Paper Grain

If you are into art, especially any that involves paper, this is a fundamental understanding that you’d need to grasp:

Understanding paper grain direction that is.


Here’s what we’ll cover in this quick guide:

Why Paper Grain Direction Matters

Paper to book is like water to human. In bookbinding, paper is commonly folded and scored.

Understanding grain direction allows us to achieve neater folds and thus make the entire book easier to work with.

book signatures are not able to fold completely when folded against the grain direction

According to Strathmore, this also ensures that the pages can “turn easier, stay open and lay flatter“.

This may not be significant if you are making something like a case bound book. But it becomes apparent if you are making a book that is highly reliant on folding – accordion books or concertina fold books.

Folding across the paper grain can lead to rough (ugly) folds. AND! Your paper may not fold completely.

How to tell Paper Grain Direction

There are several ways to determine the grain direction of your paper. Here are 3.

1. Curling / Incomplete bending of paper

You should experience comparatively less resistance if you fold along the grain direction. Do this with a thick stack of paper to feel the difference.

Compare the difference between gently rolling your paper on both axis. The easier axis is usually parallel to the grain direction.

2. Let it rest

You can also lay a piece of paper on a table, with half of it sticking out. Again, compare the degree of bending on different axis. The axis on which the paper bends more is parallel to the grain direction.

3. Tearing

This is the most impractical method, but may be the most obvious way to feel the difference.

Tear your paper on both axis – horizontal and vertical.

If you are tearing along the paper grain direction, you will experience an easier and cleaner tear. It will be less likely to have frilled edges or split edges (i.e. tears that look like you’ve separate the layers of the paper).

This complete destroys your paper, but its the most visual way to see the difference between working along and across the paper grain.

Beyond Bookbinding

If you are looking to get into hand letteringwatercoloring, and other forms of art that involves the paper, it is also important for you to understand grain direction. But that is a topic for another day~

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