Japan is one of the world's leading papermaking countries, and with improvements in each field of use, there are so many high-quality papers to choose from that it is difficult to pick the perfect one.
Among them, Washi (和紙, Japanese paper), which is the cornerstone of Japan's papermaking technology, is a type of paper with many varieties. I’m sure you have always thought, "I want to use Washi, but I have no idea which one to choose or start off!”
Speaking of the problems when buying Washi paper, here are the top 5 most asked questions that I'm sure many of you have felt this way at one time or another.
- “There are so many different types of Washi paper, I don't know which one to choose.”
- “What are the differences between the paper characteristics?”
- “Do I have to purchase such a large sheet of paper?”
- “The terms of Washi paper are so hard to understand.”
- “It’s too pricey!”
In this feature, I will explain the terms and phrases that are commonly used in the Washi world, so you won't have too much trouble when buying or choosing washi paper.
There are so many terms and phrases used in Washi, but no worries, you only need to know these at first! Here is a list of the most important ones.
I truly hope this will be useful and helpful for you in the future!
Momme(匁) has been used as the unit of weight in the Shakkan-hou(尺貫法, Japanese traditional units of measurement), which has been used since ancient times in Japan. Shaku (尺, 1 shaku = about 30.3 cm), which indicates size, is also a part of the Shakkan method.
Perhaps many of you may have seen or know the unit measurements for Western paper, such as (mm) for paper thickness, (g/㎡) for basis weight and (kg) for ream weight.
Basis weight is the paperweight in grams per square metre, and ream weight is the weight of 1,000 sheets of paper (the size of paper in Japan is called Shirokuban*).
Shirokuban*= 四六判, paper size of 788mm×1091mm
“Although I know the basic terms of Washi paper, when I try to choose and buy it, which paper is better?
Can I have a try at all of them?
There's a certain kind of Washi that I’m interested in, but they only have it in large size, what should I do?
All the Washi paper is too expensive to try, isn’t it? etc.”
I believe that for many of you, there must be some troubles and hesitations as mentioned above!
PIGMENT TOKYO offers a wide range of Washi papers and modified papers that can be used as drawing supports, however, we also provide “original paper sets” to fulfil your needs for a variety of papers in smaller quantities.
There are a total of 16 types of paper in this set, selected by our art material experts.
The set includes Washi paper and modified paper that are all made in Japan by different manufacturers and areas.
These papers are available in the SM size (227 x 158 mm), which is a perfect size to try out, and is rarely found in the Washi paper market.
The packaging for this paper set is handmade by using Kyousei-shi (強制紙, forced paper). Kyousei-shi is made by a traditional Japanese paper-making process called "Shiwa-kakou (シワ加工, wrinkle processing)," which gives the paper excellent strength and durability.
Next, let me show you a list of the comparison of the characteristics between the papers. The numbers in the table represent the value of paper hardness, strength, glossiness etc.
・Thin (1) < Thick (5)
・Weak (1) < Strong (5)
・Water won’t bleed (1) < bleeds easily (5)
・Rough (1) < Smooth (5)
・Opaque (1) < Transparent (5)
First, I’ll like to compare the bamboo Washi papers that are used for Art Pad.
*Dosa sizing: A technique that prevents the water or color bleeds.
Both Ink and Watercolor Art Pads are sold in packs of 15 sheets and are available in three sizes: postcard, SM(227×158mm), and F4(333×242mm). Since the paper has a sufficient thickness, it can be used without mounting. A standard postcard usually has a thickness of 0.22mm and a continuous weight of 180kg, so the Art Pads are much thicker by comparison.
When it comes to Washi paper, there are Kozo, Gampi, and Mitsumata. Let's start with the most common type, Kozo Washi paper.
There are six types of Kozo Washi paper: 5 momme, 15 momme (raw), 10 momme (dosa sized), and each of which contains bleached and unbleached paper.
Here’s a comparison of 5 momme Sarashi and 10 momme Sarashi.
Unbleached Kozo Washi paper shows the natural color of Kozo, and the bleached one comes with a warmer tone of white. The bleeding degree differs with and without dosa sizing.
5 momme Washi paper has the characteristic of being translucent, while 15 momme is more opaque and feels thicker. When it comes to the raw Washi paper there are several types and they are available up to 20 momme.
Next, I’m going to talk about Ganpi and Mitsumata Washi paper.
The use of Mitsumata as a raw material began in the Meiji era (1868-1912), making it a fairly new type of Washi paper compared to the other two.
The cultivation of Ganpi is difficult, so the manufacturers mostly use the wild-grown ones. Ganpi Washi paper has the highest glossiness and smoothness of all, and its main characteristic is that it does not bleed easily even without dosa sizing.
*Fusuma : Japanese sliding doors
Mashi, a type of Washi paper that’s made of hemp and Kozo.
Kumohada-mashi is an unbleached Washi paper, so it produces a natural color of Kozo.
Both papers contain hemp, making them highly durable.
The following table is a comparison between Kozo×Mitsumata Double Layered Washi Paper and Shin-mashi.
Since both Washi papers contain Mitsumata, they have a combination of Kozo’s supple strength and the smoothness of Mitsumata.
Other than Washi paper, this set also contains two unique papers.
One is the extra thick 500g/m2 Bamboo×Kozo Mixed Paper, and the other is the polypropylene-based YUPO Paperα.
YUPO Paperα is thin but strong, highly water-resistant, and has a very glossy surface. Please refer to the product page below for a further explanation of its compatibility with paints. It is also environmentally friendly, as it is a synthetic paper that does not contain any harmful or eco-polluting substances.
The article below is a review written by our staff after using YUPO Paperα.
【FEATURES】“My Personal Favorite 「Uni paper α」”
Moreover, PIGMENT TOKYO has plans on using our original products, “Kozo×Mitsumata Double Layered Washi Paper” and “Bamboo×Kozo Mixed Paper” as a connection between the manufacturers and users.
By combining raw materials, these papers are the hybrid that combines the best aspects of each
In PIGMENT TOKYO, we provide a variety of Washi papers and sizes that are not included in this paper set, please click the link below and have a look for more options!
If you are interested in learning the method of “Mounting the Washi on the Panel”, please refer to the video below and feel free to have a go!
Paper is an art material whose characteristics are difficult to distinguish by appearance alone, however, each has its own hidden features.
The creation of art begins with the selection of the base material, and I believe that some styles and expressions can only be achieved with certain material.
PIGMENT TOKYO hope you will take the first step to discover new art materials by actually having them in your hands!