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What is rice paper? Characteristics and types

Papel de arroz para impresión.

Rice paper is a type of paper which, as its name suggests, is made from different parts of the rice plant such as straw or flour, used especially in oriental cuisine.

It can also refer to other types of paper made from plants such as hemp or bamboo.

Types of rice paper What are they used for?

What is rice paper? Characteristics and types
Edible rice paper used in the kitchen

When you search the internet for the term “rice paper”, do you find it difficult to find exactly the paper you need? This is because the term has multiple origins for different types of paper that have different uses.

Following are four completely different types of paper that have different uses, but are called rice paper:

Paper made from the rice paper plant: No, there is no paper made from the rice plant. In the early 20th century, a type of paper made from the Tetrapanax papyrifer plant was imported to Europe from Asia.

This paper was commonly, but erroneously, called “rice paper” because of its Asian origins and bright white colour. It is commonly used for making artificial flowers, as a shoe sole and for painting. However, it is not commonly used for writing.

Edible paper: In the food industry, there is a thin, starchy, edible paper used for wrapping Vietnamese food. This food wrapping paper is often referred to as rice paper, or nem wrappers.

This paper can be made from rice starch, but other ingredients such as tapioca starch, milk and bananas can be added for flavour and texture.

Rice paper for art, architecture and writing: Papers from Asian countries are often labelled with the generic term rice paper. The paper can originate from many different countries and is often made from different pulp and fibre ingredients.

The most common source of pulp for rice paper is the different varieties of mulberry. Other plants, such as the Lokta shrub, are also used due to its wide distribution in the country of origin.

Craft rice paper

Rice paper
Japanese rice paper drawing

If you are looking for rice paper for art, lampshades, shoji shades or other creative applications, there are several types of paper that you may find useful. Here are different types of paper that are often referred to as “rice paper”:

Thai mulberry paper: The Thais have perfected the mass production of mulberry paper. After carefully preparing the bark strands, artisans handcraft mulberry paper of all sizes and weights. Unryu paper is soft and translucent, while heavyweight mulberry papers provide stiffness and texture.

Washi paper from Japan: Washi paper is a highly refined mulberry paper. Japanese craftsmen have elevated ordinary mulberry paper to the status of art.

One branch of Japanese papermaking focuses on taking mulberry, mitsumata and gampi papers and turning them into papers of such high quality that they are used in book and document conservation efforts. The conservation papers are flawless and so thin that they are virtually transparent when used to repair books.

Another branch of Japanese papermaking uses mulberry paper to display intricate and artistic designs. Chiyogami or Yuzen paper features beautiful and colourful designs. Each colour of the design is meticulously silk-screened by hand onto the sheet. After 8 or 9 applications of screen printing, the depth of colour is astonishing.

Korean Hanji paper: Korean rice paper is formally known as Hanji paper. Hanji paper is traditionally used for legal and important documents that must last for a long time. Hanji paper achieves this durability by adding Hibiscus meniot to the paper pulp. The meniot provides additional strength to the fibres so that they do not break over time. In addition, the pulp mixture does not contain any acid, which makes Hanji paper an ideal archival paper.

Nepal Lokta Paper: Lokta bush is more common in Nepal than mulberry. The bark of the Lokta shrub is used to make paper pulp in the same way that mulberry is used in Thailand, Japan and Korea. Nepalese artisans have become famous not only for making paper, but for converting that paper into useful paper products and ornaments such as bags and rosettes. Like its cousins, Lokta paper is often misnamed “rice paper”.

Japanese Shoji paper: Another common use of rice paper is in architecture. It can be found in Japanese Shoji screens and as a translucent lampshade. Shoji paper is a thin, semi-translucent mulberry paper that is often left natural white or bleached. It is placed in lampshade frames and moistened. When dry, the paper shrinks. Held firmly in the screen frame, the paper becomes smooth and taut.

Chinese Xuan Paper: Finally, rice paper made in China is called Xuan paper. It was originally made from the bark of the Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree (a relative of the elm). Over the years, other pulps such as mulberry, bamboo and rice made their way into the Chinese paper industry.


Richard H.

With a lifelong dedication to the printing industry, I have collaborated with various print houses, honing my expertise in pre-print design, material selection, and technical intricacies. As a seasoned professional, I bring to "The Color Blog" deep insights into materials and the world of printing, aiming to shed light on the craftsmanship and nuances behind each printed masterpiece.View Author posts

2 thoughts on “What is rice paper? Characteristics and types”

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    I’ve been using some of these papers in craft projects, and this is the first good description I’ve found for understanding their origins.

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