What is Vellum (vel’-uhm) Paper?
Are you sometimes confused when you hear or read the words vellum paper? Do you find yourself saying, “but I thought vellum was…”
You’re not alone.
Allow me to clear up the confusion once and for all. First, let me ask you what you think vellum means.
Does it mean A. a translucent paper or B. a slightly rough-surfaced paper?
If you answered A & B, you’re correct. Vellum is a translucent paper and vellum is a slightly rough-surfaced, non-translucent paper. The modern-day term vellum correctly refers to both of these drastically different papers.
How’d this happen? you might ask. How do I know which way to interpret the term when I see it? How do I correctly use it when buying / specifying paper? Let me give you further insight into the use of the paper term vellum.
2 Types of Vellum
There are two types of vellum: vellum finish paper, and translucent vellum paper. Both paper types are ideal for different uses.
Commercial Printing/Fine Paper
Vellum finish paper for commercial printing is uncoated and has a slightly rough or toothy surface similar to eggshell. Vellum is the slightly toothy or rough surface structure of non-translucent paper. You will see vellum used in conjunction with the words finishor surface structure as in vellum finish. In the world of uncoated commercial printing papers, many different surface structures exist. A paper can have a smooth surface, a laid surface and many other surfaces, including vellum.
Try these vellum finish papers:
Translucent vellum is a high-quality paper resembling parchment and originally made from calf’s skin. This definition has evolved to include all modern translucent papers.
In today’s papercrafting and scrapbooking market, folks use the traditional definition of the word vellum, which dates back many hundreds of years and was used to describe old-word vellum papers that were made from calf’s skin. Through the tanning process, the skins were stretched, dried and refined to be very thin and slightly translucent, giving them the look of a parchment-type translucent paper. These calf-skin vellum papers were very durable, long-lasting and perfect for important documents that were meant to stand the test of time.
The word vellum comes from the Old French vélin, meaning “calf’s skin.” Today’s translucent papers aren’t technically vellums, but popular usage has overtaken this minor technicality. So within crafting circles, when a person mentions vellum, you know the person is speaking of translucent papers.
Try these translucent vellum papers:
Now that you see the term vellum serves two masters, papercrafting markets and commercial printing markets, you will understand it when you see it and use vellum correctly for your applications.