Formed from wood pulp or plant fiber, paper is chiefly used for written communication. The earliest paper was papyrus, made from reeds by the ancient Egyptians. Paper was made by the Chinese in the second century, probably by a Chinese court official named Cai Lun. His paper was made from such things as tree bark and old fish netting. Recognized almost immediately as a valuable secret, it was 500 years before the Japanese acquired knowledge of the method. Papermaking was known in the Islamic world from the end of the eighth century A.D.

Knowledge of papermaking eventually moved westward, and the first European paper mill was built at Jativa, in the province of Valencia, Spain, in about 1150. By the end of the 15th century, paper mills existed in Italy, France, Germany, and England, and by the end of the 16th century, paper was being made throughout Europe.

Paper, whether produced in the modern factory or by the most careful, delicate hand methods, is made up of connected fibers. The fibers can come from a number of sources including cloth rags, cellulose fibers from plants, and, most notably, trees. The use of cloth in the process has always produced high-quality paper. Today, a large proportion of cotton and linen fibers in the mix create many excellent papers for special uses, from wedding invitation paper stock to special paper for pen and ink drawings.

The method of making paper is essentially a simple one—mix up vegetable fibers, and cook them in hot water until the fibers are soft but not dissolved. The hot water also contains a base chemical such as lye, which softens the fibers as they are cooking. Then, pass a screen-like material through the mixture, let the water drip off and/or evaporate, and then squeeze or blot out additional water. A layer of paper is left behind. Essential to the process are the fibers, which are never totally destroyed, and, when mixed and softened, form an interlaced pattern within the paper itself. Modern papermaking methods, although significantly more complicated than the older ways, are developmental improvements rather than entirely new methods of making paper.

Raw Materials

Probably half of the fiber used for paper today comes from wood that has been purposely harvested. The remaining material comes from wood fiber from sawmills, recycled newspaper, some vegetable matter, and recycled cloth. Coniferous trees, such as spruce and fir, used to be preferred for papermaking because the cellulose fibers in the pulp of these species are longer, therefore making for stronger paper. These trees are called "softwood" by the paper industry. Deciduous trees (leafy trees such as poplar and elm) are called "hardwood." Because of increasing demand for paper, and improvements in pulp processing technology, almost any species of tree can now be harvested for paper.

Some plants other than trees are suitable for paper-making. In areas without significant forests, bamboo has been used for paper pulp, as has straw and sugarcane. Flax,

Most paper is made by a mechanical or chemical process.
Most paper is made by a mechanical or chemical process.
hemp, and jute fibers are commonly used for textiles and rope making, but they can also be used for paper. Some high-grade cigarette paper is made from flax.

Cotton and linen rags are used in fine-grade papers such as letterhead and resume paper, and for bank notes and security certificates. The rags are usually cuttings and waste from textile and garment mills. The rags must be cut and cleaned, boiled, and beaten before they can be used by the paper mill.

Other materials used in paper manufacture include bleaches and dyes, fillers such as chalk, clay, or titanium oxide, and sizings such as rosin, gum, and starch.

The Manufacturing

Making pulp


Pulp to paper


Environmental Concerns

The number of trees and other vegetation cut down in order to make paper is enormous. Paper companies insist that they plant as many new trees as they cut down. Environmentalists contend that the new growth trees, so much younger and smaller than what was removed, cannot replace the value of older trees. Efforts to recycle used paper (especially newspapers) have been effective in at least partially mitigating the need for destruction of woodlands, and recycled paper is now an important ingredient in many types of paper production.

The chemicals used in paper manufacture, including dyes, inks, bleach, and sizing, can also be harmful to the environment when they are released into water supplies and nearby land after use. The industry has, sometimes with government prompting, cleared up a large amount of pollution, and federal requirements now demand pollutionfree paper production. The cost of such clean-up efforts is passed on to the consumer.

Where To Learn More


Biermann, Christopher J. Essentials of Pulping & Papermaking. Academic Press, 1993.

Bell, Lilian A. Plant Fibers for Papermaking. Liliaceae Press, 1992.

Ferguson, Kelly, ed. New Trends and Developments in Papermaking. Miller Freeman, Inc., 1994.

Munsell, Joel. Chronology and Process of Papermaking, 1876-1990. Albert Saifer Publisher, 1992.


deGrassi, Jennifer. "Primitive Papermaking." Schools Arts, February 1981, pp. 32-33.

Kleiner, Art. "Making Paper." Co-Evolution Quarterly, Winter 1980, p. 138.

Lamb, Lynette. "Tree-Free Paper." Utne Reader, March-April 1994, p. 40.

Saddington, Marrianne. "How to Make Homemade Paper." Mother Earth News, December-January 1993, p. 30+.

Sessions, Larry. "Making Paper." Family Explorer, October 1994.

Lawrence H. Berlow

Also read article about Paper from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

ankit dixit
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 8, 2006 @ 1:13 pm
should cover more mathematical part kinetics and design of digestors etc..
Muhammad Iqbal
Report this comment as inappropriate
May 23, 2007 @ 2:02 am
Concerning environment protection, it is necessary that for one older tree, ten plants should be planted and the older tree should be cut down atleast after three years when planting new plants.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 23, 2007 @ 9:09 am
Paper is essential in our life and as equally important as to computer. Deforestation is a must in order to cater the needs for manufacturing papers worldwide...Though stating the fact to plant trees, how much time for a tree to grow? In case you don't know it takes up to at least 10++years. Gosh imagine how many trees been cut down during the period! Only god knows how to stop it (unless you have a better idea on this serious issue). It's serious isn;t it? Trees has been protecting the earth from the Sun and avoiding the light from overheating the surface of the Earth. Undoubtedly which is a factor towards the GLOBAL WARMING issue nowadays.

Having said all that, am currently researching on the related environmental issue. Therefore, would it be better to provide a video clip on the manufacturing of paper? I must agree that video explains more. Thanks and sorry if i offended any parties. Have a nice day!
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 7, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
I would like to know if I can use saw dust to manufacture a reasonable grade of paper? If any body would like to answer me I would rely appreciate it.

Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 31, 2011 @ 9:09 am
this is awesome, i like the way they explain every step and proccess that is shows. this is very good and very helpful.thanks
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 3, 2011 @ 1:01 am
Atukwase bernard
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 27, 2016 @ 9:21 pm
Am based in Uganda a country found in East Africa. Am eucalyptus tree farmer and my dream is to make a paper processing plant, I seek guidance whether eucalyptus trees can be used to make paper and the estimated total cost for making paper processing plant. I will highly appreciate to who ever provides this information

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: