Jorge Zhang

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Translating Printing Terms: A Guide to Tabletop Game Printing

Hey everyone! I’m by no means an expert in the arena of manufacturing tabletop board games, but after struggling a bit to find this information online I thought I would write a short guide. Please let me know if any of this information is incorrect or inaccurate. Anyway, here are some of the things you might see:

Thickness and Colors

GSM, or “grams per square meter”

GSM means grams per square meter, and can be very useful to compare the weights of two different types of paper. Usually, a higher GSM means thicker and higher quality paper. This number is used for everything from the cards in the game to the rulebook paper. Because each game is different, these numbers aren’t “rules” but generalizations. For example, in some games, you’ll use the cardboard chips a lot and may want a thicker material. Or maybe the cards in the game don’t need to be shuffled that much, and you may be able to get away with thinner cards. Finding the appropriate thickness for all the components can save a lot of money especially if you are printing a lot of copies (paper is actually not that cheap).

Newspapers50 GSM
Printer Paper90 GSM
Rulebook115 GSM
Posters130 GSM
Magic the Gathering Cards300 GSM
(Paper) Player Mats~400 GSM (.6mm)
Buisiness Cards400 GSM
Box Inserts~500 GSM
Board Game Box~1150 GSM (this would be 1.8mm)
Cardboard Chips/
Thicker Game Board
~1300 GSM (This would be 2mm)

Thickness of various papers
Thickness of GSM in mm
Board Game paper/cardboard thickness standards (James Mathe’s blog)

CCNB (Clay Coated News Back)

This is CCNB

CCNB is just a kind of paper. It is usually grey on one side and white/glossy on the other. The advantages are that this kind of paper is pretty cheap, and it can be easily used for printing/gluing onto other stuff.

Grey Board


Grey board is a kind of cardboard that is made out of recycled paper. It’s main feature is that it is pretty cheap, so it is commonly used for the insides of the box or a thick board. Then, more expensive paper (that is printed on and coated) is wrapped around the grey board.

0c, 1c, 4c (0 colors, 1 color, 4 colors)

These cryptic codes are really just shorthand for “no-color,” “single-color,” and “full color.” Single color is usually just greyscale, while no-color would be no printing involved at all. 4 colors refers to CMYK, in which the printer mixes different inks to get a wide variety of colors. That is why 4 colors means full color. 2 (and other number) printings exist, but aren’t very standard. Anyway, in terms of tabletop games, the manufacturer will usually write something like 4c+4c (which means full color front and back), 4c + 0c (full color front, none on back), etc. Higher color printing will be more expensive (regardless of how much ink is actually used, I think), so often times it is good to aim for lower colors if possible.


C2S (coated on 2 sides)

C2S simply means coated on two sides. Similarly, C1S would mean coated on one side. This does not indicate what kind of coating is used, it just tells you how many sides are coated.

Matte VS Glossy Varnish


This just refers to the different kinds of coatings typically applied to things like the cards in a board game. “Matte” is usually the cheaper and default option.

Do you have any experience with printing board games? Let me know what I missed in the comments below. Thank you for reading, and hopefully this guide helped you (or was just kind of interesting)!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang