Choosing Printmaking Paper
Choosing the paper for your printmaking project can have a significant impact on the way the print turns out. Changing the colour, thickness or texture of a paper can alter the mood, style or success of a print - it can be great fun to experiment.
Although there are no rules about what paper should be used for each printmaking technique, below we have outlined some of the desirable characteristics that may help you choose what might be right for you and your project. We have suggested a few of our favourite papers too!
Prints from our Six Weeks of Screen Printing Workshops
- Smooth paper is easier to use for screen printing, especially for beginners. Those with a little more experience might like to use something a little textured.
- Thicker paper is ideal as it's unlikely to curl when wet ink is applied. 200 - 300gsm can work really well.
- Dry paper is usually used for screen printing.
If screen printing using paper stencils, we recommend using standard 80gsm copy printer paper to make the stencils. This is thick enough to make a strong stencil, but not so thick as to not sit flat on the screen. Thicker stencils can cause the edges of the design to print poorly, due to the screen being held too far away from the printing surface.
In the Handprinted Studio, we love to use magazine pages to mask off areas of an exposed screen that are not being printed. It's shininess means it's a little water (and ink) resistant - we love to repurpose in our studio!
(Linocut, woodblock printing etc.)
- Thinner papers are easier for hand-burnishing (with a baren or spoon) or it can be difficult to get a solid print. Between 30 – 150gsm is ideal.
- Thicker papers can be used in a press if you choose, especially if printing with an etching press.
- Dry paper is usually used for relief printing.
- Smooth papers can give a more even print. Thinner papers with texture like Khadi papers can give interesting textures to the final print.
(Drypoint, collagraph, etching etc.)
- Damp paper is usually used. The paper needs to hold together when soaked and not fall apart. Intaglio printmaking usually uses a press.
- Thicker papers are ideal as you’ll get lovely plate marks and the paper won’t curl as much when wet.
- Washi papers are traditionally used but Western papers (like Fabriano Accademia) can work well for beginners
- Damp paper is used. The paper must remain the same level of dampness throughout the printing process for the print layers to register properly (a damp pack is recommended for this).
- The paper you use can vary a lot depending on the specific techniques used.
- Thin papers work best for hand printing, although thicker papers can be used in a press with great success.
- Dry or damp paper can be used.
Khadi Paper - Lokta
Other things to consider
- Colour – are your inks translucent or opaque? The colour of the paper will show through translucent inks. We love using coloured papers for our prints. Khadi papers come in a stunning range of shades, as do Awagami papers if you're looking for something more subtle. Black paper can be a bold choice when printing with opaque inks. We love using it with metallic inks!
- Edges - would you like a deckled edge or a straight cut edge? You can deckle or cut your own edges to suit the print. Some handmade papers come with beautifully soft edges, such as Khadi, Awagami and rag paper.
Other papers for the printmaking studio
- Newsprint - extremely useful for wiping intaglio plates, proofing, registration sheets and many other applications around the printmaking studio.
- Carbon paper (blue or red) - useful for transferring your artwork to a sheet of lino. Red carbon paper is especially useful as it shows up on other printmaking blocks such as vinyl and on some surfaces is waterproof (more about carbon papers on our blog here).