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Understanding Book Elements: Paper Color

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Created on: Dec 2, 2010 10:53 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Jan 13, 2011 5:03 AM by CreateSpaceResources
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Understanding Book Elements: Paper Color

By Shawn, CreateSpace Graphic Arts Specialist

 

 

Now that you've decided on the trim size of your book, it's important to think of what to fill it with. Yes, you've given your time and effort to the content of the book, but what about the color of the paper?

 

 

I'm betting that it's not something that authors think about first when they're creating their work but it is important.

 

 

White paper is modern, bright, consistent and possibly the most popular among authors. Cream is inviting, subtle and easier on the eyes. Both can catch the attention of readers (albeit subconsciously). So which one to choose? And why is there more than one choice of paper in the first place? I mean, paper is usually white, right?

 

 

Well, to answer that, it's important to understand where and how paper came to be.

 

 

The Egyptians invented the concept of paper around 3700 B.C. It was made from a local plant known to scientists as Cyperus papyrus. The plant grew in abundance in the Nile Delta area. Its woody interior and stiff bark made it a perfect plant to beat and mesh into long sheets. The Egyptians called the new paper product and the plant papyrus. It seems they were not very creative in naming their new products.

 

 

In the first century A.D. the Chinese took this idea and created a way to take fibrous material from plants and marry it with fishnets, old rags and other mesh materials to make what is traditionally thought of as the first true paper. As you can imagine, the new product spread rampantly throughout the world over the next few thousand years as it made its way to the Western world.

 

 

There, a Frenchman by the name of René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur theorized that paper could be made completely from trees, allowing for faster production and a cheaper product. No one really knows how he came up with the theory; maybe he had an Isaac Newton moment and had a tree fall on him and immediately envisioned his theory. It might also explain why he never actually tested that theory.

 

 

However, in 1840 that idea caught two men's attention, and they set about creating a relatively inexpensive wood pulp-based paper that could be mass-produced. Charles Fenerty (in Canada) and Friedrich Gottlob Keller (in Germany) both set out to revolutionize the printed word. And after several experiments in their respective parts of the world, they both claimed to have created a new process to make paper.

 

 

The difference, though, is Fenerty added a bleaching agent to the mix, which made the paper a bright white instead of the more natural cream color. This radical invention eventually took the world by storm and is why he is credited with inventing the modern version of paper.

 

 

So with that in mind, how do you go about choosing which paper color would be best for your book? There are a few factors to take into account. Let's look at it from the perspective of each inventor:

 

 

Mr. Keller's cream-colored paper is best used for books that have an antique feel to them. It subconsciously harkens back to the day when paper was first created. It works well for memoirs, some non-fiction and historical fiction novels. Fiction novels with older settings also work very well with this type of paper.

 

 

Cream is also a calming color. Its earth tone matches well with books that are trying to convey their calming nature. Some self-help and how-to books work very well on cream.

 

 

Mr. Fenerty's white paper is the most widely used paper color in books. It gives a very modern feel to your book. While its versatility is understood, it should be noted that workbooks, textbooks and anything with color works best with white paper.

 

 

Paper color also affects your title if you're trying to publish it as a large print edition. Many organizations like the National Association for the Visually Handicapped suggest using a cream-colored paper instead of a bright white color. These organizations say the natural tones of the paper create a clean contrast with black ink, and because of its natural tone, it produces less glare. This lowers the strain on the reader's eyes as they read. But this idea doesn't just work for large print books; many readers may find reading a book more comfortable on cream-colored paper.

 

 

Lastly, a factor that should be considered when picking your paper color is the cover of your book. If you have more natural or earth-toned images on your cover, it could look like a stark contrast to put bright-white paper on the interior. It may seem a little counter-intuitive that the exterior of the book must match the interior, but these details are what really put the professional polish on your book.

 

 

I hope that you've learned something about the creation and use of one of the world's greatest inventions. And whether you decide to go with the white or cream paper, you can make your choice confidently, leaving your only worry: paper cuts. They are nasty buggers.

 

 

Share your thoughts with us. Leave a comment below and let us know what your experience has been with choosing the perfect paper color.

 

 

 

You may also be interested in...

 

 

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