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Paper Textures & Finishes
Texture Lesson 1

Paper is often something we take for granted. It's just 'there.' Sometimes we have no choice about the type of paper on which our designs are printed. Normally we can't dictate the paper used for ads in newspapers or magazines. Even when we do have a choice, we're limited by budget, printing requirements, or other factors. However, paper can be an important textural element in our desktop published documents.

Some papers just 'feel' better than others. Grab up some paper from around you. Get a newspaper, a magazine, some paper from your printer, and a few different samples from your Class Samples. Close your eyes and touch the different surfaces. Can you identify the general type of paper (newsprint, etc.) simply by touch? Probably so. But also consider how they feel to your touch — smooth, rough, slightly patterned, fuzzy, bumpy, slick, shiny, dull, warm or cold.

Familiarize yourself with some of the various surfaces and finishes used in paper. Explore each of these paper terms related to the surface charateristics and appearance of paper. Some may be familiar to you already. Others will be new.

• Antique Finish
• Cast-Coated Paper
• Cockle Finish
• Dull Finish
• Eggshell Finish
• Embossed Finish
• English Finish
• Felt Finish
• Glazed Finish
• Granite Finish
• Laid Finish
• Linen Finish
• Machine Finish
• Machine Glazed
• Matte Finish
• Mottled Finish
• Natural Finish
• Onionskin Paper
• Parchment Paper
• Supercalendered Paper
• Vellum Finish
• Wove Finish

Design Concept & Texture
Varying paper surfaces can dramatically or subtly alter the mood you want your designs to convey. An exercise from Using Design Basics To Get Creative Results by Bryan L. Peterson uses the example of a piece of jewelry placed against two totally different surfaces — a shiny tile of black Formica vs. a piece of cement.

Translate this same concept to paper and imagine a photograph of a well-preserved vintage automobile printed on extremely smooth, glossy paper or printed on a rough, pepply surface. Neither one is necessarily better or worse. It depends on the mood you want to convey. Increased contrast between the image (and it's visual texture) and the actual surface of the paper can create interest in your design.

When selecting paper, choose a texture that is related to the concept of your design and doesn't overwhelm or get in the way of the message. While you can make a bold statement with texture, sometimes a subtle texture that stays 'in the background' is most appropriate. Make sure that your texture works with your choice of type and images so that text does not become unreadable or images unrecognizable. It may be necessary to use a bolder typeface if your paper is rough or strongly patterned.

Here is an example of paper texture:

Unexpected contrast: In a brochure promoting a computer-related service: "The gray color also evokes a high-tech, sterile mood, although I might expect a glossier surface to go along with that, rather than the sensual feel of the textured stock." — Student ID S011203
My comments: "...the softer texture may indeed have been meant to soften and humanize the high-tech image."

Hands-On Exercise
Look at brochures, books, ads, business cards, and other print projects and find five paper samples that range from the very smooth to the very rough. For each sample, look at the purpose and focus of the piece and decide if, in your opinion, the paper texture
1) is insignicant/incidental to the piece;
2) is appropriate for the mood and purpose of the piece; or,
3) is inappropriate for the mood and purpose of the piece.

If possible, find a paper store or warehouse near you. Stroll the aisles and discover the variety of papers there, especially with an eye on textures and finishes. Don't just look at the paper. Pick it up, touch it. Some paper stores will provide you with paper sample books — ask for them. These sample books are provided by various paper manufacturers to showcase the variety of papers they carry. Some sample books are beautifully designed as well and would make good samples for your Class Samples collection.

Next > Lesson 2 - Visual Texture

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