Sizing and Paper: Watch This to Learn!

handmade paper sizing

Ever wonder why paper towels excel at soaking up the red wine you spilled, where the pile of junk mail would fail miserably?

Okay—maybe you have, or maybe you haven’t. In any case, it’s all about the sizing.

sizing in handmade paper

Without sizing, paper tends to soak up anything liquid. For instance, ink will bleed or feather, immediately soaking into the paper. See above for an example of ink on paper towel.

sizing in handmade paper

With sizing added, both watercolors and wine will sit on the top surface of the paper for a bit longer. The above shows how the line is has drastically crisper edges on the sized handmade paper. Sized paper is generally tougher and stronger, as well.


In the papermaking process, sizing can be applied directly into the pulp. This is called internal sizing, and most hand papermakers use a chemical called ‘alkyl ketene dimer’, which protects and coats each fiber. Suppliers like Carriage House Paper and Twinrocker carry this item.


Sizing can also be applied externally (also called surface or tub sizing), after the paper has be formed, pressed, and dried. Gelatin, wheat starch, and egg whites are more common external sizing options.


Various types of sizing have been used through the ages and in different traditions (too much to cover here!). Also, the amount, type, and application of sizing is unique to each papermaker and their handmade paper—experimentation in the studio and the intended purpose of the paper is key.

Interested in finding out more? Here’s further reading:

How about you? What’s your experience with sizing? Comment below to share with us all!


3 thoughts on “Sizing and Paper: Watch This to Learn!

  1. Is there more of a ‘homey’ way of sizing? I want to recycle my printing paper in order to paint, and my favourite medium at the moment is watercolour.
    I assume, without sizing the colour will bleed. Is there maybe something I can add to the pulp, that can be found easier than the ingredients listed in the article?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Flor, I know that methyl cellulose (a natural glue also available from papermaking suppliers) adds a slight size if added to wet pulp. – May

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