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Art Paper Surface Types

What Do The Paper Words Mean?

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There are several factors influencing the texture of paper. First is the fiber itself. The different types of wood pulp, cellulose, and cotton will behave differently when made into paper. The volume of pulp per sheet will affect the weight and strength of the paper. The production process itself is also important, with the choice of mould, a machine or hand process, and the amount of heat and pressure in the drying process all changing the paper. Surface textures can be created by the mesh mould that paper sheets are made on, or applied by a roller to machine-made paper. Lastly, the amount of 'size' - that means a binding glue, not the dimensions - in the paper and on the surface will affect how well it holds water, and how 'toothy' the surface is. So let's take a look at some of the descriptions you'll find applied to paper, and learn about what they mean.

1. Laid Paper

Caldecott/Evans (CC) via Wikimedia

Laid paper has a pattern of parallel lines created by the wires of the mould in its production. Some papers, such as Ingres, have a broad, pronounced surface texture which is clearly visible in the drawing. Some laid papers have a finer texture. It's important to choose a scale of texture which is appropriate to your style of drawing - a finer scale texture for smaller work. This type of paper is suitable for sketching with pastel, charcoal and soft pencil. Brands include Canson Ingres, Hahnemühle Ingres, Hahnemühle Bugra Pastel Paper, and Strathmore 500 Series Charcoal Paper.

2. Textured Pastel, Charcoal and Craft Papers

Canson Mi Tientes and Strathmore Textured Paper
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Textured surfaces typically have a fine, irregular texture pressed into the surface during manufacture, often mimicking the natural irregularities of mould-made paper. The tooth and hardness of the paper itself varies according to manufacturer, though most have a hard vellum surface with moderate sizing. This allows them to be used with quite hard media, and a certain amount of layering; usually not so suitable for heavy layering. Textured paper is good for pastel and charcoal, as well as expressive larger scale pencil sketching. Brands of textured paper include Strathmore Pure Tints and Canson Mi-Teintes, which are available in a huge selection of colors.

3. Wove

Wove paper is made on a woven wire 'cloth' like a fine sieve, instead of the traditional parallel wires of Laid paper. Most of the paper we use has been manufactured in this way. The tightly woven mesh creates a fine, smooth surface,  ideally having no texture at all; although some papers may have texture added, and sometimes a heavier weave gives a slight texture. The smooth surface of untextured Wove paper is particularly well suited to ink drawing and realist pencil drawing. Brands include Arches Text Wove (also known as Velin d'Arches), Ruscombe Medoc Velin watercolor paper, and Whatman.

4. Rough

Rough grained paper has a noticeably bumpy surface. In making rough paper, the pulp is pressed without additional heat, so there is natural variation in the surface. When shading with chalk or flat pencil, the pits in the paper create an irregular pattern of white spots throughout the area. Mold-made watercolor paper is a typical example of a rough paper surface. The coarse surface makes it difficult to control tone, and lends itself to simple, broad and expressive gestures in pastel, charcoal or soft pencil. Rough paper is a traditional favorite of watercolorists, because the tiny pits allow paint to pool in a heavy wash, while leaving dots of light with a dry brush, so the texture can be used to great effect.

5. Medium

sketch on Lana Dessin
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Medium paper includes 'Not' (meaning not hot pressed) cold pressed watercolor paper, as well as a variety of medium-surfaced drawing papers such as Lana Dessin. Medium paper has a fine grain, which can look quite subtle when shading with a sharpened pencil, or may be accentuated by shading with a blunt pencil or charcoal.

6. Smooth - Hot Press

Hot Pressed or smooth paper has been, as the name suggests, hot rolled or 'ironed' during production to create a very smooth, flat surface. Hot pressed paper allows you to draw very fine detail without any bumps or texture showing up. The amount of manipulation and type of medium depends on the quality of raw fiber, manufacturing process and fiber used.
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