Published on Jan 24, 2020

Paper Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Paper is used all over the world, it is one of the most important and useful items ever invented by mankind – it is also one that a lot of us take for granted.

This article celebrates all things paper! And includes information on how it is made, the different types and some lesser known facts.

How It Is Made

Before diving right in, it is important to know some background information about trees. Trees are made up of layers. These layers are the bark, phloem, cambium, xylem and heartwood. All of these layers are made up of tiny cellulose strands called fibers; these fibers are stuck together by a natural adhesive called lignin. It is only by harvesting and separating these that we are able to make paper.


In its most basic form, the manufacture of paper can be broken down into 3 stages. Initially, wood is placed into a chipper and ground down into very small pieces. The wood chips are then placed in water where they are boiled; this creates wood pulp. Finally, chemicals such as starch and bonding agents are added and the pulp is poured over a thin mesh grate. This allows the water to escape leaving the cellulose fibers behind, the fibers left behind are what form paper.

Not all materials are the same though; trees can be categorized into either hardwood or softwood; which category the wood falls into effects the properties of the product created

The Types, Sizes and Weights

  • Paper suppliers have a lot of different consumer needs to fulfil as there is demand for a huge number of different styles for a huge number of purposes.
  • It comes in all different sizes and weights designed for different purposes. The thickness of paper is measured in grams per square meter or gsm; this is the weight of the paper when measured at 1 square meter.
  • Paper originates from different sources although these days most paper is made from recycled materials. That being said, in some instances paper is still made from pure wood pulp – this is called virgin paper.
  • The most well-known paper sizing is A4; the ‘A’ sizing chart is based upon the A0 paper size – A0 is 1 meter squared. Each ‘A’ sized piece of paper is half the size of the measurement above it i.e. a1 is half of A0, A2 is half of A1, A3 is half of A2 and so on. The smallest A sized paper commonly used is A6.

Onto the different types

Layout paper – This is a thin, white paper often used by designers for initial ideas. Layout paper generally takes colour media well and is of low cost.

Tracing paper – a childhood favourite of mine. Tracing paper is a translucent paper that allows people to take copies of drawings. Due to the extra processes needed during manufacture tracing paper usually has a relatively high cost.

Cartridge Paper

Cartridge paper is a generally high quality, multi-purpose paper. It is available is in a variety of weights and sizes to tailor it to the type of work that needs doing. Its medium cost and versatility makes it a favourite of this author.

Bleed proof paper – this is a smooth, high quality paper designed to be used with liquid based paints or pens. It has a medium costing

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