Common materials for column forms include plywood, paperboard, plastic, and steel. Most systems produce simple round or rectangular columns. However, almost any column design is possible by building custom wood forms, modifying existing forms, or using precision-cut polystyrene forms or form inserts. If architectural specifications require smooth, unlined column surfaces, forms are available with smooth inner surfaces or seamless liners.

Other factors to consider when choosing column forms include versatility and ease of form assembly and stripping. To simplify form set-up, many prefabricated systems have built-in bracing and include all necessary bolting hardware. Some of these systems also can be adjusted to form different column diameters, or stacked to achieve different column heights.

Some columns forms, such as those made of plastic and steel, provide many reuses. Fiber forms, on the other hand, can be used only once. Though reusable forms may cost more initially than single-use fiber forms, they may be more economical for large jobs involving multiple columns.