How Tracing Paper Is Made


Tracing paper is translucent paper that may be placed over printed material so a person can copy it. (Newone, Creative Commons License)

Tracing paper is translucent paper that may be placed over printed material so a person can copy it. (Newone, Creative Commons License)

Tracing paper is translucent paper that you place over printed material or a drawing so you can trace over it. Would it surprise you to learn that tracing paper is essentially regular white paper?

The reason ordinary paper is opaque is because the air trapped between the cellulose fibers in paper scatters light. One way to make tracing paper is to press the air out of paper. Another method is to make paper from pulp that has been beaten in water long enough to divide and hydrolyze the cellulose fibers. A third way to make tracing paper involves a chemical process. When paper is soaked in sulfuric acid for a few seconds, rinsed, and dried, some of the cellulose is converted into a gelationous amyloid form.

No matter which process is used, tracing paper tends to be lighter and stronger than original paper. It’s also lower in humidity and resists water damage.

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