Paper Personalities

27 Oct

(By Christina Anne Taylor of Middle Island Press)

Paper does come in various personalities, and they can be persnickety at times. With various colors and textures to choose from, I like to choose paper for publishing projects according to the theme of a writer’s text. Of course the writer’s opinion is critical, and paper within a book should also coordinate with a book’s cover, but in this article, I will focus on working with paper according to theme and technicalities.

For the sake of relative brevity, I will stick with the basics and firstly make note of the main types of paper used in high-quality chapbooks.

Exceptional Business Paper is an excellent choice. It is clean and chic. It is smooth and sturdy and resembles a notable upgrade of standard copy paper. The 24-lb paper of this type yields results similar to 32-lb paper of more delicate types. On the down side (from the micro-publisher’s perspective), depending on printer type, this paper likes to feed two sheets at a time, which is costly in time and can ruin a project until the point at which it is addressed. Nonetheless, smooth papers, IMO, look more appropriate with glossy covers, and there are many types of smooth paper available beyond Exceptional Business.

Parchment Paper is smooth, elegant and dignified, but I tend not to use it. I used it on the first several copies of my own chapbook and switched over to a less sheer paper. The problem with it is that letters from the other side of the sheet are seen very clearly here and there according to the blotchy pattern. It’s not just color, it’s texture fluctuations that do not make it conducive to two-sided projects; Granite paper, however, is similar in feel and less sheer without the mottled pattern.

Antique Laid Paper is my personal favorite, and a more workable version with a similar distinguished feel of Parchment. From the publisher’s perspective, Antique Laid feeds very well through printers so there is virtually no waste of time or paper, but much more than that, the classic look and feel makes it a popular choice. The 24-lb is a bit light and a bit sheer, but I tend to use it on projects with more than twelve sheets of paper (48 pages from cover to cover). The 32-lb variety is perfect, IMO, but it does come at a price.

Linen Paper is one that I have grown fond of and will like to use more of. It looks contemporary and costs around the same price as the others mentioned above, but it has a beautiful texture of delicate perpendicular lines that gives it a woven and somewhat masculine look. In its weights, the sheer factor and page thickness are on par with Antique Laid.

Paper types aside, all of the above generally come in options of white, gray, and ivory. When choosing color, I apply my color-coordination training which involves, first and foremost, choosing the right hue to match the cover, and I tend to give cover liberties to writers so they may express themselves both inside and out, literally and figuratively. If writers opt to trust me entirely, I choose the paper color according to theme as follows:

White is, of course, standard, safe, and conservative. People who are more practical and less inclined to have an aesthetic sensibility – the same type of people who prefer white walls throughout the home – find comfort in white paper. Aside from that, if there is bright white within the cover, I use white paper.

Ivory is a fine choice for elegant themes, for classic poetry, recipe books, and anything with a nostalgic feel. I would also use ivory for masculine subjects that come with earth images, such as hunting and fishing, as ivory tends to look a bit closer to the woods. Also, if there are a lot of warm hues in the cover, I especially like ivory paper.

Gray is a great choice for dark subjects: It is Gothic, gloomy, industrial in feel, and a thoughtful choice for introspective poetry and contemplative urban sophistication as well as for ghost stories. I would tend to use gray with covers that are done in black and white if the theme would call for such.

Overall, writers need not be intimidated by the choices, and should not be intimidated by the application of color and texture to enhance the overall personality of a project. Most chapbooks do look artful in comparison to standard books, so gray and ivory serve to add depth to a project. A bit of discernment in paper selection can be the difference between a copy-machine quickie and a statement of taste and confidence in the beauty of variety.


(Middle Island Press believes that paper plays a major role in the overall presentation of chapbooks. We use the best that we can; we treat each project as though it were our own words within the pages, and in that, we stand proudly among the best chapbook publishers east of the Mississippi.)

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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in News & Reviews


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