Saturday, January 10, 2009

What is Bristol?

My almost 11 yo daughter was flipping through the latest Dick Blick catalog, eyeing the tempera paints and charcoal pencils and gum erasers. When she got to the paper section she asked me question I had no answer for: what is Bristol paper? I have bought it many times for my text blocks when I wanted a toothy medium weight paper that was good for several different media, but wasn't really sure what made it distinctive. Wikipedia had the answer:

Bristol board (also referred to as Bristol paper) is a heavyweight paper used for technical drawingillustration, and other two-dimensional art forms. Its basic size is 22.5″ × 28.5″ (572 × 724 mm) and its bulk thickness is .006 inches (0.15 mm) or higher[1]. Bristol board is rated by the number of plies it contains.

The original bristol board was made in Bristol, England and was a pasted board made of paper containing rags.

Bristol board provides two working surfaces, front and back. This quality separates it from illustration board, which has only a front working surface. The surface texture can vary for different applications, including a smooth plate finish and a medium vellum. Artists working with friction-based media, such as crayon, chalks, or charcoal would use a rougher texture. Smooth finishes are generally more suited to other types of media, such as inks.
Bristol paper is also used for paperback book or catalog covers, file folders, tags, and tickets. Engravers or Wedding bristol paper may be used for formal engraved wedding invitations.

So now that you know you can choose the paper for your next project more carefully. Sometimes it really does matter what paper you use. Mixed media artists love the freedom of working with most anything but sometimes you need the right paper for the right job.