Paper Finishes

So paper is just paper, right?  Well, the answer is yes – and no. We’ve already talked about weights and colors. Today we’ll look at different finishes.

But first, lets look at the process.

Paper starts as a slurry of cellulose fibers and water. This slurry is drained through a sieve-like screen to create a mat of randomly interwoven fibers. Water is further removed from this sheet by pressing, sometimes aided by suction or vacuum, or heating. Once dry, a generally flat, uniform and strong sheet of paper is achieved.

Finish is determined by the screen on which the paper is laid for drying. The most commonly used finishes are laser, linen, laid and watermarked.

Laser finish is a very smooth finish, designed to work well with laser printers. It feels almost silky when you run your hand across it. It works well when you want a very crisp finish to your lettering or graphics.Linen Ivory Paper


Linen finish is just what it sounds like. It mimics the texture of linen fabric. It is frequently used for letterhead and other important documents. The clip at the right is ivory colored linen.




Laid Paper Cream


Laid paper emulates the look of fine hand-crafted paper from the early days. Its texture is made up of horizontal and vertical ribs known as “chain lines.” It is created using a wire cylinder to impress the pattern into the paper while the paper is wet. This particular example is cream laid.



Watermarked Paper

Watermarked paper is created by creating words or images in the screen on which the wet paper is laid to dry.


The paper making process is the same whether you are making small amounts in your home for special purposes or buying from a mass supplier. Only the scale of production separates the two.

Which finish you will want to use depends upon the desired outcome.  If your printed material has graphics in it, you will want a laser finish to avoid blurring the photo or graphics used.

Letterheads are printed on either linen, or laid, or watermarked paper, depending on the degree of formality you wish to present to the correspondent.

If you want a fairly elegant business letter, linen or laid might be your best choice.  Watermarked paper requires  additional vigilance in inserting the paper into your printer so that the watermark is correct on the finished product.


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