Paper Grain: What is it?

What is paper grain?

Image courtesy of Collin Erickson

Once you start doing paper crafts, whether it’s scrapbooking, cardmaking or bookmaking, you’ll hear about grain. But what is it?

The What:

Paper is made of organic fibers, such as cotton, hemp, and even silk. When paper is machine-made (as most paper you work with will be), the fibers are laid down running all in the same direction, usually parallel to the length of the sheet. This creates the grain of the paper. Book boards also have a grain.

Handmade paper, on the other hand, will have not grain because the fibers lay in an organic pattern, not in any one direction. So don’t sweat it with those bad boys.

The Why:

But why is grain important?

Paper’s grain comes into play when folding. It helps to think of grains as the corrugation in cardboard; whatever direction the corrugation runs, it will be easiest to fold with it. When you fold against (perpendicular to) the grain, the paper will be more resistant to the fold. When you fold with (parallel to) the grain, the paper will fold more neatly and flatly.

Not only should the paper grain run parallel to the spine, but also any cover papers, book cloth or boards that you use to make the casing. This will improve the strength and integrity of your product.

So what if you don’t have the right kind of paper? You can still make a book with your papers or whatever materials, BUT the following undesirable results may occur:

-Folded-over text pages may not lay flat, but might “pop open instead
-Folds may have a split or “torn” appearance
-When gluing two things together, the grains may fight against each other and cause the page or board to warp
-There may be a “wave” in the final product
-Your book may not stand the test of time!

I hope I’ve adequately described what paper grain is. I’m going to spend the weekend making a video that explains paper grain and how you can determine it. When it’s done, I’ll post it here!

Happy bookmaking!

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