Project 4.1: Paper/ephemera

This part of the project involved exploring different types of paper and reflecting on their personal associations – smells, feel, weight and so on. Associations with paper concern not only the unprinted paper, but also the ways in which the paper interacts with different types of ink during different printmaking processes. The main characteristics I found significant were:

  • weight, thickness and transparency
  • texture, grain and surface gloss
  • absorbency to different types of media
  • ageing properties

My explorations with paper were ongoing and further developed as I progressed with this series of projects, Assignments 4 and 5. My work here also built on work from earlier OCA Illustration, Printmaking, Painting and Photography courses where I had experimented with different types of inkjet art paper, newsprint, tissue paper, watercolour papers, Japanese and other printmaking papers and photographic papers. My conclusions on use of different types of – including technical notes – can be found from:

Paper Types

I made a number of new discoveries during Assignment 4:

Tissue Paper


OHP Transparencies

Fabric – canvas cloths

OHP transparency

Inkjet printing on different types of mediums

Handmade paper (forthcoming)

Here I focus specifically on my learning from these projects.

Initial collation of types of paper

I started by putting together a list of different types of paper from Google searches on Wikipedia and books on Bookmaking. I made a collection of all the different types of paper I already had, and collected new ones through visiting craft shops and ordering on-line. This resulted in a wide range of papers of different weights and sizes to use as my stack for printing in Part 3.

Associations with different types of paper

Heavy papers

Blotting paper

My memories of blotting paper from school was of very heavy pink paper that would absorb the excess ink from a fountain pen. This recalled dark rainy winter afternoons spent making notes from history or english lessons. With inky messy fingers that were hard to get clean. Then the way it was possible to put the end of the nib on the paper and watch the pool of ink spread out, and the pictures made in the trails of blotted ink. I also remember blotting paper at the beginning of writing pads I had to use every year for Xmas Thankyou letters to relatives I hardly ever met. A mixture of  nostalgia – coloured also by old films of school like the Prime of Miss Jean Brody, Tom Brown’s school days with tales of discipline and cruelty. And boredom of dark winter days.

I thought this paper would have an interesting dull and/or indistinct hazy effect that could be used for memories or ‘blotting out’. The ink does not stay dark, good for hazy backgrounds to contrast with sharper foregrounds if used in digital or collage montage. In the event (as people no longer regularly use fountain pens) I could only get hold of some rather refined white blotting paper from Amazon that did not have this dramatic effect I had in mind.

Book paper

This project was done in parallel to Assignment 4 altered book and I had collected a number of secondhand books to take apart. Books obviously use many different types of paper – some are much more glossy and expensive than others. Most of what I collected to take apart were old novels and paperbacks using relatively cheap paper. This paper had many of the qualities I was looking for in blotting paper – old memories and absorbency to spread out and dull the ink. Then the yellowing and ageing.

Thick watercolour and ink papers

I have experimented a lot with different types of watercolour paper and the ways they react with watercolour, ink, pencils and crayons. They remind me of creative energy watching watercolour pigments interact on the paper, and sunny holidays by the sea or in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. Happy feel.

The texture of the cold-pressed and Not papers is exciting because it gives more unpredictability to the line, and enable under-colours or just the creamy colour of the paper to shine through.

I like the very smooth hot-pressed papers and the very fine and delicate pencil and watercolour effects you can get through smudging and interaction of pigments. And just the feel of the paper as you draw.

Bristol Board – maybe because of its name – I find a bit more intimidating. Much more formal and stiff and starched – reminds me of stern landladies. It needs a bit of distressing to free up style.

Acrylic and oil canvas papers

These have a interesting texture that can be drawn on as well as painted. But you need to use acrylic first before oil paint – oil paint will not dry when used immediately on acrylic paper. It can also be scratched into and distressed in different ways to vary the surface texture.

Medium papers

cartridge drawing papers and sketchbook paper

coloured pastel and drawing paper

lined writing paper

graph and isometric paper

Light thin papers

I really like the delicacy of these papers, the sounds they make, the ways they can be crumpled, layered, printed or drawn on both back and front to show through. But they tend to jam an inkjet printer unless fixed beforehand to a thicker sheet. Temporary foxing can be done onto OHP transparency – be careful of edges that can come up and jam the print.

tracing paper, greaseproof paper, glassene paper: all have a shiny and non-transparent surface that can be used to blurr ink. The ink can also be smeared after printing. The thinner papers buckle slightly than can give an interesting effect eg when scanned.

newsprint: this is easily obtained in large rolls, and will go through the inkjet printer. I like the shininess and the slightly dappled effect with ink when used for eg linocut.

Japanese and Chinese papers: these will only just go through an inkjet printer with care. But can give quite a sharp print – depending on whether the smooth or backside of the paper is used. This reminds me of happy days experimenting with monoprint.

tissue paper: this includes non-absorbent tissue paper used for interleaving prints – this can produce really interesting effects when crumpled and used for cleaning up after printmaking.

Inkjet paper

  • Inkjet fine art papers
  • glossy photo paper
  • matt photo paper
  • satin photo paper
  • OHP transparency

I also ordered different inkjet mediums to enable me to use paint and other media without damaging the printer.

Photography papers

matt, glossy and silk

Ephemera and printed paper

  • wallpaper
  • wrapping paper
  • metallic papers
  • alluminium foil
  • tickets, flyers, printed material or mementos or souvenirs of exhibitions, occasions and days out.
  • canvas and fabrics

Further explorations:

  • Making my own handmade paper (forthcoming)
  • Printing by hand on cardboard and other types of surface that will not go through my inkjet printer.



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