Paper Grain

After Monday’s Mini Bunting Cake Topper post, I got to thinking about paper grain and wondered if people were aware of it since I know I was unaware until taking a book making course in college. Thus, today my goal is enlightenment on paper grain and how to find the direction the grain is running.

For those who aren’t aware, all machine-made paper has a grain, be it printer paper, cardstock, scrapbook paper, etc. (Handmade paper does not have a grain, usually.) This grain comes about in the paper making process when the paper pulp, or fibers, are shaken on their screens to remove the water the fibers are floating in. The fibers are shaken more in one direction than the other, thus creating a grain. I could get into the whole process of paper making but it’s been a few years since my class and that would be off topic. : )

Why does it matter? Paper folds better when it’s folded with the grain as opposed to against it. I can remember making cards when I was younger and I couldn’t figure out why some paper folded so nicely and some paper gnarled and crinkled. It’s all about the grain.

So how does one find the grain direction? Sometimes, you can tell which direction the fibers are running by looking closely at the paper. I couldn’t get a picture of that so here are a few other simple checks.

Gentle Bends:

Take one of the corners and bend it in either direction (top-down and left-to-right).

Whichever way bends easier runs with the grain. The fold in the right side picture folded easier so the grain runs from top to bottom.

And should be folded, for whatever uses, in this direction.

(You can bend the whole piece of paper top-down, left-to-right though, sometimes, it’s harder to tell because it’s such a big bend. The paper could pretend to go a certain way even though it really shouldn’t. Using a small bit in the corner is more accurate.)

If you are still unsure (some high quality machine-made paper are hard to decipher), there is another check.

Water Bath:

In a corner of the piece you are working with, draw a little hatch-mark doodle, with lines going from top to bottom and left to right. You don’t have to use solid and dotted lines but it does make the last step easier.

Cut out a square from that corner, including your doodle. Try to make the square as square-ish as possible, not rectangle-y, like mine. If the paper isn’t even, it might not work.

Then toss it into a bit of water. Sorry about the dirty bowl. It’s a paint water container.

Paper curls when it’s wet and it curls with the grain. See it begin to curl?

Take it out

and line it up with your doodle.

The grain of this paper runs in the direction of the solid lines.

Feel enlightened? You’re welcome.

Take care.

-amy c


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About Amy Christie

Amy is a wife, mother of two and a maker. Making is her thing whether it is food, DIYs or photos of her children. Follow Amy on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin, Twitter, and through her once-a-month newsletter to keep up with the latest from this heart of mine.

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