Paper Grain

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

Understanding paper grain direction

And that’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.

Some examples include accordion books or concertina fold books.

Folding across the paper grain can lead to rough (ugly) folds.


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 quick ways you can use.

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.

  1. Gently rolling your paper on the horizontal axis of your paper.
  2. Repeat rolling process on the vertical axis.
  3. 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 leaning over the edge.

Again, compare the degree of bending on both axis.

The axis on which the paper bends more is parallel to the grain direction.

3. Tearing

This is the most impractical method, but it 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 encounter 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~

1 thought on “Paper Grain”

  1. I’m glad to see that you mention paper grain as important, few videos and web instruction pieces even mention it, I’m thinking in particular about Wikihow in this. I find that the biggest problem for the home bookbinder is to find a reasonable source of Short Grain A4 paper to make a decent folded A5 sheet for home bookbinding. I have a good source but I have to buy SRA3 and have it cut to A4. Etsy sell some rather specialised paper of this kind at exhorbitant prices.


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