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Glossary of Paper Terms

As a paper merchant in addition to being a manufacturer and printer, we offer a powerful
mix of expertise, product, and cost savings. We invite you to utilize the useful industry terms
below as a resource or Contact Us to assist you with your paper selection for your upcoming projects.

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The properties within paper that cause it to absorb liquids (inks, water, etc.) which come in contact with it.
Acid-Free Paper
Paper made from pulp having little acid so that it resists deterioration from age. Also called alkaline or archival paper.
Against the Grain
At a right angle to the grain direction of paper. Also called accoss the grain and cross grain.
Antique Finish
A paper finish that has a rougher, tactile surface. Usually used in natural white or cream-white colors.
Archival Paper
Acid-free, resists disintegration. Used for documents that must last.
Basic Size
The standard sheet size of a given paper grade. Used to calculate basis weight.
Basis Weight
In North America, the weight in pounds per ream of paper cut to its basic size in inches.
Bond Paper
Strong, durable writing paper, consisting of wood, cotton, or both. Most commonly used for letterheads, stationery, business forms, etc.
The reflectance of paper when measured under a specially calibrated wave of blue light.
General term referring to paper 6 points or thicker with basis weight between 90 lbs and 200 lbs.
Broken Carton
A selling unit referring to any amount of paper less than one full carton.
Bursting Strength
The point to which paper can withstand pressure without rupturing.
Roman numeral for one hundred (100). For example, CWT stands for hundredwieght, which is commonly used to express quantities of paper. See Hundredweight.
To impart a smooth finish on paper by passing a web of paper between polished metal rolls to increase gloss and smoothness.
The thickness of a sheet paper, in thousandths of an inch (points or mils).
Carbonless Paper
Paper coated with chemicals that enable transfer of images from one sheet to another with pressure from writing or typing.
A carton contains anywhere from 500 to 3,000 sheets, depending on the size of sheets and their basis weight.
Abbreviation referring to carbonless paper coated on its back side only.
Abbreviation referring to carbonless paper coated on its front side only.
Abbreviation referring to carbonless paper coated on its front and back sides.
Close Formation
Uniform density in a sheet of paper. Also see Formation.
Layer of clay and other substances applied to base stock to create the surface of coated paper.
Cockle Finish
A rough, uneven, hard paper finish. Most frequently manufactured in bond papers.
Allowing paper to adjust itself to the temperature and humidity of the printing plant prior to use.
C1S, C2S
Abbreviation for Coated One Side, Coated Two Sides.
Cotton Content Paper
Papers utilizing cotton fabrics and cotton linters. Papers made with cotton range from 25% to 100% cotton content.
Cover Paper
Durable, heavier weight papers, available in a variety of finishes and colors, used for the cover of pamphlets, annual reports, business cards etc.
Cross Grain
Alternate term for Against the Grain.
Undesirable distortion or waviness occurring to the paper due to the presence of excess moisture or humidity.
Cut Sizes
Papers cut 8 x 11", 8 x 14", or any other size 11 x 17" or smaller.
Abbreviation of hundredweight. Also see C
Identifies the weight of paper compared to the volume; it is directly related to the paper's absorbency, stiffness, and opacity.
Dimensional Stability
Characteristic of paper to retain its dimensions in all directions under the stress of production and adverse changes in humidity.
Dull Finish
Flat (not glossy) finish on coated paper, slightly smoother than matte.
Paper having a different color on each side.
Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF)
Indicates virgin or recycled fiber that is bleached with chlorine dioxide or other chlorine compounds. This process significantly reduces hazardous dioxins, but does not completely eliminate them.
Embossed Finish
A finish imparted to a web of paper through an embossing machine. The paper will take on a raised or depressed surface resembling wood, cloth, leather, or other pattern.
Felt Finish
A finish applied to the paper at the wet end of the paper machine by using felts of a distinctive weave rather than standard or regular wove felts.
Fiber Orientation
Refers to the alignment of the fibers in the sheet. The degree of alignment can be controlled in the paper making process.
Fine Papers
Types of papers used for writing, printing, and cultural purposes. Also called graphic papers.
Refers to sheet size 17 x 22" or larger.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
A worldwide organization certifies sustainable forestry practices and encourages the use of FSC certified paper.
Characteristic of paper referring to the distribution of fibers as perceived when the sheet is lighted from behind. Good formation means fibers appear uniform; poor formation means they appear in clumps.
Gloss Paper
Paper with a coating that reflects light well, as compared to dull or matted coated paper.
The classification given to paper due to its unique characteristics, which includes brightness, opacity, cotton content, etc.
Grain Direction
The direction of the fibers in paper.
Grain Long Paper
Term used to designate that the grain of the paper is parallel to the longest measurement of a sheet of paper. The fibers are aligned parallel to the length of the sheet.
Grain Short Paper
Opposite of grain long. Grain of the paper runs at the right angles to the longest dimension of the sheet. Fiber alignment in grain short paper parallels the sheet's shortest dimension.
The basis weight of paper stated in metric terms of grams per square meter and expressed as g/m2. Thus a sheet of paper 17 x 22" with a basis weight of 20 lbs. For 500 sheets would be expressed metrically as 75 g/m2. To convert from basis weight to grams per square meter (g/m2), multiply basis weight by 1406.5 (a constant factor) and divide by the number of square inches in base sheet.
House Sheet
Paper kept in stock by a printer and suitable for a wide variety of printing jobs. Also called floor sheet.
100 pounds in North America, 112 pounds in the United Kingdom, abbreviated CWT. For example, paper that costs $60 CWT in North America, costs $60 per 100 pounds of paper.
Bristol paper made for products such as index cards and file folders.
Ink Holdout
An important printing paper quality - the ability to keep ink on top of the paper's surface. An inked image printed on paper with a high degree of ink holdout will dry by oxidation rather than absorption.
Denotes a production line of machinery, as required for the more or less complete manufacturing of a given product.
To align sheets of paper into a compact pile.
A sustainable alternative to tree based paper.
Term describes the finish imparted by a dandy roll which features wires parallel to its axis that impress the paper during manufacture to produce a permanent watermark. The wires which produce the laid effect are situated parallel on the dandy roll and are not interwoven with the traverse chain wires which encircle the dandy roll's circumference, meaning the cross direction.
Maximum number of sheets handled by operator of guillotine cutting machine or by paper handler loading paper for printing.
Substance in trees that hold cellulose fibers together. If not removed from pulp, lignin causes paper to discolor and deteriorate rapidly. Free sheet has most lignin removed. Groundwood paper contains lignin.
Linen Finish
A paper embossed to have a surface resembling linen cloth.
Fibers not securely bonded to paper, thus liable to come off during printing and cause Picking.
Roman numeral for 1,000. In paper terminology, M refers to 1,000 sheets. For example, $109.95/M is $109.95 per 1,000 sheets.
M Weight
is the actual weight in pounds of 1000 sheets of paper regardless of the basic size or paper grade.
Machine Direction
Establishes the grain direction, which is always parallel with the travel of the paper over the wire.
In printing presses, all work done prior to running; adjusting the feeder, grippers, side guide, putting ink in the fountain, etc. Also, in letterpress, the building up of the press form, so that the heavy and light areas print with the correct impression.
Making Order
A quantity of paper manufactured to custom specifications such as special weights, colors, or sizes usually not available as standard stocking items. Paper mills offering this service establish minimum order requirements.
Manila Paper
Strong, buff-colored paper used to make envelopes and file folders.
Matte finish
Flat (not glossy) finish on photographic paper or coated printing paper.
Instrument for measuring the thickness of paper in microns.
To measure thickness of materials such as paper and plates using a micrometer.
Mill Brand
Paper which is brand-named by the manufacturer as opposed to the merchant house, which is known as a "private brand".
Neutral pH
Offset papers manufactured with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0 on a scale of .0 to 14.0. Neutral pH factors are built into paper as a minimum value, to increase stability and improve permanence for use in printing of archival records.
NCR Paper
Abbreviation for No Carbon Required paper, a brand name of carbonless paper.
Offset Paper
Coated or uncoated paper specifically for offset printing.
Sometimes referred to as "show-through" this term refers to the property of a sheet which prevents dark print areas from showing through the paper to the other side.
The more opaque a sheet of paper is, the less transparent it is. High opacity in printing papers is a good characteristic as print from the other side of a printed leaf has less "show-through".
pH value
Degree of acidity or alkalinity measured on a scale from 0 to 14 with 7 the neutral point. Measurement of pH is important to quality control in making paper and pigments and in the preparation of platemaking chemicals. pH control of press fountain solutions is also essential to assure maximum plate-life and uniform ink drying. From 0 to 7 is acid; from 7 to 14 is alkaline.
Fibers in the paper which tend to pull away from the surface during the printing process. This occurs when the tack or pull of the ink is greater than the surface strength of the paper.
Post-Consumer Waste (PCW)
Indicates material that is collected from end-users and recycled. PCW is the preferred form of recycled material because it reduces pressure on our remaining forests, saves water and energy, and diverts solid waste from our landfills.
Pre-Consumer Waste
Is excess material from the manufacturing process that never made it to the consumer and is recycled back through the mill.
Premium Paper
Paper considered by its manufacturers to be better than #1 paper.
Pressure Sensitive Paper
Designates paper that is coated on one or both sides with adhesive. This adhesive is activated by pressure. Usually used in the manufacture of labels and tapes.
How well a particular sheet appears after the printing process in regards to ink receptivity, uniformity, smoothness, compressibility and opacity. It involves a complex interrelationship of many paper properties. Best methods for predicting printability are those which simulate actual printing conditions and which are reproducible from test to test.
Process Chlorine Free (PCF)
Indicates that fiber is recycled and is unbleached or bleached with non-chlorine compounds. PCF papers cannot be considered totally chlorine-free because of the unknown bleaching process of its recycled content.
Price that states what a specific project will cost, based on supplied specifications.
Ream Wrapped
Paper which has been separated into reams and individually packaged or wrapped.
Recycled Paper
Paper made from old paper pulp; used paper is cooked in chemicals and reduced back to pulp, after it is de-inked.
Web of paper. Paper wound around a core or shaft to form a continuous roll or web of paper.
Paper's performance on a press and its ability to withstand the stresses of a running press unaltered. Not the same as printability.
Safety (Security) Paper
Paper made to show evidence of erasure and prevent duplication or tampering.
The process and the resulting line or crease mechanically impressed in the paper to facilitate folding while guarding against cracking of paper and board. Scoring is essential when heavyweight papers are to be folded across the grain.
Term which may be applied to a single sheet, a grade of paper, or a description of paper, i.e. coated, uncoated, offset, letterpress, etc.
In printing, the undesirable condition in which the printing on the reverse side of a sheet can be seen through the sheet under normal lighting conditions.
Specialty Papers
Paper or board that is manufactured, or subsequently converted, for a specific use. These grades usually cannot be used for anything other than their intended special purpose.
Complete and precise written description of all project details required, abbreviated Specs.
Stocking Merchant
Paper distributor that stocks in his own warehouse facilities enough paper to immediately fill anticipated orders in the market. This eliminates the delay of ordering from the paper manufacturer, taking delivery, and delivering to the customer.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
Started in 1994 by members of the American Forest and Paper Association, it is a program to certify forests to insure they are being managed in a sustainable manner.SFI relies upon independent, third-party audits. In 2005, the SFI Standard was endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Same as sample book. A grouping of papers, usually in bound form, that displays the weights, colors, finishes and other particulars of a collection of papers to aid in the selection of grades.
Grade of dense, strong paper used for products such as badges, and file folders.
Tensile Strength
Tensile strength relates to the stress and strain to which paper is subjected in its many end use applications. It is defined as the maximum force required to break a paper strip of a given width under prescribed laboratory conditions. Tensile strength is usually defined as pounds-per-inch width of the testing strip, or as kilograms per 15-millimeter width. Tensile strength is measured in both the grain and cross-grain directions, however, it is always greater in the grain direction.
Text Paper
A general term applied to various grades of printing paper designed for deluxe printed booklets, programs, announcements and advertising. May be watermarked.
Permissible degree of variation from a pre-set standard.
Characteristic of paper. A slightly rough paper which permits acceptance of ink readily.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF)
Means that 100 percent virgin fiber (including virgin tree-free fiber) is unbleached or bleached with non-chlorine compounds. It may also include wood or alternative fibers, such as kenaf. The term TCF cannot be used on recycled paper because the content of the original paper is unknown.
Translucent Papers
Papers that will allow information to be seen through them but not totally clear like acetate.
Tree-Free fiber
Includes many crops, such as kenaf and industrial hemp, which are grown specifically for their fiber content. These tend to grow faster than trees and are more efficient per acre. Tree-free fibers are also derived from agricultural by-products, such as sugarcane bagasse, and industrial by-products like cotton scraps.
Uncoated Paper
Paper that has not been coated.
Being uniform in the structure of the paper, the color and finish.
Term usually applied to a paper finish that exhibits a toothy surface which is very similar to eggshell or antique finishes. A vellum finish is relatively absorbent to provide good ink penetration.
Vellum Paper
Very strong, good quality, cream colored or natural paper made to impersonate calfskin parchment. Also, the term is often applied to the finish of paper rather than a grade of paper. Stationery is often referred to as vellum.
Virgin Stock
New, unused wood pulp.
Term referring to the impression of a design, pattern or symbol in a sheet while it is being formed on the paper machine wire. It appears in the finished sheet as either a lighter or darker area than the rest of the paper.
Whiteness of pulp and paper is generally indicated by its brightness.
With the Grain
Parallel to the direction in which the paper fibers lie.
Finish characterized by the impressions of a felt dandy roll covered in woven wire and without laid lines.
Writing Paper
A general term applied to papers used for writing purposes.