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The glossary of paper


Amour : This is not paper for words of love but paper which loves ink.

Azure : In order to mask any deficiency in the whiteness of their sheets, paper manufacturers add blue colour to the pulp (Prussian blue, indigo, or Joseph blue) which gives white pages an almost bluish tint.


Bale : A bale is a bundle of ten reams of paper.

Broke : Scrapped paper or offcuts from the manufacturing or cutting process. To break the spine of a pad, no need to drop it! All you have to do is press inside the binding when you open it; its sheets will soon become loose.


Charcoal : Drawing charcoal – the oldest of all drawing materials – is simply wood charcoal. It was used by prehistoric man to decorate cave walls.

Core : The core is the central cardboard tube of the paper roll. Its dimensions are not the fruit of chance, as each client, processor or printer gives the paper manufacturers the inside diameter of the core used on his machines.

Cut : The edges of pads and albums are evened out with a guillotine. The sheets are cut to size. The cut-offs are collected for recycling factories. As for your computer, even though it sometimes cuts out, it still enables you to cut out the unwanted parts of your photos to make beautiful prints.


Deckle edges : Fringed edges of hand-made paper. If they are to be cut, a wooden tool is used, leaving a few fringes.

Dryer : An airy wooden drying rack used to be mounted above the paper mills. On stretched wires, the workmen used to dry the sheets of paper (five or six at a time). They used to lay them down carefully with a ferlet (T-shaped instrument). Later on, wooden pegs similar to clothes pegs were used.


<Engraving : Ink imprint on a flexible medium, such as paper, produced using a matrix. Often, a number of copies are made, thereby enabling the artist to increase the distribution of his artwork. Dürer is the uncontested master of copper engraving, which is the best known engraving technique.


Flimsy : Paper which was long used for making carbon copies of letters either by pressing or by using carbon paper on a typewriter. Nowadays, those thin sheets of paper have disappeared from the shelves of retailers, as they have been replaced by photocopiers.

Formation : Aspect of the paper observed through transparency. The formation is said to be closed when the paper is regular with a uniform surface and good opacity; it becomes marbled when very small clusters of fibres are evenly distributed and cloudy when the fibres are unevenly distributed and produce shadows.


Glazing : To make a sheet as smooth as glass, the papermaker crushes the grain. As the paper is pressed between the cylinders of a calender or rolling mill, the fibres are compressed and the irregularities disappear.

Guillotine : In 1848, Guillaume Massiquot (1797 – 1870), a knife-maker from Issoudun, invents a machine with a blade for paper cutting. The machine, which was initially operated manually, was later motorised, then computerised.


Inking ball : The French expression "Enfant de la balle" (child of the ball) stems from the printing industry rather than the circus world. The inking ball is a horse-hair pad covered with fabric or leather, used to ink over the character boards. The "Enfant de la balle" was the compositor's helper, the son of a typographer, who had been in the workshop from his earliest childhood.


Lay : The layer turns the mould over onto a wool felt on which he carefully lays the damp sheet so as not to spoil it. He then covers it with another felt and repeats the process until his post (stack of 100 sheets alternating with 101 felts) is complete so it can be pressed.


Marbled (paper) : In a vat containing water and gum tragacanth (binder for dry pastels), the paper-maker pours inks which spread and form patterns. With a stick and a comb, he steers and deforms them until the desired effect is obtained. The paper-maker then delicately lays a sheet of paper on the surface, thereby transferring the pattern onto the sheet. The last stage consists in drying the sheet.

Mi-Teintes® : Mid-tone colours to increase the diversity of the range – something which artists had been waiting for. With colouring in the pulp, the Canson® paper mills produced the forerunner of Mi-Teintes® . This paper, which boasts a high cotton content, features a honeycomb grain on the top surface and a finer grain on the back for pastel, charcoal, and red chalk drawings, for framing or for craftwork.

Mould : Sieve consisting of a wooden frame holding stretched wires and a copper or brass mesh. For each paper size, there is a pair of moulds. A removable wooden frame, known as the deckle frame, prevents the stock from running off. With the mould, the opener scoops up the stock from the vat. Together, the mould and deckle frame make up a toilette.


Opacity : Most drawing papers are opaque. However, the thinner the paper, the more translucent it is. Only tracing paper, which has no mineral load, really allows reproduction through transparency (plans, maps, etc.)


Packing : The paper reams used to be wrapped in thick brown paper in a packing room.

Papers : Writing for the papers or the yearning of any would-be journalist.

Papier mâché : literally stands for "chewed paper" in French.

Pastel : Pastel is a dry paste composed of finely ground pigments and binding agents (gum or resin), moulded into round or square sticks.

Pigeon : Paper makers have a penchant for bird names. The rossignol (nightingale) and perroquet (parrot) are parts of the production vat (horizontal and angle supports). As for the pigeon, it is not made of flesh, but of paper. When the gelatine does not penetrate into a part of the sheet, it gives rise to pigeons making the paper unusable.


Rag : Rags were once a precious commodity as they were the raw material of papermakers of yesteryears. But let's be clear, only nice, clean rags are used and sorted into specific categories according to their characteristics (thickness, colour, etc.).

Ream : In papermaking, this term comes from the Arabic word rizmah which means packet or bale. A ream of paper consists of five hundred sheets, i.e. twenty hands of twenty five sheets.

Resistance  Resistance to corrections made to an already painted area. For example, watercolour paper with good resistance to repeated washing allows easy retouching by cleaning the paper with water, using a sponge or paintbrush. No traces of the watercolours remain and the paper can be worked on again. 

Roller Papers such as drawing and watercolour papers are generally not watermarked. Instead they bear a roller mark. Rollers with engraved relief drawings or text press against the edges of the damp sheet on the machine. The hollow imprint will remain in the dried paper as a trademark and proof of quality. 


Size : Where do paper sizes come from? In olden times, a pattern or a letter drawn from the daily life of the paper makers and imprinted in the paper used to give it its name. People used to buy raisin paper (50 x 65cm) as it bore the imprint of a bunch of grapes, coquille paper (44 x 56cm), Jesus paper (56 x 76cm) with the imprint of Jesus' monogram – JHS –grand aigle paper (75 x 110cm), etc. Today, the poetic aspect has been set aside in favour of the standardised sizes defined in Germany around 1940 and adopted in France in 1972. Mathematicians are happy as all the sizes of the DIN A series are homothetic. Size A0 corresponds to 1 m2 with a width-to-length ratio equal to √2 (1.4142135) 84.1cm x 118.9 cm, size A1 is 59.4 cm x 84.1 cm……, and size A10 is 2.6 cm x 3.7 cm.


Vat : The opener (qualified workman) dips his mould into a large softwood vat with staves, which contains the paper pulp mixed with a large amount of water. To keep the pulp warm, a copper cylinder containing embers is slid into the oven and is kept at the proper temperature by the apprentice.


Wash : This consists in applying flat watercolours with a paintbrush or spots of ink thinned out with water, thereby making the colours lighter.



Excerpt from Marie-Hélène Reynaud's book "d’art et de papier"