Paper maketh the book.
Paper to book is like water to human.
Paper makes the bulk of a book.
Well, you get the picture. Paper is important in the bookbinding process.
But there are so many types out there!?
Just search the web and you will find a wide range of papers.
Because we’ll be covering every aspect of paper that you’d need to know as a bookbinding enthusiast. Yes we admit, there are many other types of papers for different forms of arts beyond bookbinding, so let’s stick to our core topic here – paper for bookbinding.
Keep that in mind and let’s get started!
Paper for Bookbinding
- Types of paper
- Uses for paper
- Where to buy paper for bookbinding
- What WE usually use
- Other tips about paper
This post is part of our Bookbinding Materials Series, you can read the previous article about Bookbinding Threads, or get the full list of articles at the Bookbinding Resources Page.
Today, we aim to take a look at the types of paper used in bookbinding.
And hopefully make it easier for you to decide on the type of paper for your next bookbinding project.
So let’s dive in!
Types of paper
Depending on the type of book you are working on, there are several types of paper you can choose from.
Certain types of paper are frequently preferred for specific uses. We’ll explore more on this later.
First, let’s talk about the various types of papers you’d probably use in your bookbinding project.
Easily available at stationery stores and usually sold in reams.
Most commonly available in white and weighs within the range of 70 – 100 gsm.
We usually use these to form our book signatures due to its availability and cost.
I like to use thinner copier paper because they are much easier to fold and punch holes with. You might want to select the thickness of your paper depending on your desired book.
For example, if you are making a sketch book, you might want to choose thicker paper to withstand the corrections made during sketching.
Or, if you are making a journal, you might want to use copier paper that comes with ruled lines or pre-printed lines. These may be useful for writing.
You can also choose to design your own book signatures, print them out onto copier paper and make a book from there. The possibilities are limitless.
Similar to copier paper, and comes in a wide variety of colors. May be thinner than copier paper.
If you are into scrapbooking, you may be using construction paper more often.
Construction paper can be used to build book signatures, however they are more commonly used as endpaper.
Comes in a variety of color and finish, art papers are usually thicker compared to copier paper.
Their weights can lie in the range of 170 – 400 gsm.
You can also find art paper with silk, glossy, matte finish.
These are frequently used for decorative purposes. Art papers can be used to make book covers as well.
Usually thicker than normal paper, similar to art papers, thinner than cardboard.
Cardstocks are usually used to make namecards, business cards, greeting cards, etc.
They are available in a wide range of weight from 100 – >200 gsm. And, they come with a matte or glossy coating.
Cardstocks are usually used as endpapers or book covers (soft covers).
Also known as cardboards.
Thickest option of ‘paper’ you have, or rather they are made of several layers of paper and strengthened when pressed together to make a board. Book boards are usually brown, grey, black or white. After all, they are rarely used as decoration but rather to protect your book.
Book boards are available in a range of thickness, and are usually available at your local art store, or even paper specialty stores. Alternatively, you can find some online here.
We tend to prefer recycled options. If you know of any avid stamp collectors in this age, they might have some cardboard on hand. These are used to protect the stamps from bending during delivery.
Book boards are usually used as the base of hardcover books.
As the name suggests, these made from scratch, by hand.
Handmade paper are artisan products that can come with a wide variety of designs and patterns.
Handmade paper have no general grain direction (more about this later). Depending on the production process, they may be less robust compared to machine made paper.
You can either purchase handmade paper at Amazon or independent suppliers like Khadi Papers. Or if you are up for it, you can make your own handmade paper.
Handmade paper are usually more costly.
Japanese Paper (aka Washi Paper)
Handmade paper brought to a whole new level. What’d you expect, its the Japanese.
Handmade paper used to be a big industry in Japan where paper was made manually using fibres from various sources.
These paper are also known as ‘Washi’ paper.
And they were known to be tougher than normal paper.
Over the years as technology became cheaper, washi making has dwindled. Few traditional washi paper producers remain today. However, washi making has been recognised as a cultural heritage by the UNESCO.
Washi paper can be made from different materials or fibres. Each type of washi paper has its own name depending on the origin of the source material.
You can purchase Washi paper from Amazon (click to see the designs) or purchase from washi paper producers directly like Kuramae or Isewashi.
In bookbinding, we tend to use washi paper to decorate our book covers. These are commonly seen in coptic binding or japanese stab binding projects.
We also use washi paper to strengthen and protect our handmade bookcloths in other cases.
If you have tried your hands at paper collages, you might have come in contact with tissue paper (click to browse on Amazon).
Nope, it’s not the one you’s find in a toilet or on a dining table.
Tissue paper for art are thin, usually colored, and have many interesting uses (for art).
In bookbinding however, tissue paper are usually used as a backing for book cloth. In this case, we use white tissue paper (see the one we use here).
Of course, if you are up to it, you can consider using tissue paper as the decorative face of your book cover. However, be mindful that they are not very robust, hence may tear easily.
Uses for paper
Now that we know about the different types of paper that are commonly used in a bookbinding project, let’s take a look at the different parts of a book that require paper.
P.S. this section was created for the folks who just want a quick answer to their paper selection. We recorded our preference of paper for different parts of a book here.
Before we start, if you need help with paper weights and conversion, this is a good guide to refer to: Paper Weight Conversion
Refers to the papers that will form the pages of your book.
For books meant for writing on, use:
- White copier paper, 80 gsm, plain (buy on Amazon) or
- White copier paper with ruling (get on Amazon here):
For sketchbooks or books with pages that will need to withstand wear and tear:
- White copier paper, 100gsm (thicker than those used in notebooks or journals) ((check white paper prices on Amazon now)
For scrapebooks or photobooks:
- Cardstock, 175 gsm, get an assortment of colors: browse on Amazon
For plain covers, use art papers, colors and designs are entirely up to you. You can use plain colored paper or construction papers for a neat looking book cover.
For covers with nice designs, consider handmade paper or washi paper:
If you are using washi paper or thin handmade paper for your book cover, you will usually need to get a backing board too. A backing board is just a thick cardboard that serves to strengthen your book cover.
For something unique, you can consider using a book cloth.
Book cloth may be a rare find at the local art stores, depending on where you reside. We prefer to hand make ours using recycled cloth, fortified with tissue paper . Alternatively, you can purchase some directly from Amazon.
Refers to the paper that starts or ends a book. Usually the piece that has one side glued to the book cover, the other end to the book signatures.
If you are not fussy, just use the regular white copier paper that you used for for book signatures: White copier paper, 80 gsm, plain
If you want a nicer looking end paper, you can consider colored construction paper.
Where to buy paper for bookbinding
From stationary stores, to artisan paper stores, you will be spoilt for choice when you are looking to purchase paper for your bookbinding project.
If you are just starting out, we’d suggest getting affordable paper supplies from your nearby stationary store. Once you’re pretty sure that you’d like to start making more books, then should you explore the artisan stores.
You should also explore online stores that sell papers. These may be cheaper when there are offers, plus they usually deliver the items right to your doorstep.
We list some of those options below;
Your local stationary store
Copier paper can be easily purchased from any good stationary store. These stores would usually carry art papers and construction papers as well.
Daiso is a good place to start shopping for art supplies. They tend to surprise us with their art supply offerings at time. Plus, each piece only costs $2 🙂
Amazon has (almost) everything. You can find a wide selection of papers. Click on any of the category below to browse more:
Other online outlets
You can usually find and reach out to artisan art suppliers online. Shipping and Handling may be expensive if you are only purchasing a small quantity. Here are some of them:
Washi Paper Producers in Japan
Washi Paper distributer in Canada
Art paper distributor in USA
Paper store in Singapore
What we usually use at Bookbinding Workshop SG
Double A Copier Paper (Usually 80 gsm)
I usually get these from a local paper store, Fancy Papers because I prefer to be able to see the colors and feel the thickness of the paper before purchase.
Cardstock, assorted colors
There is a wide variety to choose from. If you know of any local paper stores, visit them to take a look and feel the papers.
We usually use an iron-on adhesive to paste the cloth onto the tissue paper. You can find the Heat and Bond Iron-On Adhesive on Amazon:
Alternatively, you can make your own glue or paste. Here’s a great tutorial: How to make your own paste
Other tips about paper
Regardless of the manufacture style, papers are made by compressing fibers fundamentally.
With machine manufactured papers, these fibers are usually laid out in an ordered fashion.
Hence, you will notice an obvious grain direction in machine manufactured papers.
I have noticed that if you are tearing a piece of paper parallel to its grain direction, you will tend to get less fraying as oppose to tearing in a perpendicular direction.
My Handbound Books has a detailed breakdown with 4 ways to determine the grain direction of your paper.
Importance of Grain direction
If you are making a relatively thin book with just 5 book signature, and a soft cover, you will probably not notice any significant issue regarding grain direction.
However, if you are making a thick book with 8 or more book signature, or a hard covered book, that’s when weird things start happening:
1. Backing boards will warp after pasting a decorative cover over it
This can be solved by pressing the boards with a paper weight during the drying process.
2. Book signatures do not fold completely sometimes..even though the number of papers used are the same
I had noticed these issues and was trying to figure out the reason behind it when I chanced upon My Handbound Book’s explanation of grain direction: Paper Grain
The good news is that Washi paper and handmade papers do not have a general grain direction as the fibers are usually laid on an un-ordered fashion. So you may not face the mentioned problems when using them.
Some art paper come with slightly different surfaces on both sides.
If you had purchased drawing paper, or even sketching paper in the past, you might have noticed that one of the surface is rougher than the other.
This is usually not crucial for bookbinding.
However, if you are binding a sketch book, a drawing pad or a water color drawpad for your friend, you might want to take note of the surfaces of your book signatures.
ThoughtCo has a great guide to the types of art paper surfaces.
Well, that’s all folks…for now.
- 8 types of papers commonly used in bookbinding
- how we personally select paper material for our own bookbinding projects
- types of paper used for the different parts of a book and,
- where you can find and purchase different types of paper
Hopefully we have accomplished the goal of helping you understand more about the various types of paper you’d encounter and take away any sense of confusion when it comes to selecting the right paper.
We will be adding and amending this guide whenever we learn something new.
Make use of the contents navigation to quickly find the section you are curious about in this article.
Was this useful? Was there something we’d miss? Let us know what you think of this guide!
3 thoughts on “Paper | Bookbinding Material 101”
Great site. Very useful information and clearly explained.
I’m using a finer artisanal paper and want to know whether I should treat it first with wheat paste. Does it make it stronger or more durable? Is it necessary to prevent glue showing through?
Your thoughts would be helpful
Hello Is there a source of paper used in bookbinding near Hamilton ,Ontario?