Paper Club. Episode 1.

Paper Club is a new feature I’m starting where every month, I’ll write about printmaking papers. Topics like my paper preferences, other people’s preferences, some visual walkthroughs, product testing, and other paper resources will be discussed!

Paper is really important to me when I screen print. How does it feel when you hold it? How does it fold? How heavy is it? How does the paper color react in relation to the colors you want to print on it? I’m not a connoisseur in the least, but I’d like to say I’m an active student. It’s a nice(/weird) pastime for me to visit art stores and discover new printmaking paper.

If you’re new to printmaking paper, here are things to consider:

Nice printmaking paper usually only comes in muted colors. There is an abundance of white, ivory and beige but if you’re looking for kraft, black, or gray, your selection will be more limited. Cheaper papers come in brighter colors, but I personally don’t like them. What you print should speak louder than the color of the paper you print on. Paper should really just be a nice accent to your work.

Paper weight is measured in grams per square meter. Though paper is considered heavyweight or lightweight, it doesn’t refer to how much the paper literally weighs(though it correlates). Instead, think of weight like paper density, kind of like how packed together the paper is. For example, tissue paper is considered lightweight because it isn’t dense and allows light to filter through it. Paper board, on the other hand, is heavyweight because no light filters through it.

Sizing refers to how paper reacts to the ink/paint you print on top of it. The ideal situation is that you want the ink/paint to remain on the surface of the paper and dry there as opposed to being absorbed. If paint/ink is absorbed, you run the risk of bleed and ruining the crispness of your print. Think about using a Sharpie on tissue paper and how much bleed that gives you. Nice paper won’t do that.

Does it fold?

If you make books, this matters a lot but may be the hardest to test. Even nice paper does not necessarily fold well and you can’t just go around folding expensive paper you haven’t bought yet. So from what I know:

  • Lightweight papers (Rives lightweight, Arches Text Wove, Somerset Book) generally fold well.
  • Heavyweight papers are touch and go. Most require you to score the paper first with a bone folder which will lead to cleaner folds.
  • Stonehenge paper does NOT fold well. When folded, the paper cracks and will generally tear if not immediately, over time.

To be continued…
Those are the basics to paper. The best thing to do is not to be shy and explore. Paper won’t bite. :)

Till next time!


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