Grain - What does grain mean?
The majority of the fibres within a sheet or web of paper will lie in one particular direction. This direction is the “grain” and is sometimes known as the “machine direction” because, during the manufacturing process, the fibres align themselves parallel with the direction of the web as it moves through the paper making machine. When the web is cut into sheets, the fibres will lie parallel with either the longest side of the sheet (referred to as “long-grain” or “grain-long”) or the shortest side of the sheet (referred to as “short-grain” or “grain-short”).
Paper can be handled “with the grain” or “against the grain”; for example, paper may be folded, torn, or fed into a printer parallel with the direction of the grain (“with the grain”) or perpendicular to the direction of the grain (“against the grain”). Paper is strongest and most stable with the grain, which means that it is important to know the direction of the grain when working with paper. It should also be noted that the dimensional stability of paper is greatest with the grain. When the fibres in paper absorb moisture they expand in width (rather than length), which means the sheet or web will undergo a greater dimensional change against the grain, rather than with the grain.
In labelling, it is especially important to know the direction of the grain when printing labels. If labels are fed into a printer against the grain, there may be issues with the quality of the print and the labels are more likely to undergo structural changes and possibly peel off the backing sheet and jam than if the labels are fed in with the grain.Go Back to Glossary