Understanding paper grain is vital when creating handmade books. This blog post and video explain what paper grain is, why it’s important and how it is determined.
What is Paper Grain?
Grain refers to the direction in which the paper fibers are laid down during manufacture. Note that is only commercial made paper that has a grain, most handmade paper does not. When you purchase paper, if a paper is labeled as Short Grain the grain runs parallel to the short edge of the paper, and if it’s labeled Long Grain, the grain runs parallel to the long edge of the paper. Book board, book cloth and decorative papers also have a grain.
Why is Paper Grain Important?
The grain direction of paper, cloth and board has a significant effect on a book’s level of craftsmanship. Whenever possible, the grain should run parallel to the spine of the book. If we fold against the grain, the fibers crack and the book will warp and not lay flat. Sometimes you cannot avoid working against the grain, in this instance, pre-score the paper before folding.
How Do I Determine Paper Grain?
There are three different ways to determine the direction of the paper fibers:
Gently bend the paper in both directions to see which yields more easily. The paper fibers run in the direction that gives the least resistance.
Fold and crease the paper first in one direction and then the other. If the paper fibers crack and break, you are folding against the grain. If the fold is smooth, you are folding with the grain.
This method works best with thin paper. Lightly spritz the paper with water and it will curl in the direction of the grain.
I hope these tips and video help give you an overview of paper grain and why it’s important for creating handmade books. Please leave comments or questions below or in our vibrant community on Facebook.
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