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Paper Glossary

Paper Glossary


Absorption: The process by which one substance, such as paper, takes up another substance, such as inks or water. This will affect the printability.

Acid-Free Paper: Paper made from pulp having little acid so that it resists deterioration from age. Also known as alkaline or archival paper.

Against the Grain: Folding or feeding paper at right angles to the grain direction of the paper. Also known as across the grain and cross grain.

Antique Finish: A paper finish that has a rougher, tactile surface. Usually used in natural white or cream-white colours.

Archival Paper: A paper that has long-­standing qualities -­ acid free, lignin free, usually with good colour retention. Archival papers must meet national standards for performance. The expected life of archival paper is more than 100 years.

Art Paper: This is a general term for higher quality woodfree coated papers which have a highly polished surface. Also known as coated paper.


Basic Size: The standard sheet size of a given paper grade. Use to calculate basis weight.

Basis Weight: The weight in pounds per ream of paper cut to its basic size in inches.

Blanket: A fabric coated with rubber or other synthetic material which is clamped around the blanket cylinder and which transfers the ink from the press plate to the paper.

Bleed: An extra amount of the printing image that extends beyond the trim edge of the sheet or page.

Bond Paper: Strong, durable writing paper which consists of wood, cotton, or both. Most commonly used for letterheads, stationery, business forms, etc.

Brightness: The reflectance of paper which is measured under a specially calibrated wave of blue light.


Calendering: The process of smoothing and compressing the paper during production by passing a single continuous sheet through a number of pairs of heated rolls. It is to increase gloss and smoothness of the paper.

Caliper: The thickness of a sheet paper, measured in thousandths of an inch or in points.

Carbonless Paper: Paper coated with chemicals that enable the transfer of images from one sheet to another with pressure from writing or typing.

Carton: A carton contains anywhere from 500 to 3,000 sheets. Depending on the size of sheets and their basis weight.

CB: Abbreviation referring to carbonless paper coated on its back side only.

CF (Paper Coated Front): The coated receiver sheet of mated carbonless paper, used in multiple part forms; contains a color developer in the CF coating; will have the CF coating on the 2nd through the last plies of the form.

CFB (Paper Coated Front and Back): The intermediate or middle plies of mated carbonless paper, used in multiple part forms. CFB paper has both CF and CB coatings; see CF and CB paper. Also see carbonless paper

Coating: Layer of clay and other substances applied to base stock to create the surface of coated paper.

Coated Paper: Paper which has been coated by a mixture of materials or a polymer to impart certain qualities to the paper, including weight, surface gloss, smoothness or reduced ink absorbency.

Conditioning: Allowing paper to adjust itself to the temperature and humidity of the printing plant prior to use.

C1S, C2S: Abbreviation for Coated One Side, Coated Two Sides.

Cotton Content Paper: Papers utilizing cotton fabrics and cotton linters. Papers made with cotton range from 25% to 100% cotton content.

Cover Paper: Durable, heavier weight papers, available in a variety of finishes and colours, used for the cover of pamphlets, annual reports, business cards etc.

Cross Grain: Alternate term for Against the Grain.

Curl: Undesirable distortion or waviness occurring to the paper due to the presence of excess moisture or humidity.

Cut Sizes: Refers to paper that is pre-cut and packaged in convenient sizes.


Density: Identifies the weight of paper compared to the volume. It is directly related to the paper’s absorbency, stiffness, and opacity.

Dull Finish: Flat (not glossy) finish on coated paper, slightly smoother than matt.

Duplex: Paper having a different colour on each side.


Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF): Indicates virgin or recycled fiber that is bleached with chlorine dioxide or other chlorine compounds. This process significantly reduces hazardous dioxins, but does not completely eliminate them.

Embossed Finish: A finish imparted to a web of paper through an embossing machine. The paper will take on a raised or depressed surface resembling wood, cloth, leather, or other patterns.

Engraving: Printing by the intaglio process. Ink is applied to the paper under extreme pressure resulting in a printed surface being raised. Used for fine letterheads, wedding invitations, etc.


Felt Finish: A finish applied to the paper at the wet end of the paper machine by using felts of a distinctive weave rather than standard or regular wove felts.

Fiber Orientation: Refers to the alignment of the fibers in the sheet. The degree of alignment can be controlled in the paper making process.

Fine Papers: Types of papers used for writing, printing, and cultural purposes. Also called graphic papers.

Folio: Refer to sheet size 17 x 22″ or larger.

Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC® ): A worldwide organization certifies sustainable forestry practices and encourages the use of FSC® certified paper.

Formation: Characteristic of paper referring to the distribution of fibers as perceived when the sheet is lighted from behind. Good formation means fibers appear uniform; poor formation means they appear in clumps.


Gloss Paper: Paper with a coating that reflects light well, as compared to dull or matted coated paper.

Grade: The classification given to paper due to its unique characteristics, which includes brightness, opacity, cotton content, etc.

Grain Direction: The direction of the fibers in paper.

Grammage: The basis weight of paper stated in metric terms of grams per square meter and expressed as g/m2. Thus a sheet of paper 17 x 22″ with a basis weight of 20 lbs. For 500 sheets would be expressed metrically as 75 g/m2. To convert from basis weight to grams per square meter (g/m2), multiply basis weight by 1406.5 (a constant factor) and divide by the number of square inches in base sheet.


House Sheet: Paper kept in stock by a printer and suitable for a wide variety of printing jobs. Also called floor sheet.


Ink Holdout: An important printing paper quality – the ability to keep ink on top of the paper’s surface. An inked image printed on paper with a high degree of ink holdout will dry by oxidation rather than absorption.

In-Line: Denotes a production line of machinery, as required for the more or less complete manufacturing of a given product.


Jog: To align sheets of paper into a compact pile.


Laid: Term describes the finish imparted by a dandy roll which features wires parallel to its axis that impress the paper during manufacture to produce a permanent watermark. The wires which produce the laid effect are situated parallel on the dandy roll and are not interwoven with the traverse chain wires which encircle the dandy roll’s circumference, meaning the cross direction.

Lignin: Substance in trees that hold cellulose fibers together. If not removed from pulp, lignin causes paper to discolour and deteriorate rapidly. Free sheet has most lignin removed. Groundwood paper contains lignin.

Linen Finish: A paper embossed to have a surface resembling linen cloth.

Lint: Fibers not securely bonded to paper, thus liable to come off during printing and cause Picking.

Long Grain: Term used to designate that the grain of the paper is parallel to the longest measurement of a sheet of paper. The fibers are aligned parallel to the length of the sheet.


Machine Direction: Establishes the grain direction, which is always parallel with the travel of the paper over the wire.

Matt finish: Flat (not glossy) finish on photographic paper or coated printing paper.

Micrometer: Instrument for measuring the thickness of paper in microns.

Mic: To measure the thickness of materials such as paper and plates using a micrometer.

Mill Brand: Paper which is brand-named by the manufacturer as opposed to the merchant house, which is known as a “private brand”.


Neutral pH: Offset papers manufactured with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0 on a scale of .0 to 14.0. Neutral pH factors are built into paper as a minimum value, to increase stability and improve permanence for use in printing of archival records.

NCR Paper: Abbreviation for No Carbon Required paper, a brand name of carbonless paper.


Offset Paper: Coated or uncoated paper specifically for offset printing.

Opacity: Sometimes referred to as “show-through” this term refers to the property of a sheet which prevents dark print areas from showing through the paper to the other side.

Opaque: The more opaque a sheet of paper is, the less transparent it is. High opacity in printing papers is a good characteristic as print from the other side of a printed leaf has less “show-through”.


pH value: Degree of acidity or alkalinity measured on a scale from 0 to 14 with 7 the neutral point. Measurement of pH is important to quality control in making paper and pigments and in the preparation of platemaking chemicals. pH control of press fountain solutions is also essential to assure maximum plate-life and uniform ink drying. From 0 to 7 is acid; from 7 to 14 is alkaline.

Picking: Fibers in the paper which tend to pull away from the surface during the printing process. This occurs when the tack or pull of the ink is greater than the surface strength of the paper.

Post-Consumer Waste (PCW): Indicates material that is collected from end-users and recycled. PCW is the preferred form of recycled material because it reduces pressure on our remaining forests, saves water and energy, and diverts solid waste from our landfills.

Pre-Consumer Waste: Excess material from the manufacturing process that never made it to the consumer and is recycled back through the mill.

Premium Paper: Paper considered by its manufacturers to be better than #1 paper.

Pressure Sensitive Paper: Designates paper that is coated on one or both sides with adhesive. This adhesive is activated by pressure. Usually used in the manufacture of labels and tapes.

Printability: How well a particular sheet appears after the printing process in regards to ink receptivity, uniformity, smoothness, compressibility and opacity. It involves a complex interrelationship of many paper properties. Best methods for predicting printability are those which simulate actual printing conditions and which are reproducible from test to test.

Process Chlorine Free (PCF): Indicates that fiber is recycled and is unbleached or bleached with non-chlorine compounds. PCF papers cannot be considered totally chlorine-free because of the unknown bleaching process of its recycled content.


Ream Wrapped: Paper which has been separated into reams and individually packaged or wrapped.

Recycled Paper: Paper made from old paper pulp; used paper is cooked in chemicals and reduced back to pulp, after it is de-inked.

Roll: Web of paper. Paper wound around a core or shaft to form a continuous roll or web of paper.

Runnability: Paper’s performance on a press and its ability to withstand the stresses of a running press unaltered. Not the same as printability.


Safety (Security) Paper: Paper made to show evidence of erasure and prevent duplication or tampering.

Score/Scoring: The process and the resulting line or crease mechanically impressed in the paper to facilitate folding while guarding against cracking of paper and board. Scoring is essential when heavyweight papers are to be folded across the grain.

Sheet: Term which may be applied to a single sheet, a grade of paper, or a description of paper, i.e. coated, uncoated, offset, letterpress, etc.

Short Grain: Opposite of long grain. The grain of the paper runs at the right angles to the longest dimension of the sheet. Fiber alignment in short grain paper parallels the sheet’s shortest dimension.

Show-Through: In printing, the undesirable condition in which the printing on the reverse side of a sheet can be seen through the sheet under normal lighting conditions.

Specialty Papers: Paper or board that is manufactured, or subsequently converted, for a specific use. These grades usually cannot be used for anything other than their intended special purpose.

Specifications: Complete and precise written description of all project details required, abbreviated Specs.

Stocking Merchant: Paper distributor that stocks in his own warehouse facilities enough paper to immediately fill anticipated orders in the market. This eliminates the delay of ordering from the paper manufacturer, taking delivery, and delivering to the customer.

Swatch: Same as sample book. A grouping of papers which is usually in bound form. It displays the weights, colours, finishes and other particulars of a collection of papers to aid in the selection of grades.


Tensile Strength: Tensile strength relates to the stress and strain to which paper is subjected in its many end use applications. It is defined as the maximum force required to break a paper strip of a given width under prescribed laboratory conditions. Tensile strength is usually defined as pounds-per-inch width of the testing strip, or as kilograms per 15-millimeter width. Tensile strength is measured in both the grain and cross-grain directions, however, it is always greater in the grain direction.

Text Paper: A general term applied to various grades of printing paper designed for deluxe printed booklets, programs, announcements and advertising. May be watermarked.

Tolerance: Permissible degree of variation from a pre-set standard.

Totally Chlorine Free (TCF): The virgin fiber (including virgin tree-free fiber) is 100 percent unbleached or bleached with non-chlorine compounds. It may also include wood or alternative fibers, such as kenaf. The term TCF cannot be used on recycled paper because the content of the original paper is unknown.

Translucent Papers: Papers that will allow information to be seen through them but not totally clear like acetate.

Tree-Free fiber: Includes many crops, such as kenaf and industrial hemp, which are grown specifically for their fiber content. These tend to grow faster than trees and are more efficient per acre. Tree-free fibers are also derived from agricultural by-products, such as sugarcane bagasse, and industrial by-products like cotton scraps.


Uncoated Paper: Paper that has not been coated.

Uniformity: Being uniform in the structure of the paper, the colour and finish.


Watermark: Term referring to the impression of a design, pattern or symbol in a sheet while it is being formed on the paper machine wire. It appears in the finished sheet as either a lighter or darker area than the rest of the paper.

Whiteness: Whiteness of pulp and paper is generally indicated by its brightness.

With the Grain: Parallel to the direction in which the paper fibers lie.

Wove: Finish characterized by the impressions of a felt dandy roll covered in woven wire and without laid lines.

Writing Paper: A general term applied to papers used for writing purposes.

Wood-free Paper: Paper created exclusively from chemical pulp rather than mechanical pulp. Chemical pulp is normally made from pulpwood, but is not considered wood as most of the lignin is removed and separated from the cellulose fibers during processing, whereas mechanical pulp retains most of its wood components and can therefore still be described as wood. Wood-free paper is not as susceptible to yellowing as paper containing mechanical pulp.

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