15 Different Types Of Paper | Explained

The word paper comes from Latin papyrus, which is a material made from the pith of the aquatic flowering plant named Cyperus papyrus. Ancient Egypt civilization used papyrus (a lamination of natural plant fiber) for writing before the invention of paper.

The papermaking process dates back to 25-220 AD. The Chinese inventor Cai Lun developed the modern papermaking process, which later spread to the Islamic world during the 8th century. And within 300 years, the process was brought to Europe.

In Spain, this papermaking process was improved using water-wheel paper mills. Later enhancements during the 19th century revolutionized the paper industry on a global scale. During this period, humans discovered that papers could be created by separating cellulose fibers (either mechanically or chemically) from wood.

Today, almost all papers are created by big machines. Some of them are capable of producing 2000-meter long and 10-meter wide reels per minute and up to 600,000 tons every year.

According to Statista, about 419.7 million metric tons of paper and cardboard were produced in 2017 worldwide. Almost 33% of that production was attributable to graphic paper, while over 50% was attributable to packaging paper. The United States, China, and Japan account for more than half of the global paper production.

In this overview article, we have listed all different types of paper that are used in packaging, printing, cleaning, decorating, and various construction and industrial processes.

17. Laid Paper

Antique laid paper | Image credit: Wikimedia 

Uses: ‘Prestigious’ stationery, support for charcoal drawings

Before the mid 18th century, papers were made by hand using a frame with a wire mesh. The crude wire mesh formed a pattern (vertical and horizontal lines) in the paper.

The traditional laid pattern contains a series of wide-spaced lines (called chain lines) parallel to each other and narrow-spaced lines (called laid lines) at 90 degrees to the chain lines. This was the predominant type of paper produced between the 12th century and the 18th century. They are still used by artists as a support for charcoal drawings.

16. Wove Paper

Used in: Chromatography, publishing

Wove papers are made by weaving brass (or other) wires together in a way that no specific pattern is visible. It has a uniform surface, not watermarked or ribbed. This papermaking technique was invented by James Whatman. It spread quickly to other paper mills in England, France, and America.

High quality wove paper is called Whatman paper (named after its inventor). It is grained, rigid, and strong, with no laid lines.

15. Xuan Paper

Used for: Panting, writing, making scrolls

Xuan paper was originated in ancient China. Most of the ancient Chinese paintings and books by famous authors that have survived until today are preserved on Xuan paper.

Its fine-textured and softness makes it suitable for conveying the expression of painting as well as Chinese calligraphy. The paper has a smooth surface and great tensile strength. It also features a higher resistance to crease and corrosion.

14. Banana Paper

Uses: arts and paper projects, ships towing ropes, wet drilling cables

Banana paper is an environmentally-conscious paper. Banana trees produce fruit once a year and are then cut down. This leaves a lot of wastes in the form of tree trunks and leaves. By recycling banana fibers into paper, we can prevent pollution in forests and rivers to some extent.

These papers are used in two different sense:

  • Paper made from the bark of the banana plant, which is mainly used for artistic purposes.
  • Paper created from banana fiber obtained from the non-utilizable fruits and the stem. It can be made either by hands or industrialized machine.

They are available in various sizes and colors, all containing natural banana plant fibers. They are acid-free and weigh 40 grams per square meter. Banana fibers can also be easily mixed with cotton fibers or other synthetic fibers to create blended fabric and textiles.

13. Tracing Paper

Uses: Trace an image or drawing

Tracing paper is primarily designed for architects and engineers to make drawings. Its opacity is so low that when it is placed on an image, the image is easily visible through the paper. This makes it easier to locate edges in the image and trace the whole picture onto the tracing paper.

The paper is made of cellulose and cotton fiber. It often consists of other filler materials to improve opacity and print quality. Although pure cellulose fiber is translucent, it looks (opaque) white because of the air trapped between the fibers.

To make it look translucent, fibers are beaten and refined until most of the air is taken out. These papers are quite dense and capable of containing up to 10 percent moisture at 50 percent humidity.

12. Bank Paper

Used for: Typewriting and correspondence

Bank paper is a strong, thin writing paper having a weight of less than 50 grams per meter square. The term is often used for securities issued by banks. Bills, drafts, commercial paper, and acceptances payable by banks are all bank papers.

11. Bond Paper

Colored bond papers 

Used for: Documents like government bonds and graphic work

Bond paper is made of fiber pulp that produces a rough, strong sheet of paper. It’s a high-quality writing paper that is heavier than 50 grams per meter square. The most common bond papers weigh 90 g/m2, 75 g/m2, and 60 g/m2.

It was initially designed for documents like government bonds, but now, it is used for electronic printers, stationery, and graphic work.

10. Rolling paper

Different brands of rolling papers

Used in: Cigar*tt*s

Rolling paper is a thin specialized paper used to roll cigar*tt*s from loose t*bacc* or other plants to be smok*d. It is made from lightweight rag fibers (nonwood plant fibers) such as esparto, sisal, flax, and hemp.

The paper is available in rectangular sheets and rolls of varying sizes, and contains a narrow glue strip along one long edge. Some of these papers are colored, transparent, and flavored. They vary in porosity to allow ventilation of the burning ember or contain stuff that controls the burning rate of the cigar*tt* and stability of the produced ash.

9. Tissue Paper

Uses: Table napkins, toilet paper, facial tissues, paper towel

Tissue paper is a lightweight paper made from recycled paper pulp. Its key properties are thickness, basis weight, absorbency, stretch, comfort, and appearance.

It is produced by using the paper pulp of softwood and hardwood trees, water, and chemicals. This type of paper is primarily used for sanitation and hygiene purposes as it is more suitable and convenient to use for cleaning wet and dry surfaces.

In North America, people consume nearly three times as much tissue as in Europe. In the United States, the revenue in the tissue and hygiene paper market amounts to 35,444 million in 2020. It is estimated to grow annually by 1.8% in the next three years.

8. Litmus Paper

Uses as: Acid-base indicator

Litmus paper is made from a variety of dyes extracted from lichens, which produce a particular color based on the pH of the solution into which the paper is dipped. It is developed to exhibit high absorbency to facilitate this application.

The alkalinity or acidity of a solution is determined by the concentration of hydrogen ions, expressed as a pH value. Although the litmus paper provides a quick result, it cannot determine the level of alkalinity or acidity of a solution.

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7. Cotton Paper

Used in: Important documents, printed circuit board

As the name suggests, they are made of cotton fiber from used cloth (rags) as the primary source. Compared to wood pulp papers, cotton papers have more strength and durability. They are relatively better at absorbing toner or ink and have high concentrations of acids.

High-quality cotton papers can last centuries without significant discoloration or fading. This is why they are commonly used for crucial documents and archival copies of theses. Generally, legal document papers contain 25 percent cotton. They are also extensively used as a printed circuit board substrate when impregnated with phenolic resin.

6. Wax Paper

Uses: Wrapping food for storage, as a light diffuser in photography

Throughout the 19 century, wax paper was produced by impregnating or coating the paper with purified beeswax (natural wax produced by honey bees). In the 1870s, German-born American chemist Herman Frasch developed efficient ways of purifying paraffin wax and coating paper with it. Within a decade, his method replaced beeswax in the wax papermaking process.

Frasch’s method is still used to make moisture-proof papers. However, it has several environmental issues because wax paper made from paraffin cannot be recycled.

5. Parchment Paper

Cookies on baking parchment paper

Used in: Baking as a non-stick disposable surface

Parchment is a non-stick paper made by dipping the sheets of paper pulp in sulfuric acid or zinc chloride. This gelatinizes the paper, forming a sulfurized cross-linked material with high heat resistance, better stability, and low surface energy. It can withstand high temperatures involved in the roasting or baking process.

And since this paper is made by using a strong acid, it cannot be used for archival documents.

4. Wallpaper

Uses: Interior decoration, cover minor wall defects and uneven surface

Wallpapers have been used since the 17th century as a decorative component for interior walls of domestic and public buildings. The earliest wallpaper features scenes, and its major manufacturers were France and England. By the early 20th century, patterned wallpaper had become popular.

Today, wallpapers are sold in rolls. They come plain as colored paper, textured with repeating pattern design, or non-repeating large design. All of them are made by different printing methods, such as digital printing, screen-printing, rotary printing, gravure printing, and surface printing.

3. Sandpaper

Sandpapers with different grit sizes 

Used to: Make surfaces smoother/rougher or remove material from surfaces

Sandpaper is made of multiple layers of paper or cloth with abrasive compound glued to one face. It is created in various grit sizes. These sizes are stated as a number that is inversely associated with the particle size. A small number like 30 or 50 indicates a rough grit, whereas a large number like 1200 indicates a fine grit.

The most common abrasive compounds used in sandpaper are aluminum oxide (has low cost and a broad range of grits), silicon carbide (common in wet applications), emery (used to polish metals), and garnet (typically used in woodworking).

2. Inkjet Paper

Uses: Printing, as a decorative surface on some book covers

Inkjet papers are specifically created for inkjet printers. They are generally classified by their brightness, opacity, weight, and smoothness. Three common types of inkjet papers are:

  • Glossy paper has a shiny surface
  • Luster papers are less shiny than glossy ones
  • Metallic paper is made of polyethylene terephthalate and is used as a mirror-like decorative surface on some book covers.

They are different from standard office papers that are designed for use with copy machines and typewriters, where the paper usually doesn’t get wet. High-quality inkjet papers allow moisture to wick through its fibers. They have optimal absorbency to accept the ink and prevent sideways spread.

1. Kraft Paper

Unbleached kraft paper 

Uses: Packaging, envelopes, electrical insulation in oil-filled transformers

Kraft paper (or paperboard) is created by the sulfate pulping process, which involves the treatment of wood chips with a hot mixture of water, sodium sulfide, and sodium hydroxide.

Unbleached (natural) kraft paper has a light brown color, while the bleached (artificial) kraft paper is white. The former is the strongest of standard packaging paper and is used where high strength is needed, such as in inner plies of multiwall sacks or industrial bags.

Artificial craft paper, on the other hand, is the strongest white paper and is used where both strength and appearance are necessary. It is mostly used to make envelopes, labels, and sugar bags.

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This type of paper can also be laminated or coated to enhance its strength and barrier properties. Polyamine or polyamide resin, for example, is added into kraft fiber and then heated to create wet strength kraft paper that can be used in humid environments.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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