A is for Against the Grain

blog againstthegrain-01

Welcome to our #OKalphabetseries where we will be visiting paper and printing terms daily. Come back each day as we weave our way through the alphabet and share our 110 years of knowledge with you.

When paper is made, it is manufactured on a papermaking machine in rolls. These rolls are then sliced and cut to create the sheets you utilize to print. These rolls have a direction to them of how the paper’s fibers align as the roll is made creating grain direction. This direction is generated during the paper formation. As the paper moves along the papermaking machine, the fibers align themselves in a direction that is parallel to the forward direction of the machine. When the paper is cut into sheets from the roll, it will either be grain-long or grain-short. Grain long tells you the grain direction is parallel to the longer sheet dimension. Grain-short tells you the grain direction is parallel to the shorter dimension of the sheet. The grain is generally identified a couple of ways in swatchbooks, price books and stock guides with a bolded or underlined number and is usually the second dimension listed in the sheet size. This is why you may see, for example, a sheet listed as 23 x 35 or 35 x 23. This bolding, underlining or dimension position lets you know that the grain of the paper runs with that specific dimension. Grain becomes important to your print project when it is folded. Folding with, not against, the grain is recommended and optimal. Folds placed parallel to the grain are less prone to cracking than folds that go against the grain. For the highest quality fold, scoring is recommended. Grain is also a consideration in offset printing for dimensional stability. Dimensional stability is how well a sheet of paper retains and holds it original length and width once it is exposed to moisture. When paper fibers absorb water, they expand in width but not length. Grain-long is generally preferred to grain-short in multiple color jobs that need to align and register properly. When pages are bound into catalogs, the grain should be parallel with the binding edge to ensure they lay flat and turn easily. Always keep in mind, you don’t want to go against the grain.