Artist PAPERS
Artists & Illustrators|October 2020
Artist PAPERS
Confused by terms like “cotton rag”, “cold pressed” and “cylinder mould made”? Picking perfect paper can be perplexing, but luckily our experts have got all the answers

WHAT IS THE BEST ARTIST PAPER FOR ME?

There is no simple answer to this question. Many individual factors, such as your medium, subject and budget, come into play. Couple this with the enormous choice on the market and it can be overwhelming. But one thing is for sure – artist paper should be acid free. This optimises its structure, minimises deterioration and prevents fading and yellowing.

WHAT MATERIAL OF PAPER SHOULD I PICK?

Paper is made from interwoven fibres which, in the case of fine art papers, are often plant fibres. For example, wood pulp is used to make cartridge paper, a paper typically used for drawing and printmaking as it tends to be smooth with a very light, uniform grain.

Wood-free paper is, confusingly, made from wood pulp too, but the lignin that causes the paper to yellow and deteriorate is removed, upping its archival credentials. The best archival grade paper, however, is made from 100% cotton rag. Not only does it last the longest, but it is also the strongest and the most suitable for water-based media.

WHAT IS SIZING?

This sort of sizing is not referring to a paper’s measurements, but a glue-like sealant traditionally made of gelatin. Incorporated during the production process, “internal sizing” toughens the structure of the paper and increases its durability.

Meanwhile, “surface sizing” (also known as “tub-sizing”) involves size being applied to the surface and it is a feature that watercolourists should look out for.

Jane Fisher, director at Pegasus Art, explains: “The surface size creates the surface for watercolour to smoothly flow, so, if you’re using watercolour or ink, you tend to look for a surface-sized paper. And watercolour papers all have an internal size as well.”

Hahnemühle’s Garry Simms adds: “If the paper wasn’t sized, the colour would just soak into it. You wouldn’t get any sharp edges – it would just be like using a blotting paper. So, the sizing helps the paper to absorb the colours in a controlled way.”

HOW DO MACHINEMADE PAPERS DIFFER?

There are two types of paper machines: cylinder and fourdrinier. Only a few cylinder machines remain in use and they require skilled craftsmen. One, dating back to 1907, is in use at St Cuthberts Mill in Somerset, while another belongs to German manufacturer Hahnemühle, which also operates a fourdrinier machine.

Garry compares the two: “On the mould made machine, the fibres are laid down in all different directions giving the paper more strength. On the fourdrinier machine, the fibres tend to lay in the same direction, so it doesn’t have much strength. It’s more of a high-speed production machine.”

Although fourdrinier papers are more consistent, they are less popular with artists.

HOW DO I STRETCH PAPER?

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October 2020