When It Comes to Paper: Go with the Grain!

by | Feb 21, 2024

When it comes to designing a printed piece, how much thought do you put into the grain of the paper? Especially when you are designing pieces that require crisp, clean folds, aligning with the paper grain can make all the difference.

So, what exactly is paper grain? In simple terms, it refers to the direction in which the paper fibers align during the papermaking process. This alignment determines the paper’s inherent strength, flexibility, and propensity to fold smoothly or resist bending. Generally, paper grains fall into two categories: long grain (which aligns with the long side of the paper) and short grain (which aligns with the short side of the paper).

The role of paper grain becomes particularly important when it comes to folding and binding.

The Role of Paper Grain in Folding

Why is this? When folding against the grain, the paper is more likely to resist bending. Thus, it is likely to lead to the following:

  • Uneven or imperfect folds
  • Buckling and creasing along the fold lines
  • Poor alignment of images and design elements

The result is that the visual appeal and structural integrity of the final piece is compromised. By contrast, folding along the grain ensures smooth, uniform folds and precise alignment, preserving the overall quality and professional appearance of the piece.

Let’s say a designer creates a visually striking brochure for a luxury spa that uses a gatefold design. On the front is an image of the interior of the spa that spans both sides of the “gate.” However, the designer has not taken into consideration the grain direction; so as the brochure is folded, the fold lines exhibit pronounced creases, uneven edges, and visible warping. Plus, the image spanning the interior seam of the brochure is off alignment. Instead of the two halves of the luxury bathtub aligning perfectly, they are off by 1/16 of an inch!

So much for a design that captures the essence of the spa’s opulence and refinement!

Now imagine that the designer has carefully aligned the folds with the paper grain. The result? Crisp folds and perfect alignment, showcasing the property’s allure—no unsightly creases or irregularities to detract from the luxurious aesthetic.

When it comes to high-quality printing, every detail matters. The orientation of the paper grain is one detail that it’s critical not to overlook. When it comes to designing your next printed piece, remember to go with the grain!