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A Handy Glossary of Paper Terms


Acid-free paper:
Paper manufactured in a neutral or slightly alkaline pH environment, usually buffered with calcium carbonate, to prevent the internal chemical deterioration of paper over time. Because of the absence of acid or acid-producing chemicals, the paper is more environmentally sound and is more stable over long periods of time.

 Archival paper:
Acid-free or neutral paper that will not deteriorate over time.

Bond :
Old term for paper used to print bonds, its qualities are strength, performance and durability. Cut-size and writing papers are often identified with the bond scale; may be cotton, chemical wood pulp, or both.

Brightness :
A papers degree of reflectivity measured in a narrow spectral range lab test.

Bristols :
Heavy-grade papers with better than average quality characteristics. Originally made in Bristol, England.

A measure of paper thickness expressed in units of a thousandth (1/1000th) of an inch

Carbonless Paper
Carbonless Paper can make a copy of a document without the use of any electronics.

Coated Papers :
Made with a surface coating for maximum smoothness and ink holdout in the printing process. Coated papers are available in a range of finishes from dull to matte and gloss.

Cockle finish:
A rough, uneven, hard paper finish. Most frequently manufactured in bond papers.

Deckle edge:
Refers to the feathered edge on paper produced when fibers flow against the deckle or edge of the web.

Felt finish:
Highly tactile and soft textured, felt finish papers are ideal for special techniques such as embossing and foil stamping.

Finish :
A papers surface characteristics like smoothness, appearance and gloss.

Grain Direction :
The direction in which most paper fibers lie; a factor to consider for achieving the best results in printing, folding and converting.

Laid Finish :
A linear pattern applied by a dandy roll while the paper is still very wet to mimic the look of hand-made paper.

Laser paper:
Manufactured in cut sizes, it is very smooth and low in moisture to prevent curling from the high heat in laser printers and copiers.

Linen Finish :
A woven-like textured effect produced by embossing a web of paper with a patterned steel roll.

Opacity :
A paper's ability to prevent light transmission through it. More opaque papers have less show-through.

Offset Paper:
Uncoated paper designed for use in offset lithography. Important properties include good internal bonding, high surface strength, dimensional stability, lack of curl, and freedom from foreign surface material.

To simulate the look of ancient parchment, which was made from animal skin, text and cover versions are made with a variegated surface, translucent colors and rigid feel. Parchment is often used for diplomas, certificates and contracts.

Postconsumer recycled fiber:
Fiber recovered for papermaking from postconsumer waste paper.

Postconsumer waste:
A material or product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal after passing through the hands of a final user. PCW is a part of the broader category “recycled material”.

Recycled Paper :
Papers containing postconsumer fiber can currently be called recycled. Federal Executive Order calls for a minimum for 30% postconsumer fiber for uncoated paper and 15% for coated.

Text and Cover Papers:
A class of high-quality uncoated papers in a wide variety of colors and textures. Text is usually made with a matching or coordinating cover.

Vellum Finish :
Natural or machine finish, such as antique or eggshell.

Watermark :
Historically used to convey a sense of quality, a slightly more translucent design impressed on paper by the raised pattern of the dandy roll during manufacture.

Wove Finish :
An uncoated paper with a smooth surface.

Writing Paper :
Designed for letterheads —suitable for pen and ink, pencil, laser printing, offset printing and copiers.


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