PAPER -part 1

By Gautam Shah ➔

Paper for Writing by Johannes Vermeer

Paper has been the prime medium for expression and communication. In addition, paper and paper-board products provide materials for hundreds of other uses, such as wrapping, packaging, towelling, insulating and photography. Paper is also used in several interior decorative and functional products.


Paper is a thin flexible sheet material composed of naturally originating cellulose fibres, interlaced into a compact web. The web is formed by deposition of cellulosic pulp -an aqueous suspension of cellulose fibres. Paper has also been defined as a matted or felted sheet formed of cellulosic pulp on a lattice from a water-suspended phase.


The word paper is derived from the name of the reedy plant papyrus, which grows abundantly along the Nile river in Egypt. In ancient times, the fibrous layers within the stem of this plant were removed, placed side by side, and topped with another set crossed at right angles. The layered sheet so composed was dampened and pressed. On drying the layers with the help of glue like sap of the plant that helps in cementing.

First true paper through pulp process, as we know today, was made in China. It was a substitute product for Silk for many uses.

Paper manufacturing sequence

In ancient times writing media of many types have been used, such as Papyrus, barks of trees, parchment (lamb or sheep skin), Vellum (calf skin), Gevil (animal hides with shaved hair), Wax coated tablets, Clay tablets, Bhoj and palm leaves. Other writing materials included ceramics, metal sheets and stone faces.

Bamboo strips for Writing – China

Tree leaf as writing media

An Old map on Vellum

Parchment making

Clay Tablet

Foldable wax coated – rewritable writing tablet of Romans

Paper is a material with many different forms, qualities and properties. The manifold varieties of paper are achieved by selection of the fibre material, its subsequent treatments, additives employed and the way the paper sheet is cast or formed, consolidated and dried. In addition paper is modified by several subsequent conversion processes.


Paper as a material is available with many different surface qualities and constructions. It can be rough, smooth, greaseproof, water absorbent, water repellent or resistant, soft as cotton, stiff as board, heat resistant, fireproof, combustible, chemically resistant opaque, translucent, transparent, coloured, glossy, dull, strong, weak, tear-able, non-tear-able, light heavy, pulp-able cellular, waxed, sanded, embossed hinged corrugated, easily folded and pierced, coarse, fine or flocked.


Paper is used for writing, printing, drawing, painting signs and images. Paper is used for wrapping, filtering, absorbing, insulating, protecting (Thai umbrellas), cleaning, mopping, polishing, buffing, toys and product forming, mould making, engraving, etching, embossing, Medicare dressing, garment making, and for glazing (Shoji for windows and Fusuma for room dividers).

Paper is manufactured from material resources that can be regenerated and the product is a recyclable material. If we can replace trees as the source for raw material, it can be a perfectly eco-friendly or sustainable product.


Structure of paper differs from other sheet materials:

1. Paper unlike plastic films and metal films are fibrous.

2. Paper is composed of single short fibres, arranged largely randomly instead of a regular array as is the case with woven fabrics.

3 Unlike cloth, felt or leather it is a laminar product, that is each fibre is disposed mainly in the plane of a sheet.

Paper, however, resembles other sheet materials as its structure is anisotropic in its plane and most of the fibres are oriented along the grain or the machine direction.



Next in series >> PAPER -part 2 History & Manufacturing processes / PAPER -part 3 Products and Conversion processes.