Nicole Nikolas - Stacks for Bookbinding papers

Book Binding Secrets: Sourcing Short Grain Papers for Signatures

The number one essential for any book binding project is quality, book binding paper – short grain paper, to be exact. Over the years, as a graphic designer and a book binder, I’ve worked with quite a few papers. Today, I’m going to share the papers I have used in my shop.

When I started my Etsy shop selling printed papers, I used papers I had found at Dollar Tree. Yes, you read that correctly, I was using a short grain, drawing paper pad I had sourced while starting my book binding journey. It was easy to find, affordable, and short grained. And for anyone who has made books for any length of time, you know it’s hard to find 9” x 12” short grained paper. I would buy as many pads as I needed, then, I would head next door to the Office Max, and have them trim the pads to 8.5” x 11”. Afterwards, I would head home, load up the printer and get to work.

Everything was going fine, until March 2020. We all know what happened then . . . Fortunately for me, due to everyone being home-bound, business increased. However, I wasn’t able to get the paper I needed to print in-person. So, I ordered a whole box online and waited and waited and waited. My order never came. They canceled it, due to the high volume of orders received. By this time, I was in trouble. I had run through my stash and I had orders left to be fulfilled. 

Like any good graphic designer, I started sourcing new papers immediately. I needed a source that could be delivered to my home, in a short period of time, and with a similar cost to the papers I was selling. That’s when I found the papers most of my customers have grown to love. The medium weight, drawing paper, originally sold in 70 lb. but later, in 60 lb. weight. Last year, I added the 70 lb, 11”x 17” drawing paper, to round out the offerings.  

Like most papers, the prices have doubled since I began buying them in 2020. Below, you will find links to those papers and a few tips about each.

My Shop Paper Lineup:

9” x 12” 60 lb. Drawing Paper - This paper is LONG Grained. It was used to print the 8.5” x 6” signatures, two up per sheet. The paper was trimmed to 8.5” wide to fit a standard printer and then trimmed in half horizontally after printing.*

18” x 24” 60 lb. Drawing Paper - (Link is for 70lb weight, 60 lb is not currently in stock on Amazon.) This paper is LONG Grained. it was trimmed to provide short grain, 9” x 12” blank sheets & 8.5” x 12” printed signature sheets. (I’ll show you how, in a follow up post.) *

12” x 18” 60 lb. Drawing Paper - This paper is SHORT Grained. It was sold as is and also trimmed to 11” x 17” to make printed signatures. *

11” x 17” 70 lb. Text Paper - This paper is SHORT Grained. It was sold in both blank and printed sheets.

    All the papers above, minus the last one, is sourced from Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    The 11 x 17 paper can also be found at Office Max/Depot. However, I found that it was not always packaged properly & arrived damaged more than once.

    Next time, I’ll share some “paper math” about utilizing long grain paper for short grain sheets. And I’ll share some other sources I’ve found for book binding papers.

    Happy Book Binding! 

    (* All the drawing papers can also be sourced at School Specialty. I have not purchased from them.)

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    Thank you for your question. If you are purchasing papers from a paper mill, the grain information should be found on the spec sheet for the paper.Or in the resources section on the paper mill’s web site. If not, you can always message, email or call the company for that information. I had to do that with all, but one of the papers in this post.

    I will look to see if I can source any international papers or ones available in Australia. I will also do a follow up post on this subject. Please sign up for my email list so you know when the new Journal posts are posted.


    Is there a way to tell if paper is short or long grained before purchasing it? Am I likely to be able to find that information somewhere before purchasing or is it just a case of try it and see. I’m in Australia so unfortunately the papers you have suggested aren’t likely to be available here.


    Hi Cori!
    Unfortunately, I don’t have a source for large, short grained watercolor paper. But, I’ll do some looking around and let you know if I find anything. But, I understand your frustration with not wanting to waste paper with a lot of off-cuts.


    This is so timely, as I am teaching a book binding class soon. I like to fill books with watercolor paper sometimes to make sketchbooks. However, the measurements of the paper pads always waste so much paper in trying to get the grain correct. Have you found a watercolor paper that makes a good sketchbook ? (11 × 17 works pretty well, but it’s small and 12 × 18 becomes 6 × 9 – but not all watercolor papers come in 11 × 17). Thanks.


    Hi Linda,
    Yes, the 11 × 17 paper is a Xerox paper, manufactured by Domtar. And it is the paper I used in my shop. It works for both ink jet & laser printing.


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