Plaid paper is a type of paper with a ribbed texture obtained through the manufacturing process. In the pre-mechanical period of papermaking in Europe (from the 12th to the 19th century), laid paper was the predominant type of paper. However, its use declined in the 19th century, when it was largely replaced by woven paper.
laid paper is still used especially by artists as a support for charcoal drawings, it is also often used when a special, antique-looking finish is desired.
How was laid paper made in the past
Before the mechanization of papermaking, paper was made by hand, using a wire sieve mounted in a rectangular mold to produce a single sheet at a time.
The papermaker would dip the mold into a vat containing diluted pulp of hemp or flax fibers, then remove it, tilt it to distribute the pulp evenly over the sieve and, as the water drained between the wires, shake the mold to set the fibers. In the process, the pattern of the wires on the sieve was transmitted to the sheet of paper.
Until the invention of woven paper, around 1756, these sieves were made up of thicker, more widely spaced wires, around which finer, tighter wires were woven. Thus, the traditional laid design consists of a series of closely spaced lines (chain lines) parallel to the shorter sides of the sheet and narrower lines (laid lines) at right angles to the chain lines.
An example of “old laid” paper, showing darker regions along the chain lines.
There is another distinction between so-called “old laid” and “modern laid” papers. From the 12th century onwards, the chain lines of a paper mold were attached directly to the wooden ribs of the frame itself.
When the frame was removed from the vat, these ribs produced a slight suction that drew the water out of the newly formed leaf, and a slightly thicker layer of pulp remained on top of the ribs.
On a dry leaf, darker strips can be seen along these string lines when the leaf is held up to the light. Improvements in mold making in the early 19th century raised the strands of chain slightly, resulting in a more evenly toned sheet.
Modern laid paper
Modern papermaking techniques use a dandy roller to create the tracing pattern during the early stages of manufacture, similar to how a watermark is added to handmade papers.
In a wet state, the paper pulp (a dilute dispersion of cellulose fibers in water) is squeezed through a wire mesh to drain the pulp. During this process, a roller with a mesh pattern is pressed into the wet pulp, displacing the cellulose fiber.
This pattern has to be applied at a given paste consistency; otherwise, the pattern will be lost as the fiber flows back as the paste passes through the dandy (too wet), or the fiber will be dislodged from the paste (too dry), causing surface disturbance.
As the fiber shifts, localized areas of higher and lower density are produced in a laying pattern, and the pattern is also created on the surface of the paper. Therefore, the pattern is apparent both when looking through the sheet and when viewing its surface.
As the fiber moves, localized areas of higher and lower density are produced in a laydown pattern, and the pattern is also created on the surface of the paper. Therefore, the pattern is apparent both when looking through the sheet and when viewing its surface.
Applying the pour pattern as a mechanical relief would not create the grooved pattern seen when looking through the leaf, as this is only achieved by filigree techniques.
In machine-made paper, the chain lines run in the direction of the machine, along the roll. The grain direction of a sheet (the orientation along which most cellulose fibers settle) is generally parallel to these chain lines.
What kind of products is laid paper used for?
Although the use of laid paper is no longer as widespread as it once was, it is still used today, especially in crafts or print work where you want to convey an antique look.
Some of the products in which laid paper is often used are business cards and wedding invitations, although you can also find brochures, invitations and similar products, printed on this type of paper.
Do you want to know other types of paper for your future projects? Take a look at our section where we detail different varieties of paper, their characteristics and their most frequent uses, advantages and disadvantages.