Your Short Guide to Paper Selection


Ever walk into an art store for some paper and get completely floored by the seemingly infinite number of options and indecipherable codes? Don’t worry, you are not alone! Below I will map the basics to help you decipher some of the foreign hieroglyphics of paper codes and thus make your paper selection more pleasant and successful in future encounters to come…

HP (hot press): A paper surface that is produced by pressing a finished sheet through hot cylinders resulting in a smooth finish.

CP (cold press): A paper surface that is produced by pressing a finished sheet through cold cylinders, the resulting finish is slightly textured.

R (rough): Produced by placing wet sheets of paper against textured blankers, or air drying, or both. The resulting surface is heavily textured, or rough.

GSM: (metric measurement) grams per square meter. The gram weight of a hypothetical square meter of a particular type of paper, a good comparative measure because it does not vary with sheet size.

LB: (imperial measurement) Paper weights are measured depending on the most popular end use of a particular grade (examples: “text paper”, “cover paper”, “bond paper”, or “writing paper”). Each of these paper weight categories has its own “basis size” from which to calculate its weight. This weight is determined by weighing 500 sheets of each basis size. For example, the basis size of “text paper” is 25″x38″ and “cover paper” has a basis size of 20″x26″. Confusing, eh? Basically, when referring to the weight of an imperial measured paper be certain to reference the particular identity of the paper, because as we have learned 80lb text & 80lb cover have very different thicknesses. But, as a general rule of thumb the higher the paper weight, the thicker the sheet of paper.

MOULDEMADE: Paper made by slowly rotating machine called a cylinder-mould that simulated the hand papermaking process resulting in more randomly intertwined fibers than machinemade papers. These fibers make the paper stronger and more flexible.

MACHINEMADE: Paper made on a very rapid running machine called a “fourdrinier”. This means of production creates an extremely consistent product.

HANDMADE: Made by hand using a mold which is a frame covered with a flat rigid screen in the Western tradition, or flexible screen in the Eastern tradition. In both cases the mold is covered by a flat frame called a deckle to contain the run-off of west pulp. Frames are dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shook to distribute the fibers evenly and drained of its excess water. The wet mat of fibers remaining is the newly formed sheet, which is then dried against blankets and may be hot pressed, cold pressed, or air dried (rough).

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