Chartella papyracea occurs throughout the British Isles. The species is apparently restricted to the temperate east Atlantic, ranging from the southern North Sea through the English channel, the south and west coasts of the UK, the Irish Sea to the northern coast of Spain
Colonies are predominantly found in the shallow subtidal on hard substrates, but they may also colonise overhangs on rocky shores, near the low water mark. Chartella papyracea forms delicate tuft-like colonies with flattened branching fronds. Fresh colonies are brown or light grey and grow to up to 10 cm in height.