wraps, rigid boxes are a mainstay for small luxury goods in the cosmetics, confections, electronics, and jewelry markets.

These four grades represent only a small portion of the options available to today’s paperboard packaging manufacturer, and we encourage you to explore further.

Content courtesy of Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC)