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Paper and its many finishes

Even though we commonly refer to most printing papers as coated or uncoated, there is still a myriad of finishes in the art of paper manufacturing. Here are some examples:

MF: Machine Finished is the ordinary finish from the paper making machine, and has a medium-smooth finish.

SC: Super Calendared has been glazed by the application of pressure and friction in a stack of steel rollers, and has smooth surface.

Newsprint can be made from wood pulp and can be MF or machine glazed.

MG: Machine Glazed which is glazed on one side only through contact with a large steam heated drum (eg MG Litho).

Writings: Bonds, Banks or Ledgers are well sized for use with writing inks, and are usually made from rags or chemical wood pulp. The size prevents the penetration of the fluid inks.

Roll Coated or Machine Coated Art is made and coated (in the one process on the paper-making machine) with China Clay.

Brush Coated Art is made and later coated with China Clay on a separate machine.

Pasteboard is a board made from one or more layers of pulp, pasted, and lined on both sides with paper.

Pulpboard is made on a cylinder-type paper making machine where a layer of good pulp is backed by an inferior pulp to give required bulk.

Ivory Board is a quality board made from quality pulp, either glazed or matt finished.

System Board is a fine quality, hard-sized board made from two or more sheets pasted together.

Antique Paper is a sheet that has not passed through the last rollers. It is left ‘rough’ and is, in reality, unfinished. Used mostly for book work. Prints line work well.

Cartridge Paper is strong and tough, with a medium-rough finish. Cartridge paper – the name of which is derived from use in making cartridges - is suitable for offset printing and envelopes.

Tinted Papers are obtained by adding the required dye to the pulp before it goes through the paper-making machine. 

Parchment True vegetable parchment papers are waterproof and greaseproof. Produced by chemical process, imitation parchments are made by prolonged beating of wood pulp, which destroys the fibres, leaving a jelly-like mass.

Hard or soft paper

Paper is said to be hard or soft according to the amount of sizing applied to it. Sizing is the treatment of paper (eg with a product such as starch) so it resists the penetration of liquids or vapours. Offset, Banks & Bond stocks are usually hard papers. Blotting, News and MF are all soft papers.

Sizing is applied by two different methods:

Engine Sizing The resin size is applied to the paper pulp in the beating engines. It is the cheapest and quickest method of sizing.

Tub Sizing The size is applied to the paper after manufacture by passing the paper through a vat or tub of gelatine size which penetrates into the paper and seals the surface. This gives a harder and more impervious surface finish and is used for better quality Bonds and Ledgers.


Most paper is made from cellulose plant fibre obtained from wood, straw and esparto; although hemp, cotton and linen fibres obtained from waste rags and other sources are also used. In Australia, most fine papers are made from wood. It is pulped or broken down into its fibres either by mechanically disintegrating it, or by chemical process. The pulp is subjected to various bleaching, digesting and refining processes. Fillers such as white clay or titanium dioxide are added to it to improve the surface and colour of the paper. Size (starch) is also added to stiffen the paper and reduce absorbency.

Paper coatings Coated papers are graded A1, A2 and A3 in descending order of quality. Coated papers produce a sharper impression than uncoated papers and give much better resolution of halftones and fine detail. During paper-making, a thin layer of pigment (white clay or calcium carbonate), combined with various additives, is applied to the paper's surface. Coatings can be gloss (reflective), suede, satin or dull (low or little reflection), or matt (non-reflective).

Textured papers Paper may be embossed during paper-making by feeding the sheet between two rollers that impress a pattern into its surface. These patterns are known by the different textures they simulate, for example, linen, leather and felt etc.

Recycled paper Recycled paper may be composed entirely of recycled fibres or a blend of recycled and new fibres. Paper made from raw materials, usually wood, is known as 'virgin' fibre paper because it has been made into paper for the first time. Recycled content could be described as 'post-industrial waste' where paper has been through a manufacturing process and has then been returned to the mill for repulping. It may include residues or by-products from other industries not usually associated with paper-making; or it may comprise off-cuts, remainders, spoiled work or 'broke' (spoilage and waste from the paper mill). 'Post-consumer waste' describes paper that has been collected after use and returned for processing.

Most paper mills and distributors identify recycled papers by the percentage of recycled fibres they contain and their suitability for particular uses. The archival properties of recycled paper depends on the types of waste paper used as the fibre source. If the collected waste paper can be sorted, different grades of papers and boards can be made.

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