Secrets of Why Mould Made Papers Stay Flatter

Mould made paper is delicious to see and looks as sumptuous as handmade papers. Reasons for choosing a mould made paper aren’t just limited to how good they look, but also down to the mechanicals of how they react when an artist applies water to the sheet, and how the very fibres inside the sheet move.

Why does paper buckle?

Watercolour, acrylic, gouache, plus numerous printmaking techniques involve adding water loaded with pigment or ink; artists even like soaking whole sheets of paper. Paper is made up of thousands of fibres compressed together, and these fibres like to swell when moisture is added to them. It is the swelling of these fibres that makes paper buckle. As papermakers we use the wonderful word ‘cockling’ to describe this wavy effect on paper.

How are mould made papers different?

How a paper is manufactured dictates how the fibres inside a paper are distributed. With mould made papers they are quite random; this random distribution means when an artist adds paint/ink the fibres will swell in all directions. This is what happens with mould made papers (like handmade), the fibres are randomly distributed so the paper is more dimensionally stable, so it stays much flatter once water is added than cheaper papers.

Standard papers are made on a Fourdrinier machine. This type of paper machine makes copier paper to newsprint, tissue to board. Fourdrinier machines are great at making paper fast, but unfortunately the fibres all tend to lie in one direction, as a result of the pulp being sprayed onto a fast-moving wire belt. As the fibres are mostly lying in one direction, the paper will buckle far more because they are swelling in one direction. This is why mould made (or handmade paper) buckles far less.

What problems does a wavy sheet cause?

Artists require a paper that is as dimensionally stable as possible, otherwise the bend and bow of the sheet can make it difficult to paint. With a wavy sheet the pigments drain into the lower buckles leaving uneven pools of colour. The buckling can also remain once the paint has dried leaving an unprofessional look.

Paper choice is important

Paper needs to be an active decision when creating a piece of work. The right paper will work for the artist enriching their work. A finished piece without cockled paper will ultimately give a more professional and clean finish.

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