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True paper has a long and rich history. It begins with Ts'ai Lun, who, in A.O. 105, requested the first  patents for making paper. The actual inventor of paper is not known. Some of the earliest forms of paper were com­ posed of tangled silk that had been collected as a byproduct of the processing of silk cocoons for silk threads. Ts'ai Lun's paper was said to be made from old rags, hemp, fish nets, and tree bark. The recipe  for making paper was a highly guarded secret within the Orient until  A.DO. 751, when an Arab  conquest resulted in  the capture  of  some papermakers,  who divulged  their secrets.  The  Arabs,  in Spain  since  A.D.  711,  took  the  art  there,  and the first  European  paper  mills were established around 1100.


By this time the process of papermaking was no longer very secret and had begun to spread rapidly through Europe. From Spain, its production moved  to Italy. Fabriano established the first Italian paper mills in 1276, and  is still  mak­ing some of the world's finest papers. It was not until the nineteenth century, however, when papermaking machinery as well as a method for processing wood into wood pulp were invented, that paper became a common and inexpensive material. Prior to this time, papers  were made  primarily  from  rags and  cotton, had great strength, and were relatively permanent. The  conversion  to  ground wood as a raw material resulted in weaker papers that  were impermanent.  Much  of the paper artwork, books, and numerous documents produced during the nine­teenth century and the early part of  the twentieth  century  are decaying  rapidly and require conservation to preserve them. As the understanding of the causative agents for the breakdown of wood-pulp papers evolved, various paper refining techniques were developed and are continually being modified today.

The artists' paper that we know today started as a byproduct of the wallpaper industry. The first machine for making paper, invented around 1798 by Nicholas Louis Robert at the  Essonne  paper mills in France, enabled  paper  to be made in a continuous roll. Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier brought the invention to England and in 1807 developed it for commercial use in making wallpaper. Most artists' materials are derived from industrial  products.  It has only been since the middle  of the twentieth century that significant research and development  has been done on materials specifically for the artists' market.


PAPER is composed of cellulose fibers. Cellulose is a polymer of the sugar glucose and is used by plants to produce cell walls. Plant matter that has been processed to create a solution consisting of cellulose filaments  suspended in water can be made into paper.  A screen is passed through through the solution so that the filaments can collect on it and thus form a layer. This layer of cellulose fibers is then pressed and dried to produce a usable sheet of paper. The source of the cellulose fibers, and the degree to which that source is refined, determine the nature and quality of the paper produced. The two most important factors  that affect the quality of paper are the presence of impurities and an acidic  pH. Finished papers may contain natural impurities, such  as  lignins  that  have  not been removed during processing, unnatural impurities, such as residual  chem­icals, like sulfites, not washed out during final processing, or such chemicals as alum that have been added during final processing.

Lignins, which are the combined glues that hold plant cells together, are undesirable in a finished paper product. They age poorly, tum brown, become acidic over time, are waterproof, and resist the  natural  bonding  of  cellulose fibers to each other. If lignins are not removed and are left in contact with the surrounding cellulose fibers in paper, their acidity  will break down the cellulose and the paper will become brittle.

Lignins comprise 20 to 30 percent of wood, but only 1 percent of cotton fibers. Because of the high concentration of lignins in wood, papers made from wood pulp discolor and eventually self-destruct. Although there are methods  for the removal of most or all of the lignins, unless the residual chemicals  used  in these processes are also dealt with, embrittlement and acidification will only be postponed. For this reason, wood-pulp papers are generally avoided  for perma­nent artwork. Because it is nearly lignin-free, paper made from 100 percent cot­  ton is most desirable. The recently developed process for the removal  of  all  lignins is being used at this time primarily to manufacture boards and storage containers used in archives, in conservation, and in museum-style framing.

Another major consideration in paper is its pH. The scientific symbol indicat­ing the concentration of hydrogen ions in a liter of solution, pH describes the acidity, alkalinity, or neutrality of something. Water, which is composed of two atoms of hydrogen that are attached  to one  atom of  oxygen,  is designated  with the symbols H2O or HOH. A very small number of water molecules, HOH, occasionally break up and reform. During  the  breakup,  a positively  charged  H ion and a negatively charged OH ion are formed. The Hs are acidic and the OHs  are alkaline. Since they are in equal amounts in water, water is said to be neu­tral-neither acidic nor alkaline. Water  has  been  assigned  a  pH  value  of  7, which represents equal concentrations of  acid  and  alkali. If  the concentration  of H ions becomes greater than the number of OH ions, then the result is said to be acidic, and a lower number is assigned. Each  number  represents  a factor of  IO­ ten times more or less acidic than the number above or below it. A pH of 6, for example, is ten times more acidic than water, and a pH of 5 is ten  times more acidic than 6, or one hundred times more  acidic  than water. If  the concentration  of H ions becomes less than the concentration OH ions, the result is said to be alkaline and is assigned a higher number, such as 8,  which  is  ten  times  less acidic than  water (or ten  times  more alkaline  than water).  The scale ranges from 1 to 14.

      pH SCALE

             pH 1-2-3 5-6 - 7 - 8-9-10-11-12-14
          <<acidic<< I >>alkaline>>

The more acidic a paper, the faster the cellulose will break down, resulting in a shorter lifespan. A number of factors can influence the pH of a paper. Residual acids from processing, rosin or alum sizing, fillers used to create bulk, oils used to make paper transparent, optical brighteners, atmospheric sulfur dioxide, and the presence of lignins can all result in a pH of 4.5 or lower. Recent study has shown that even the purest cotton papers will become slightly acidic, even though they left the mill at pH ranging between 6.5 and 7. This may be due to the nature of the paper itself, or because of exposure to air polluted with sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen-common pollutants caused by the burning of fossil fuel-which turn water molecules into sulfuric acid and nitric acid.

To cope with the natural and unnatural acidification  of  paper,  many  manufac­turers are resorting to buffering. Buffers are such chemicals as  calcium  or  mag­nesium  carbonate, which can absorb  a  significant  amount of acid.  Buffered papers are often slightly alkaline with a pH  around 8.5. A pH  moderately  higher than 7 is not considered harmful in paper.

The two situations where pH information is vital is  in  the  case  of  paper  and boards used for archival storage and framing, and  in  watercolor  papers.  Materials used  to  help  preserve  artwork  should  have  the  highest  standards.  Although  there is little reason for  watercolor  paper  to  meet  all  standards  for  archival  use,  it  should be close to a neutral  pH  (neither  acidic  or  alkaline)  because  many  pig­ments used in  watercolor are sensitive to significant change in pH. The  white­ ness of watercolor paper is another important factor because as paper  acidifies  it usually yellows.

Although virtually all paper products used for archival storage and framing are buffered to maintain a nonacidic pH, only a few artists' papers are buffered.

With the exception of  watercolor  papers,  it is generally considered unnecessary in papers made with 100 percent cotton because most 100 percent cotton  papers will acidify only slightly and stop. It is becoming more commonplace to buffer wood-pulp art papers and boards to slow down, not stop, the discoloration and embrittlement process. The problem of maintaining a nonacidic pH with even 100 percent cotton watercolor papers is the need to add a size to reduce absor­bency. Although Aquapel is a neutral size, it has not yet replaced the traditional alum/gelatin size.  Alum is a combination of sulfates, which tend to acidify the  paper,  leaving  it  sometimes with a pH as low as 4.5. Exactly how much damage to a paper will be caused by a specific amount of acidity is debatable. It is clear that wood-pulp  papers are more sensitive  than  rag or cotton papers because pulp fibers are shorter and are weakened during refine­ ment. Yet, recently, documents produced during the Salem witch trials on paper made from linen and rags were found in the basement of an old building. They were found to have a pH near I from centuries of rat urine, yet they were still flexible and readable despite considerable yellowing. The lesson here is that  pH can affect permanency and quality but is not necessarily an indication of either.

Top Paper
Making Paper


PAPERMAKING begins with the process of breaking down plant materials until individual cellulose fibers are obtained and are then suspended in water.  A sheet of paper is formed by passing a screen through the suspension so that the indi­vidual fibers collect  on  the  screen.  The sheet of paper is then transferred to a mat where it is allowed to drain and dry. Pressure is often used to speed the process or to impart a particular finish.

The type of paper obtained can be influenced dramatically by such factors as the variety of plant material used, how the plant materials are broken down into fibers, how small the cellulose fibers are, the kind  of  screen  used,  how the  screen is passed through the suspension, the kind of mat on which the sheet is placed, and whether the sheet is pressed. Other  factors that influence  paper vari­ety are the use of chemicals, the addition of fillers or brighteners,  the  way  in which the sheet is dried, and the polishing of the sheet's surface.  All  these variables make it possible to produce almost unlimited styles of paper. In the Orient, one can find more than a hundred varieties of paper made with the same plant material where the only differences in its manufacture are  the  way  the  screen is passed through the suspension and the average length of the fibers.

Handmade paper is often the least complicated method of papermaking. This method is so labor-intensive, however, that the cost of using  the  best  plant sources often pales by comparison. Therefore cotton  and  rag  fibers,  which require little  or  no  special  treatment-chemical  or  mechanical-to   reduce  them to workable fibers, are commonly used. Today, sheets of  cotton linters, made from the leftover short fibers collected from  the cotton gin,  are added  to water  and beaten in a machine similar to a blender. The level of concentration of fibers helps to determine the thickness of the paper. The suspension  is transferred  to a vat through which a flat, rectangular wire or bamboo  screen  can  be passed  to form the sheet. The fiber-laden screen is drained and the wet paper  is  often  pressed before it is allowed to dry.

In mouldmade paper, the person holding the screen is replaced by a rotating screen cylinder, which forms a continuous sheet of paper. The individual  sheets are produced by passing a stream of air or water through the wet sheet. Mouldmade paper is considered half handmade and half machine-made because people are still used to create the suspension of fibers as well as in the pressing and drying of the individual sheets. The cost of materials becomes more signifi­cant and occasionally results in the use of cheaper raw materials. Such materials require refining before use, as well as chemical additives to improve their appearance, all of which complicates the papermaking process.

The production of machine-made paper involves little human contact until the paper is purchased. The materials  are  the most significant cost factor in this type  of paper production. Elaborate chemical and mechanical  processes are often used to change poor-quality raw materials into a  useful  piece  of  paper.  First, impurities are removed; then the chemicals used to purify the raw materials must  be removed or neutralized. Often such additives as sizing and optical brighteners are required. Then a rotating cylindrical screen pulls the fibers from the suspen­sion to form a continuous sheet of paper. Finally,  this sheet is  pressed  and dried by other steel rollers. For some types of paper like bristol, additional sizing  is added before drying and the surface of the paper is polished after drying. The primary disadvantage of machine-made paper is that most varieties are of low quality. The advantages of machine-made paper include price, the availability of some varieties, such as hard-surfaced bristol and paper boards, which could not possibly be made by hand, as well as the ability to produce large quantities

Sizing is the use of a glutinous material to fill up the pores in a paper's surface. Paper is composed primarily of cellulose. Cellulose possesses a great many "free radicals," a chemical term for atoms containing unpaired electrons. Free radicals love to attach themselves to water molecules. Therefore, when the cellulose of paper comes into contact with water, the water forms a temporary chemical bond causing the paper to swell to  accommodate  the increased  volume.  The  purpose of a size is chemically to tie up a certain percentage of these free radicals  and  make them unavailable for water molecules.  The more size, the less absorbent the paper will be, resulting in less buckling of the surface and less bleeding of color.

Animal gelatin or glues were early sizing agents. In the mid-seventeenth cen­tury, alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) was introduced to harden the gelatin sizing. Hardening the soft gelatin increases the surface tension and results in the color staying more on, and spreading less over, the surface.  This  allows  the painter to work more slowly and achieve greater detail. By the nineteenth  cen­tury it became clear that the animal gelatin aged poorly, and that the alum acidi­ fied the paper. These deleterious effects led to the unpopularity of animal-source sizes. Rosin (a residue collected from the processing of pine trees) was then introduced as a possible substitute, but it proved to be even worse for the lon­gevity of art paper. In the recent past, vegetable gelatins replaced the animal gelatin because of their better aging characteristics. Efforts  to  deal  with the acidic alum-sized papers through the use of buffers proved unsuccessful; alum requires a slightly acidic pH to attach itself to paper.

Today, a synthetic size, Aquapel, manufactured by Hercules, Inc., is replacing the traditional sizing agents because it possesses all the ideal characteristics of a hardening size without the disadvantages. Chemically, Aquapel is an alkene ket­ ene dimer. Dimers are chemicals with two chemically active parts and Aquapel has one area that is attracted to water  and one  that  is attracted  to oil. The  part that is attracted to water attaches to the free radicals of the cellulose in paper and the other part  repels  water.  The most important characteristic of  this size is that  it works without an acidic pH.

Most art papers are sized in one of two ways-tub or surface. Tub sizing is commonly used in handmade and mouldmade papers, where the whole sheet is dipped into a vat containing a size. This results in sizing equal on both sides. Surface sizing is done on machine-made papers, where the size is applied by roller to one side only; only the sized side is meant to be used.

Surface refers to the front and back, or top and bottom, of a piece of  paper.  The top of the sheet of paper is determined  by  the manufacturing. A piece of  artwork is usually done on the top surface, that is, the side in  which  the  most care has been taken, the surface to which the sizing has been applied. Some illustration boards and bristol paper are specially manufactured to have two identical  working surfaces.

Tooth is a term that describes the arrangement of small peaks and valleys that the fibers form on the surface of the paper. The degree of difference between the peaks and valleys determines how the pencil or  pastel  will  be caught and how the graphite or color will settle on the surface.

Weight describes one aspect of a paper's quality.  The "basis weight" of a paper is based on the weight of 480 to 500 sheets (500 sheets  equal one ream)  of  a  paper in its standard size at a temperature of 75°F and a humidity  of 50 percent. For example, 140 lb. watercolor paper-a typical artists' paper-indicates that approximately 500 sheets of this paper in its  standard  size,  22" X30",  would weight 140 pounds. The standard size used for most print paper basis  weight  is  24" x 36". It is particularly difficult to compare weights of art papers to commer­ cial print papers because of the difference in standard sizes.

Characteristics of Paper


THERE ARE SEVERAL TERMS that are often misused in describing paper. Durability, for example, is often confused with  permanence, formation with grain, and finish with surface. Understanding the applicable terms will greatly improve your chances of getting what you want when buying paper.


Acid-free is a term used to indicate that a paper or board, when it leaves the  factory, has a pH of 6.5 or higher, which  indicates  that there is little or no  acid that can accelerate aging or deterioration. However, "acid-free" does not mean that the paper or board is guaranteed  to remain  in this condition or that it is free of any other undesirable chemicals. It also does not mean that  it is safe to use the paper or board for archival storage or framing. "Acid-free" is  a label some­ times used in misleading ways by a few  manufacturers  to  imply  permanency when it does not exist.

Conservation is the repair, restoration, and preservation of documents, objects, and artwork with the intention of preserving them permanently.


Deckle refers to a wooden frame used in the papermaking process and to the irregular edge on the paper produced by the use of that frame. In papermaking, a screen or mould is passed through a suspension  of  pulp to form sheets of  paper.  A deckle is a separate wooden frame fitted over the papermaking mould to pre­ vent excess pulp from spilling over the mould as it is lifted  from  the vat.  A deckle edge is formed when a small amount of pulp seeps under this frame, producing an irregular edge on the paper. This deckle edge is often left un-trim­ med. Handmade papers have four deckle edges because each sheet is made indi­vidually and the water is allowed to drain from the mould in both directions. Mouldmade papers have two deckle edges and two tom edges because one con­tinuous sheet is formed and the water is allowed  to drain in  one direction.  The one long sheet is later tom into smaller sheets, which accounts for the two tom edges.

Durability is the ability of a paper to retain its original qualities under use. Most print papers, for example, do not have a durable surface and will be ruined by erasure, but bristol paper is very durable because it will maintain its surface qualities under repeated erasures. Durability does not necessarily indicate perma­ nency. The American Society for Testing and Materials defines durability in their publication ANSI/ASTM D-3290 as "the ability of a paper to resist the effects of wear and tear in performance situations. For example, paper currency should be made durable, but permanence is not a problem."

Fillers include such materials as kaolin (clay), calcium carbonate, and titanium dioxide, which are used to fill the pores on the surface of papers and boards to make a paper whiter and more opaque, as well as to give  bulk.  The more  filler that is used, the less fiber there will be, and it is the fiber that maintains the  strength of a paper or board. Today, it is becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to load up ground-wood boards with calcium carbonate to buffer them against the significant acidity that develops as the relatively unrefined pulp ages. Too much of this chalk will result in a great sensitivity to changes in humidity, which can cause severe warping. If such a board gets wet, the chalk dissolves and the board can easily fall apart.


Finish is the condition of the surface of a paper. The terms used to describe the finish of drawing papers and illustration boards are similar to those used  to describe watercolor papers and boards, but refer to different finishes.


In the case of drawing papers and illustration boards, the terms "hot press," "plate," or "smooth" refer to a surface that is as slick as glass with virtually no tooth. This type of finish is produced by pressing the paper through hot rollers. The terms "cold press," "kid," "vellum," "regular," and "medium," refer to a surface that ranges from a barely detectable tooth to the feel of a medium-grade sandpaper.  "Rough"  refers  either   to  an  irregular   bumpy   texture   of   the surface, or to a laid surface that is characterized by lines caused by the way the screen was sewn to the mould, like an impression of Venetian blinds.

In  watercolor  papers,  "hot  press" or  "smooth"  refers  to a surface like  that of a "vellum" or "cold press" drawing paper. Hot-press watercolor paper  is  not formed by pressing with hot rollers, but by the using of a fine  wire screen  to collect the fibers. A cold-press watercolor paper is formed  by  pressing  the still wet paper with a textured surface like a felt mat, giving the paper an irregular surface. This watercolor finish would be equivalent to a "rough" finish  in  a drawing paper. "Rough" in  watercolor  paper is an exaggeration  of  "cold  press." A "laid" surface finish is determined by the pressure and the grain of a wire grid against the surface of the paper.

Formation is determined by the manner in which the fibers collect  upon  the screen during manufacture. For example, when "wove" paper is held  up to the light, the formation of the fibers appears uniform. When the same is done to an inexpensive bond paper, the formation will appear mottled.

Grain is evident in machine-made and mouldmade paper.  The  fibers  tend  to  align themselves in the one direction that the wire screen used in the machine process pulls them from the water. This gives the machine-made paper more strength in one direction than another. In handmade paper, the fibers are pulled more slowly and they are lifted up and out, without directional preference. Handmade papers, therefore, have no grain.


GRS/m2 is a unit of  measure for the weight of  paper  in the metric system.  It is  the weight of one square meter expressed in grams. A 140 lb.  22" x 30"  water­color paper is equivalent to 300 GRS/m2.

Handmade Papers are usually made of cotton or Oriental fibers. Strong chem­icals are not used because these fibers do not have to be treated  as wood  does.  The hand process of lifting the fibers from the water allows the fibers  to align in  all directions and interlock among themselves. This gives handmade papers great strength. When this type of paper gets wet, it will expand evenly  in both direc tions with minimal buckling and warping.

Mouldmade Paper is halfway between handmade and  machine-made  paper. When making mouldmade papers, the individual screen  used  in handmade paper to pull the fibers from the water is replaced by a rotating  screen.  It slowly  pulls the fibers from the water in a long continuous sheet.  Individual  sheets are made  by passing a stream of  water or air at intervals  across the continuous  sheet while  it is still wet. This creates a weakness where each sheet can be gently torn  free after drying.

Permanence refers to the length of time materials will maintain their original integrity. Materials that will not  maintain their original  integrity  for a minimum of twenty-five years are not considered permanent. Materials that will maintain themselves for fifty to seventy-five years are considered relatively permanent if handled with care. A life expectancy from seventy-five to one hundred or more years is considered permanent. Materials that have shown little  or no deteriora­tion within seventy-five years will probably continue to remain in good condition for some time longer. The permanency of paper can be reduced by  the  presence  of  wood  fibers, alum or rosin sizing, residual chemicals from bleaching, traces of  iron and cop­  per from the water used in processing, exposure to sulfur dioxide or nitric oxide, and a pH of 5.5 or less.

Ply refers to one sheet of paper that is bonded to another of the same kind. For example, two-ply bristol is made of two one-ply sheets laminated together. 

Types of Fibers


IN THE WEST, paper is generally made from wood or cotton or a combination  of both. The way the fibers are chemically treated during the manufacturing process affects the appearance and the durability of  the paper.  The  most suitable papers  for permanent artwork are those made from cotton. Though some people believe that a paper is safe if it is at least half cotton fiber, only  paper  made  of  100 percent cotton fiber is recommended for artwork that is expected to last for decades. Papers derived primarily from wood pulp, even pulp that is treated or buffered, are best used only for printing, graphics, or student purposes.

In Oriental papers, three types of fiber  are commonly  used-kozo,  mitsumata, and gampi. These three fibers, used alone or in combination with  each other. are the basis for the largest variety of papers in the world today. When used without fillers, these fibers produce durable, permanent papers, often of great beauty.


Ground Wood

Wood that is ground into a pulp without any additional purification  is  called ground wood.  All  the  impurities-lignin,  resin,  and  hemicellulose-remain.   Paper made from ground-wood pulp is the least durable and the least permanent, and has the poorest appearance of all papers.  However,  the  paper  is  more  opaque than most and absorbs printing inks  well. Since paper of this type is also the least expensive, it is popular primarily among printers and  schools.  News­ print, construction papers, oak tag, newsboard, chipboard, railroad board, and oatmeal paper are among the many ground-wood  papers.  It is  my  opinion  that this type of paper should never be used as a primary ground for permanent  artwork.


Chemically Treated Wood Pulp. In an attempt to improve the appearance, durability, and permanence of papers derived from wood, a variety of chemical treatments have evolved to make  lignin  soluble  for  easy  removal  and  to  separate the wood pulp into individual fibers. In  1851,  a treatment  using  caustic  soda  (sodium hydroxide) was developed, which resulted in a pulp referred  to  as  "soda pulp."  This  treatment  increased  bulk,  but  weakened  the  fibers.  During  the  1870s, a treatment that reduced the weakening of the fibers  involved  the  use  of  sulfur dioxide and bisulfate, forming a "sulfite pulp." This method significantly reduced the lignin content to between 2 to 5 percent, which could be  further reduced through bleaching and thorough washing. This pulp was given the name "alpha-pulp." This type of treatment is used today to produce the better-quality wood-pulp artists' paper.

The sulfate process developed by Carl Dahl in 1884 is the process used today for the production of most paper products in general use. It is more efficient than the sulfite process, which did not  remove or break down wood chips,  so they had to be removed before processing. This is not necessary in the sulfate treat­ment; however, the resultant pulp is much higher in impurities that resist bleach­ ing. The sulfate process produces  a much  stronger  fiber and is often referred  to  as the Kraft process-the term "Kraft" is derived from  the  German  word  for strong. Although this process produces a stronger fiber, it is also  much  rougher and less suitable for use in the production of artists' papers.

Although sulfite, or alpha-pulp, papers are compared to cotton papers, they have neither the quality nor the permanence that only cotton papers have. The sulfite papers are a tremendous improvement, but, in most cases, the lignins are replaced with a lesser evil-the natural resins and chemical residues left over from processing. These are rarely dealt with, and must be before this pulp can be considered an equivalent to cotton. Ground-wood pulp papers have a lifespan of only a few years before embrittlement and yellowing take their toll. Sulfite papers are a vast improvement since it usually takes between one and three decades before the residual chemicals and the remaining natural resins produce significant yellowing and embrittlement.

A distinct advantage to sulfite is its moderate cost compared to cotton. A wide selection of papers are made from this pulp, including drawing, tracing, layout, bond, colored, decorative, and watercolor papers, and boards for illustration, mounting, and matting. This type of paper is fine for artwork that will be reproduced and the original may be sacrificed, but it should not be  used  for original artwork that will be considered an investment.

Chemically Treated and Buffered Wood Pulp is simply  chemically  treated wood pulp with the additional enhancement of a chemical  buffer.  The  buffer keeps the paper made from this pulp looking  better  longer  because  yellowing will not occur until the buffers are exhausted. Buffering will  also  help to main­ tain the color quality of pH-sensitive inks, dyes, and certain  watercolor  pig­ments. Drawing and watercolor papers made from this type of pulp are being introduced by only a few companies, including Seth Cole,  Rising, and Pentalic,  but are nevertheless widely distributed.

Chemically Treated, Lignin-free, Buffered Wood Pulp is the result of a new process in which, it is claimed, all the undesirable  natural  residues  and chem­icals used in processing have been removed so  that  a  pure  cellulose  pulp remains. This pulp is then buffered for extra safety.  This is a costly  process  and if this pulp were used only to make a  cotton  paper  substitute  there  would  be little recognizable saving. In the case of museum boards, however, which are expensive partly because of the large amount of cotton fiber used, the savings may be as high as 25 percent when substituting this type of pulp for cotton. Currently, this pulp is being used primarily to produce a less expensive board for use in archival storage and framing.



Cotton is virtually pure cellulose fiber, which has a natural resistance to deterio­ration and to many forms of chemical attack. Cotton fibers range in length from ¾ to 1½ inches. The longer fibers are separated by the cotton gin for use in the manufacture of textiles. The shorter fibers left in the gin, which are called cotton linters, are collected separately and used to make cotton papers and boards.

Papers made from 100 percent cotton are among the most permanent, most durable, and strongest. They possess all of the most desirable characteristics and  all the best drawing, watercolor, charcoal, and tracing papers and the  finest museum and illustration boards are made from 100 percent cotton fibers. Papers and boards made of 100 percent cotton fiber are among  the most expensive. Keep in mind that many 100 percent cotton tracing and visualizing papers are impregnated with oil or chemicals, which can dramatically reduce their lifespan.

Rag and cotton are terms that today are virtually  interchangeable.  At one time, rag meant cotton taken exclusively from cotton textile remnants. Very few cotton papers are still made from rags, either entirely or partially.  Fabriano's  Roma  paper, which is said to have been used by Michelangelo,  is still, however,  made  of 100 percent rag. Strathmore's Artist Bristol is also still made of rag.

The difference between true rag papers and cotton papers made from linters is that the rags have the longer cotton fibers and  the  weaving  seems  to  add strength. The symbol of quality is still a paper that is  made from 100  percent cotton rags. That is probably why people prefer to call both cotton  linter  and cotton rag papers "rag."

Cotton and Wood

The larger the ratio of cotton to wood, the better the paper will handle and age. Most artists and conservators do not consider a paper with less than 50 percent cotton safe for permanent artwork. Owners of some paper mills of  long standing, as well as some government guidelines, claim that paper made with at least 50 percent or more cotton fiber is safe. In Europe, most fine art papers have some refined pulp but the majority of the 100 percent cotton papers produced there are sent to the more extravagant Americans. I have yet to find an art restorer in this country, however, who will vouch for a paper that contains less than 100 percent cotton fiber.


Kozo, Mitsumata, and Gampi

These are the most common fibers used in making  Oriental  papers.  Only  the inner bark, or bast fiber, of Broussonetia kazinoki for kozo, Edgeworthia chry­santha for mitsumata, and Diplomorpha shikokiana for gampi, is used to  make paper. When these fibers are used without wood pulp or other fillers, they are as permanent as cotton and, in the case of gampi, even more permanent.

Kozo, known in North America as mulberry, makes the strongest and most dur­ able of the Oriental papers. It has the longest fibers, will not shrink  or expand  when wet, and produces a paper with an uneven surface. This fiber is used alone to make paper and is added to other fibers to give them additional strength and durability.

Mitsumata is traditionally described by the Japanese  in  what  they  feel  are female terms. They say it is the most beautiful, softest, most absorbent, and the weakest of the three fibers. It is often used to balance kozo fibers, which are described in male terms, to increase the absorbency, even the surface, and add beauty to a paper.

Gampi is described by the Japanese as having both male and female char­acteristics. Its fibers are long, thin, somewhat shiny,  and very  tough. The fibers  are so durable that paper made of gampi is referred to as "paper cloth." Gampi paper is smooth, lustrous, and has its own natural chemical resistance to paper­ eating insects. It is nonabsorbent, damp-resistant, and may well be the most permanent paper in the world. The best paper is made from  uncultivated  plants, but the plant is rare because it was overused  to  the  point  of  near  extinction. Most available gampi papers are made from a species of the plant found in the Philippine Islands and processed in Taiwan.

Many Oriental papers available in the West are made from one of these three fibers. They are called Japanese  papers, or Japanese-style papers,  even  if  they are made in another country.

Tan-hi is the Chinese version of kozo fiber and is the primary ingredient in such traditional Chinese papers as gasen. Today, tan-hi is  more  commonly referred to as tampi.


MANY DIFFERENT KINDS of paper are created for a wide variety of applications, including painting, drawing, graphics, printmaking, and calligraphy. Papers are available in an extensive range of sizes, thicknesses, and finishes, as well as in differing degrees of quality, permanency, and durability.

A particular type of paper can often be used for another purpose. Print papers,  for example, can be used with acrylics, and many graphics papers are ideal for drawing. Keep in mind, however, that certain papers have poor aging char­acteristics and should not be used for permanent fine artwork.

This section explains the various types of paper and their many uses.

Watercolor Paper

Oriental watercolors and watercolor papers have been around  long  before Ts'ai Lun patented papermaking in China in A.O. 105.  Western  watercolor  papers,  as we know them today, were developed during the second half of the eighteenth century and are, therefore, a relatively modem achievement.  James  Whatman paved the way for the development of  watercolor paper when,  under commission in the late 1750s, he replaced the traditional coarse laid wire screen of the paper­ making mould with a wire screen so fine that it was called "wire cloth." This allowed for an even formation of the pulp fibers without any textural impressions left on the surface of the newly formed paper.  This  new  style  of  paper  was called "wove" paper and was primarily developed for printing. Whatman  found  that various textures could be imparted  to this textureless  paper.  He discovered, for example, that when felt blotters of various textures  were applied to the still­  wet paper surface and pressed, impressions of  those  textures  were  imparted  to the paper.

Whatman made paper available in three finishes-"hot press,"  "not"  (which meant "not hot press," and has come to be called "cold press"), and  "rough." During this time, watercolor papers were still classified as drawing papers. Whatman has been credited with the adaptation of the "hard size" (alum-gelatin sizing) for use in watercolor papers. Sizing is particularly important  in  these papers because it allows the color to stay on the surface  as the  water sinks in.  This gives watercolors their brilliance, which would be lost if the color were to sink  below the surface with the water.  An additional benefit is that the color can  be reworked because of its accessibility on the surface of the paper. Arches watercolor paper has retained its  popularity  because of its "hard size" as well as  its double sizing, both of which permit erasure and repeated washes. The heavily sized paper gives excellent control of watercolors.

Several manufacturers have attempted to resolve the problem of acidity due to alum hardening by simply not using alum. This approach produces a watercolor paper that is not popular with artists using traditional watercolor techniques. Watercolorists who do abstract expressionist work, however, often  prefer  the softer look that colors have on the surface of this type of paper.

Strathmore's 100 percent cotton watercolor paper has the new synthetic sizing called Aquapel, which can be buffered. (Eventually  all  fine  watercolor  papers will convert to this kind of  sizing.)  Strathmore's  paper has two  deckled  edges and two cut edges, which makes it less popular among watercolorists who like to use the whole sheet and prefer to show four deckle edges in framing.

Whatman, Saunders, and Strathmore papers, as  well  as  Fabriano  and  the Royal Watercolor Society paper, are still among the world's finest. Today's watercolor papers come in many different sizes, weights, and packages, such as pads and blocks. There are still only three categories of  finishes  available,  but each category varies from brand to brand,  allowing  somewhat  more choice for  the artist.

Hot press has a smooth vellum surface with a very fine tooth. This finish is excellent for soft drawing materials, pen and ink, brush linewock, wash, and airbrush. This type of paper is not as popular for traditional watercolor  techniques.

Cold press, or semirough, is the most popular finish and is especially good for beginners. Cold-press finish is excellent for traditional watercolor technique and, because of its moderate texture, will handle some detail. This finish is  also excellent for charcoal, pastel, and paint sticks.

The purpose of the texture in watercolor paper is to create  a sense of  depth.  One of the . ways to accomplish this is by varying the ways  that  the  finish receives the color. A wet wash will cover the peaks of the finish as well  as penetrate the valleys. One color will tend to look like two because of the differ­ ence in the ways that the light strikes the peaks and the valleys. When a second, drier wash is applied, it will tend to cover the peaks without penetrating  the valleys, and will also miss some of the peaks. A  painter  can  rapidly  develop many textural effects with a minimum of effort. How the individual artist devel­ ops this technique is what makes this simple medium so versatile. Some experi­ mentation with styles of cold-press finish,  such  as irregular  versus  laid,  should be done to determine what is best for you.

Rough finish  has  pronounced  peaks and  valleys; even  wet  washes  tend to be speckled with some spots of white showing through. This finish is not for begin­ners, but unfortunately for them, most  of  the  less expensive  watercolor  papers are available only in a rough finish. Many people give up  watercolors only because they started with this finish. It takes advanced skills  to  handle  rough finish  successfully.  The large  peaks and deep valleys tend to produce errors that are difficult to hide. When the finish is used by an experienced watercolorist, however, the results can be amazing. Rough finish can be used effectively with acrylics, paint sticks, and some pastels.

Watercolor paper is packaged in several forms: pads, rolls, sheets, and water­ color blocks. A watercolor block is a stack of  watercolor paper, betwen 90 and 140 lb., that is gummed together at the edges, making it  possible  to do a paint­ ing without prewetting and stretching  the paper, as is usually  required for papers of weights under 200 lb. After the painting  is completed on the watercolor block it is allowed to air dry, without the help of the sun or a blow drier. Air drying eliminates the risk of splitting the gummed binding that holds the paper together. Arches watercolor paper is the brand most readily available in sheets, rolls, pads, and watercolor blocks. Arches paper is mouldmade in France only during certain times of the year because the water from the river used to wash the paper becomes muddy during the winter. This accounts for the slight variations in whiteness from batch to batch as the  water  begins  to change.  Arches comes in the largest variety of weights, sizes, and packaging of all the watercolor papers available in North America. The weights for 22" x 30" range from 90 lb to 400 lb. Sheet sizes range up to 40" x 60". Arches has recently introduced an excellent student-grade paper called Archette. It consists of  25  percent  cotton fiber; the balance is alpha pulp, and  is 270  GRS/m2  or 127 lbs.  in  22"x30".  At the present time, Archette is only available in cold press finish. This paper is significantly less expensive than Arches 100 percent rag version, yet its handling characteristics are almost identical.

Fabriano also makes a wide variety of watercolor papers. This company is particularly known for its Esportazione series, the finishes of which are  quite rough. This paper is one of the few entirely handmade 100  percent  rag  water­ color papers available today. Fabriano also produces a watercolor paper named Artistico, which is a mouldmade paper of 100 percent rag and is more affordable than the Esportazione. The 300 lb. rough in the Artistico series is said to be produced on an especially slow-running papermaking machine, which allows the water to drain slowly. This process creates a paper with characteristics close to those of a handmade paper.

T. H. Saunders watercolor paper has undergone a number of changes in the company's attempt to make a more archival and better-quality paper. The current product is quite good and is certainly less likely than  most to acidify  with age. This may also be said of Strathmore watercolor paper. Canson Mi-teintes, which comes in thirty-five colors, was originally developed as a lightweight watercolor paper, but today is used more often as a pastel paper. It is  currently  only  66 percent rag, and buckles considerably when wet. Most of these companies make both mouldmade and machine-made papers, with different grades of pulp and qualities of finish.

Types pf Paper


Some print papers are used for drawing and painting.  Like  watercolor  papers, print papers are available in a range of sizes, quality, and content. They are handmade, rnouldmade or machine-made. The two important differences are that print papers have a softer surface and contain little or no sizing.  This makes them ideal for printmaking but, in most cases, undesirable for painting and drawing. Print papers in general are not as  durable,  thus  the surface  finish  will not take erasure or hard drawing materials. The absence of sizing causes water­ colors to sink in and bleed outward, resulting in a soft, dull look. These char­acteristics can, however, be used to advantage  with  such  materials  as  soft colored pencils or acrylics, or for Oriental-style watercolor.

Some of the most popular print papers  are Rives BFK, Arches,  Copperplate, and German Etching (75 percent rag). Arches and  Rives come in a limited  vari­ety of shades. A category of print papers called  "proof  papers," are usually wood pulp and have a harder and more durable surface.



Any paper that has enough tooth to bite off sufficient particles from a drawing material, such as graphite, to form a visible mark could  be  called  a  drawing paper. However, to be considered good, a  drawing  paper  must  be  durable enough to take repeated erasure without serious damage to the surface. It should also take ink without bleeding or excessive absorption.

In watercolor painting, the brush is the most important component; in oil painting, it is the paint; in drawing, it is the paper.  Each  artist should make  his or her own experiments and comparisons among the varieties available  in  the major categories of drawing papers-bristol, charcoal/pastel, drawing/sketching, bond, and graphics  papers.  Even  a  simple  pencil   line will appear totally   different on different brands of the same type of paper.


This category is broken down into five basic groups: bristol, charcoal and pastel, drawing and sketching, bond, and graphics paper.

Bristol is the strongest, most durable, all-purpose  drawing  paper available.  It has a very hard surface that is heavily sized, polished, and compressed.  It  comes in two finishes, plate and vellum, and in several thicknesses.

Plate Finish is as smooth as glass, is especially good for  pen  and  ink,  and allows flat and even washes. Airbrushing on this surface gives a very  crisp look, but the finish is too slick for colored pencil, charcoal, pastel,  and  very  soft  pencil. Vellum finish is excellent for all pencil, colored pencil, medium to hard charcoal, hard pastel, and oil pastel.  It  is  also  excellent  for  washes,  gouache, pen and ink, and airbrush when a fine texture  is desired.  Some  care  must  be taken with this surface to protect it from the natural oils from your hands, which  can be transferred to the surface, affecting the absorbency and the bite of  the tooth.

Bristol is usually made so that either side may be used, although there may be slight differences in the finish between  the  two  sides. Strathmore's 100 percent rag Artist Bristol is considered the standard to which  all  others  are  compared. This bristol is still made only from 100 percent cotton cloth  trimmings,  which helps to give it its tremendous strength. But, because of the widespread use of cotton-synthetic blends in the garment industry, there is an increasing shortage of raw materials for production of this paper. Strathmore is currently developing a process to separate the synthetic from the natural fibers, rather than resorting to the use of cotton linters. The sheet sizes are  23" X29"  and  30" X40",  and  the paper is available in pads. Two-ply, nonrag bristol is the most common form of bristol to be found in pads.

One-ply bristol is thin enough to be translucent.  The  plate  finish  is  thinner than the vellum because of the greater pressure applied in making; thus it is the easier of the two to see through for tracing. Because the one-ply is a bit thin, its hard surface is easily damaged if handled carelessly. It is easily subject to buck­ ling from the moisture in the air and from the perspiration of your hand.

Two-ply bristol can be used for tracing with the aid of a light table. This thickness is less subject to humidity and damage by  handling.  Two-  and  three­ ply are the most popular thicknesses. Three-  through  five-ply  are chosen  more for weight than for any qualitative  difference in performance.  Five-ply  feels like  a lightweight illustration board or a 300 lb. hot-press watercolor paper.

Charcoal and Pastel Papers are essentially interchangeable. The selection of the finish and the color of a charcoal or pastel paper is even more important than the selection of the drawing materials since the finish of the paper determines the appearance of the artwork. Pastelists, for example, study the color of a paper the way a painter studies a color chart.

There are two basic finishes-laid and irregular.  Laid  finish  is the imprint of the regular pattern of the wire screen of the papermaker's mould. An irregular  finish is the result of the felt mats on which the  still-wet  sheet of paper is pressed out, which produces a tight, irregular arrangement of small peaks and valleys on the surface.  Both of  these finishes  can be found  in different  degrees  of texture, from cold press to rough. The finishes of this type of paper serve the same purpose as the finishes of watercolor paper; the texture is worked the same way, except with charcoal and pastel instead of watercolor.

These papers are not as durable as Bristol and will  take only light  erasing before the surface becomes seriously disrupted. They are lighter in weight, gen­erally have little sizing, and are machine-made. "Ingres" usually refers to a laid finish paper of light to medium weight. Strathmore's 100 percent rag  charcoal paper comes in twelve colors, two whites, and one black. It is lightweight with a laid finish and is one of the most popular papers of this type. Canson Miteintes, which, it is said, Degas used for some of his  pastels,  is  made  in  thirty-five  colors with an irregular finish and is of medium weight.


Drawing Papers, or papers  marketed  as  "drawing,"  vary  widely  in  quality from newsprint to the fine handmade Fabriano Roma papers said  to have been  used by Michelangelo. However, most of the available drawing  papers are  not even close to this quality. Today, drawing is more popular than ever before and large sheets of rag drawing paper are in great demand. Drawing  papers  resemble  bristol  paper,  but have not been compressed or as

heavily sized; thus the surface is less durable with a coarse vellum finish and a rougher tooth. Bristol is considered a multimedia paper because it can take everything from markers to watercolor. This is not true of drawing papers­ permanent markers will bleed and there is little control for traditional watercolor technique. Drawing papers are primarily for use  with pencil, crayon, oil pastel, paint sticks, charcoal, graphite sticks, carbon pencil, colored pencil,  and  some light pen and  ink.  Common  sizes are 18" x 24" and 24" x 36" in sheets, 36" x 10  to 20 yards, and 42" x 10 to 20 yards in rolls. To meet the larger demands, companies such as Andrews Nelson & Whitehead are making available sheets of drawing paper up to 30" x40" and rolls  of  60" x 20  yards.  White  and  off-white are most common, but colors can be found. The overwhelming percentage of drawing pads are of  the nonrag  variety. GtmeralJ.y,  if a pad is not labeled as rag, it  is not rag. 


Bond Papers are sometimes distinguished as ledger bond and layout bond. The finish of bond papers  is  more like  bristol  than drawing  papers-ledger  has more of a plate finish, and layout is a bit like vellum. Layout bonds are usually lightweight, 13 lb. to 20 lb., making these papers translucent, but not transparent like tracing paper. Ledger is usually heavier,  28  lb. to 32 lb.,  more opaque and  less fragile. These papers have good durability and strength.

Both ledger and layout bond work well with a large variety of drawing mate­rials. Watercolors and permanent markers can be used with some success.  This type of paper is found almost exclusively in pads  or rolls, and most are not rag. The rag bonds are now generally sold as "graphics paper."


This group includes tracing papers, both rag and nonrag, and graphics papers. These papers are designed primarily to be transparent or translucent.

At this time there are no tracing or graphics papers, 100 percent rag or not, that are generally considered archival. The processes  used,  and  the  chemicals with which these papers are impregnated, tend to make them impermanent. They should not be used for permanent fine artwork unless they are specifically guar­ anteed by the manufacturer.

Tracing Paper is, basically, one of two kinds-rag  and  nonrag.  Nonrag, or sulfite, is either inexpensive or expensive, and there seems to be little middle ground. Inexpensive tracing paper comes  in  pad  weights  of  11 lb.,  13  lb., and 16 lb. and in rolls of 8 lb. and  II  lb. The lighter  weights are sometimes referred   to as "flimsy" or "sketch paper." This paper is for rough sketches, preliminary drawings, and overlays, and will work well with most drawing materials. The lesser-quality papers do not take erasure well and will "ghost," leaving a faint impression after repeated erasure.  These  papers are impregnated  with a resin  or an oil to make them transparent.

"Vellum" is a term used in drafting  and  engineering  to refer  to the expensive or better-quality tracing paper. These papers are made for final drawings where control and detail are most important. The standard for comparison is Canson Vidalson, which is manufactured iµ France. It is a sulfite  paper  that  is  made under tremendous pressure so that it becomes transparent. It is the hardest  and  most transparent, and has the most durable surface of any paper I have seen. Ink  can be scraped off the paper with a razor blade without seriously disturbing the surface. This paper takes all drawing media well and is especially  good  for pen and ink. However, it does have some serious drawbacks-it is easily affected by moisture and skin oils, it tears and cracks easily, and it has poor aging char­ acteristics. The three most common  weights  in  pads  are  the  #70,  #90,  and #100, which are most often referred to in terms of  pounds.  These  numbers actually refer to the metric equivalents of 18½ lb., 24 lb., and 29½ lb., respec­ tively. Sheet and roll weights are most commonly found in #90 and #180 (the equivalent of 48 lb.).

Rag tracing papers are made transparent with oils or resins. They are not as transparent and do not have as durable a surface as the sulfite vellum,  but  the paper is less affected by moisture and does not tear or crack as easily. Like the nonrag vellum, however, it is easily affected by skin oils and ages poorly. Rag tracing papers, such as Clearprint, are made with  a  large  variety  of  nonphoto blue graphs imprinted within. A nonphoto blue is a particular color that is not "seen" by most photocopying processes. This permits the use of the graph as a drawing guide without having the graph appear in the reproduction.

Graphics Papers are designed for final work by graphic artists.  A number  of years ago, 100 percent cotton or rag bond paper pads were labeled "bond paper good for graphic arts and markers." Today, most of the same bond papers  are called graphics paper, marker paper, or something similar. There  are some that have been especially improved to accept work with permanent markers, or to be particularly translucent, or to be opaque. All make exceptional drawing  papers. One of the unique features of this paper is its translucency and its bright white­ ness, which keeps it from looking like a tracing paper. Although these papers are designed for final work in the graphic arts, do  not  be  confused  by  the  100  percent cotton or rag label. They cannot, as yet, be considered archival.



There are hundreds, if not thousands, of specialty papers. Here are a few facts about them. Interleaving, or Separation, Sheets are papers that are pH neutral and non­ abrasive, and are not necessarily  cotton or rag. They  are used to isolate artwork  on paper from its container, or to protect its surfaces in handling, or to separate pieces of artwork placed in stacks. The three most popular  papers for this pur­pose are Strathmore slip sheets, such soft thin Oriental papers as troya,  and  glassine paper. Glassine, which recently has come into question for archival storage, is a glossy, transparent, coated paper particularly popular among photographers to protect negatives  and  photographs,  and among  painters  who need to protect the surface of their paintings.  Glassine  paper  does  not  leave  little fibers stuck to a surface after being in contact with photo emulsions and painted surfaces. One peculiar exception is  Cibachrome  prints,  which  scratch  very easily. Even glassine paper has been known to scratch this surface. One well­ known printer of Cibachrome prints finds that only the softness of an  Oriental paper like Troya gives real protection.

Transfer Papers, like graphite  or carbon  papers, are used  to transfer a drawing  to another surface. Carbon papers are greasy and do not erase well once applied, but they will transfer onto such nonporous surfaces as metals  better than  graph­ ite. Graphite is  better for transfers  to paper  or board  because it permits  transfer of more detail, and it erases  more easily.  Sarai Transfer  Paper,  made especially for this purpose, comes in several colors.

Stencil Papers are either waxed or oiled to resist the buckling that otherwise occurs if an untreated stencil is used repeatedly with water-based paints. The popularity of this paper has waned with the development of frisket and drafting polyester (Mylar). Frisket is made from a sheet of either paper or plastic with a low-tack adhesive applied to one side, and comes attached to a paper carrier to protect it until used. Frisket was primarily designed for airbrush  stenciling  on paper and board. Drafting polyester, which is a polyester with at least one side chemically treated to receive drawing materials, has become popular for making more durable stencils. It is not affected by moisture, it will  lie  flat even  after  being rolled up for a long time, and it will not tear.

Calligraphy Paper is any paper that will not easily bleed, feather, scratch, or wrinkle when used with pen and ink.  There  are a lot of  papers  treated  to look like genuine parchment for use by calligraphers, but calligraphers should not feel limited to paper labeled "calligraphy." Experienced calligraphers often use Strathmore charcoal paper and Canson Mi-teintes. The most popular paper for practice is inexpensive tracing paper.

Coated Papers are used for bookbinding, printing, presentations, mock-ups, architectural models, and other graphic art purposes. There are metallic-coated papers, papers coated with colored inks, adhesive-backed colored papers such as Pantone, silk-screened colors such as Chromarama, and many more. None, how­ ever, are considered safe for permanent fine artwork.

Cover Paper is another large, nebulous group of papers  that  come  primarily from the printing industry. These papers  are  of  medium  weight,  65 to  80  lb., and are used for covers for magazines, booklets, catalogues, and flapping paper. They include a high-grade construction paper. The better grades have good light­ fastness, are quite durable, and make good  drawing  and  calligraphy  paper. Again, these papers are not for permanent artwork.

Decorative Paper is a category that includes printed papers, marbled  papers, cockrells,  and  folk  papers  such  as  mingei  and  rakusui  papers.   Marbled   papers are made by floating oil-based inks on the sized surface  of  water.  The  inks  are swirled around and  then  a  sheet  of  paper  is  placed  over  them.  The  inks  are picked up and  transferred  to  the  paper's  surface,  resulting  in  a  marbleized  pat­ tern. Cockrells are  similar  to  marbled  paper,  but  the  inks  are  skillfully  combed into precise traditional  patterns  before  being  transferred  to  the  surface  of  the  paper. This is done with  such  accuracy  that  two  sheets,  each  individually  made, will look remarkably alike. It can take thirty to forty years of apprenticeship to master the technique necessary to produce matching sheets. To tell the difference between the genuine  article  and  a  printed  imitation,  look  at  two  of  the  four corners for the partial fingerprints of the maker. They are left  when  the  paper  is pulled from the water. Marbled paper and the English cockrells are traditional bookbinding end papers. 

Mingei means "folk" in Japanese. Mingei paper is traditionally made from handmade mulberry paper, which is dyed or printed using a hand-cut stencil with patterns hundreds of years old. Some papers are even hand-colored. Yuzen is another paper that is a bit more modem in appearance and in method of man­ ufacture. These papers are traditional bookbinding  and  gift  papers.  Rakusui, which means "rain paper," is made by taking the still-wet paper  and  placing  it over a slightly raised patterned surface, which is then rained with  droplets  of water. A small number of the fibers are thus washed away, allowing a pattern to develop in the paper. These papers are sometimes referred to as lace papers  because their regular transparent patterns resemble lace cloth.

Oriental Papers


"A painting, a poem - how paper reveals  a  man's  nature."  This  old  saying reflects the style of Oriental papers. Because  their  absorbency,  texture,  and weight instantly show  any lack of skill with the brush and hesitation  in the mind  of the artist, they can reveal the degree  of  mastery  of  one's  body  and  mind. Most Westerners find this intimidating and prefer to use Oriental papers only as print paper, since printmaking places distance between the insecure hand and the final result. Perhaps an introduction to the aesthetics of Eastern art would make these materials more emotionally accessible to Western artists.

By Western standards, most Oriental papers are highly absorbent. This allows  the artist, as the ink or watercolor is applied, to create shading  or  a  multivalued edge as the brushstroke is made. The character of this edge is determined by the quickness of the stroke and how it is executed, and by the density of the ink in relation to the specific absorbency and texture of the paper. Success is  based simply on developing skill, by experiencing how each particular paper  will respond.

Oriental papers tend to be made thin for a number of interrelated reasons. Since the artwork is produced with a minimum of ink or watercolor, with little if any rendering, there is no need for thick papers  to compensate  for the buckling  that occurs when using Western water-media techniques. The fibers in Oriental papers also have a natural resistance to swelling when exposed to water; there­  fore, they do not have to be thick to resist buckling.  These  papers are made thin  for a practical reason, too. Eastern materials and techniques preclude easy cor­ rection of accidents and errors; thus a substantial amount of paper may be used before success is attained. It is less costly to practice on thinner paper than on thicker paper. After a successful painting is produced, it can  be  mounted  to another heavier paper for handling and display. Even master calligraphers and painters do not get it right the first time every time!

My advice to those who would like widen their horizons by trying such papers  as these is to start with a few sheets  of  the less  absorbent  papers  and  work  to the most absorbent. When you find a style of paper that you feel you can  work with, find the cheapest variety of it, buy a lot of it, and experiment. After you understand the paper's habits and characteristics,  you  can  acquire  a  better quality. But you should always remember to do a few wann-up stokes on the cheaper version.


The artwork produced on Oriental papers has been traditionally  protected  first by mounting  it on either a heavier  paper or a piece of  the same paper,  and then  by mounting it on silk. It was discovered  that  adhesives  break down  with  time so, to minimize this problem, artwork is mounted with only  enough  adhesive barely to hold it to the backing. This allows easy  removal for remounting  at the first sign of deterioration. The purpose of the traditional  presentation  of  artwork  in the form of scrolls is to protect  the artwork  by storing  it rolled,  thus reducing its exposure to air and light.  The  artwork  is  unrolled  for special  presentations, for a short time, and then rerolled to be stored. In the West, a work  of  art  is  usually displayed continually, which is not safe for unprotected scrolls. When creating or collecting Oriental-style artwork, it is important to frame it in a West­ ern manner if it is to  be  displayed  continuously.  (See  Framing  and  Storage)

The tradition of Oriental papermaking is more  than  eighteen  hundred  years old. Tragically, there are many traditional papers that will never be made again, because the information about how they were made was not transmitted and has been lost for all time. Nevertheless, there are still almost unimaginable varieties being made today, of which only a select few are available in the West. One of these, for example, called hosho, is made  in  almost  one  hundred  varieties. I have selected eight distinct groups of papers that are available in the  West. They are referred to by their most common names. Many importers and  distributors make up their own names for these papers and it is not uncommon for the same paper to have several names. It is usually more practical to shop for these papers with a sample in hand than to ask for a paper by name.

The following papers are listed in descending order of their absorbency. The absorbency of a paper is determined by the arrangement of the fibers and the addition of sizing. Traditionally, the sizing used in Oriental papers is the natural vegetable adhesive mucilage, although the use of  Western  alum  sizing  has become prevalent. Many of these papers are available in handmade and machine­ made varieties, but be aware that being handmade is no assurance of  a paper's purity of fiber or neutrality of pH. As a result of diminishing sources of raw materials, more and more of these papers  are  being  contaminated  with  such fillers as wood pulp, straw, and rice straw, while the price remains high. Some manufacturers have begun to use such traditionally Western sources of raw mate­ rials as pine trees. They claim to use the same methods  of collecting  and  clean­ ing the inner bark, or bast fiber, of the tree that are used to  collect  kozo, mitsumata, and gampi fibers. The core of the tree, which contains  the  highest lignin content, is not used. They believe  that time  will  prove that  these papers will last as long as those made from traditional Eastern sources.

Since few Westerners have any expertise in determining the quality of Oriental art materials, the best guideline of quality, for the time being, is price.

Hosho first appeared around the fourteenth century in the Echizen Province of Japan. The best grades are still made primarily from kozo fibers. Occasionally, mitsumata may be added to improve the paper's elasticity. The lesser  grades contain mostly sulfite pulp. This paper is very absorbent.  It is thick  and fluffy,  with a porous surface  that is not durable for hard pencil or erasure. Its finishes range from vellum to cold press, and it has a uniform formation with moderate to heavy  tooth.  A  fine­ quality hosho is one of the most beautiful of  white  papers.  It does  not  shrink, tear, or expand easily, and it is especially good for woodblock and linoleum printing. Because it is not sized, hosho is also good for soft, semiabstract water­ colors, but it is not recommended for the beginner. Only an experienced hand is quick enough to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the ink into the paper. The handmade variety has four deckled edges. The most common size is approx­imately 18" x 24".

Kozo is similar to hosho, but it has a tighter arrangement of fibers, which results in slightly less tooth. It also has smaller pores, which means it has less absor­bency. Made from 100 percent kozo fibers, it is the most common  variety  of paper, as well as the largest category of paper. Kozo can be sized, making it less absorbent and slightly more durable.  Its surface ranges from vellum to a coarse form of cold press. The formation of the fibers appears slightly mottled because of the way the long kozo fibers arrange themselves. Kozo is slightly thinner than hosho, and more versatile. The name ''goyu" is sometimes used for the heavier variety of  kozo,  which  is less  absor­bent and gives a drier, slightly mottled  look  with  watercolors.  A common  size for kozo is 24" X 36". It is a paper that Westerners can be comfortable with for watercolors and printing.

Moriki could easily  be placed in the kozo category  because it is also made of kozo fibers, and some medium-quality grades are made of kozo and sulfite. This paper looks and feels very much like a thin kozo paper. It is, however, signifi­ cantly less absorbent than kozo or hosho, and thus even more versatile for most Western techniques. Moriki has a delicate and translucent appearance, and a slightly shiny surface. It has a finer tooth that is more durable than other kozo papers and will hold some detail with watercolors. The formation is a mixture of evenly arranged fibers and longer mottled fibers, which can be easily distin­guished because of the paper's translucency. Full sheets are about 23" x 34".

Mulberry paper is kozo paper. Mulberry is actually the Western  name for the  plant from which the kozo fibers are derived. Lesser  varieties  are  made  from kozo and sulfite pulp. However, there still are enough distinguishing char­ acteristics to set it apart from the other kozo papers. Mulberry  paper  is  very similar to moriki in appearance, but it is more opaque and somewhat less absor­ bent. Its surface is durable enough to take light drawing, but with very  little erasure. It is the paper of choice for linoleum and  woodblock printing.  Mulberry is commonly used for stone rubbings, hinges in picture framing, and document repair, and is also the paper which is used to make the decorative mingei papers. Full sheets are about 24" x 36".

Troya is a paper made from kozo fiber, but it does not resemble any of the other kozo papers. This paper has a uniform formation, which, on close inspection, appears to have an open pattern like a fine mesh. Troya has the unusual characteristic of being less absorbent and more porous  than  other  Oriental  papers. This means that when watercolor is used,  it tends to go right through  the paper, but does not spread (if the paint  is not allowed  to pool underneath).  Troya is one of the thinner Oriental papers, and because it is porous, it appears to be very absorbent when in fact it is not. Working with this paper over a blotter will give rewarding results.

In the West, troya is rarely used for artwork, but rather  for  slip  sheets  to  protect the surfaces of artwork. It is made in two  weights;  one  is  like  tissue paper, the other like that of moriki. This paper is  machine-made  and does  not have deckled edges. Its size is approximately 24" X36". One of the  major importers is no longer distributing this paper, so it has become difficult to find. 

Gasen and Gasenshi. Gasen, which originated in China, is the oldest type of Oriental paper still used for artwork. Both the Chinese and Japanese traditionally prefer this paper for calligraphy and for Chinese-style painting. There are other Chinese papers, but since the Revolution, very few have the quality and perma­ nence necessary for fine artwork. Gasen is one of the few  Chinese  papers exported to .Japan and North America.

The name "Gasen" is derived from ga, which  means  "painting,"  and sen, which is a location in  China.  The Japanese added  the shi, which  means "paper," to the name "gasen" to make the translation more fluid, thus "gasenshi" means "painting paper from Sen." Although the Japanese  tend  to  use  the  names  "gasen" and "gasenshi" interchangeably. a paper called gasenshi often  indicates that it is a gasen-style paper made in Japan. Gasen  was originally  made of  30 to 40 percent tampi and rice straw. Today, most gasen is made  of  either kozo or tampi mixed with straw and bamboo. Although the straw and bamboo considera­bly reduce the longevity, the traditional working qualities of this paper are con­ sidered more important than permanency.

This paper is thin, highly sized  with a platelike finish, and  remarkably strong. The surface is the most durable of all  the  papers  discussed  thus  far,  but  it is still not classed as a  drawing  paper.  Many  Chinese  paintings  are  done  in  great  detail on this paper. Because it is very thin, it must be used with an absorbent surface underneath it to prevent the paint from pooling and spreading. The pattern of the bamboo mat that is used to pull the fibers  from  the  pulp  vat  is  left  clearly  imprinted, like  a  watermark,  throughout  the  paper.  This  obvious  laid  pattern  is one of the  most  identifiable  characteristics  of  this  paper.  The  most  common  size of gasen is 2?1' x 54", and gasenshi  is  usually  found in 18" x 27".  Both  are  with­  out deckled edges, and are probably no longer handmade.

Torinoko means "child of the bird," or "egg," and its surface resembles an eggshell. It was introduced around the eighth century, and was made of  pure gampi. Torinoko made from gampi is probably the most permanent paper made. The Treaty of Versailles was written and signed on this paper because it was believed to be the most permanent paper in the world.

The plant from which the gampi fibers are collected is now rare  in Japan,  and the plants from other Asian countries are not of the same quality. It is therefore difficult to find  a  torinoko  paper  today-even  in  Japan-that  contains  gampi, even in combination with mitsumata. With the one exception of a gampi torinoko imported by Andrews Nelson &  Whitehead,  torinoko is made of kozo, or kozo with mitsumata. The method of manufacture and the addition of sizing have, however, helped to create a paper that looks and behaves like the original. Torinoko is a nonabsorbent Oriental paper, which means it  will take water­ color very much like a Western drawing or watercolor paper. The surface durability of this paper varies, depending on its method of manufacture and on what substitute for gampi was used. It is a thick, heavy, strong paper, with two workable sides-one a fine vellum and the other a nappy, cold-press finish. Machine-made torinoko comes 18" x 24" without a deckle; handmade torinoko is roughly 24" x 36" with a deckle.

Masa paper is the least absorbent of all the papers and the easiest for a Western watercolorist to work with. In overall appearance  it greatly  resembles  torinoko, but today it is made primarily of sulfite pulp, and when it is soaked with water it tends to fall apart. Although this paper is  not  strong,  it does allow  the  control that Western painters prefer, and it does have one additional advantage over the other Oriental papers-it is available in rolls of 42" X  10  yards,  as  well  as  in sheets of roughly 18" x 24". Masa is machine-made and has no deckle.

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