Q&A: Paper Rulings Explained

paper rulings explained

What are the main types of paper?

You could spend all day covering every last detail of the different paper rulings that are available, but we have narrowed the choice down to five main paper styles. These are lined, plain, grid, dot and seyes. Many people will be familiar with the first two but maybe less so as the list goes on. The aim of this article is to summarise the main differences between the paper styles and hopefully better inform your choice.

paper rulings
The Big 5: Commonly found paper rulings

1 - Lined

Lined paper, also known as ruled, is the most common and also the most popular of all the choices of paper rulings. Lined paper is composed of regular horizontal rulings across the page.

What options are available? The most common choices you will find are the size of rulings  - that is the gap between the lines. Typically you will find this varies from 5mm - 8mm with 6mm being a fairly standard notebook ruling. It might seem a minor detail but the size will determine how much space you have to write in. Bigger handwriting needs bigger rulings.

You will also find that some lined paper has a margin - typically this will run vertically down the left-hand side of the page. This is useful if you annotate notes.

Advantages? Lined paper is the most popular of all paper styles and this is because it lends itself so well to writing neatly across the pages in lines.

Disadvantages? The page rulings are great for writing but can be an obstacle if you want to mix sketching and drawing in with your notes.

ruled paper
Ruled Paper (6mm)

2 - Plain

Plain paper is fairly self-explanatory - it is a blank page with no rulings at all. Often associated with drawing or sketching, plain notebooks are also suitable as an everyday notebook to write in. But beware as the lack of any rulings will make it harder to be consistently neat.

What options are available? There are not really any options with plain paper since by its very nature it is the most pared-back of all the paper styles.

Advantages? Plain paper is the most open of all paper styles and so it suits someone who is happy writing without any page structure at all. There is plenty of scope for drawing alongside your writing.

Disadvantages? The very same open style! Having no rulings or markings of any kind may not suit everybody as most people's writing will drift messily across the page.

plain paper
Plain paper

3 - Grid

After lined and plain paper, you are moving into the world of more niche paper rulings. Grid, or graph, paper is still seen as a bit of an unusual style but it has been around for many years. It is also seen as a bit 'continental' since it is more popular in French and other European notebooks.

Quite simply, grid paper is made up of a series of regular horizontal and vertical lines, which intersect to create small squares.

What options are available? As with lined paper, the crucial difference is the size of the grid. Unlike with lined paper, there isn't much choice here. You will find that almost all grid notebooks stick to a 5x5mm grid. Occasionally you may also find that grid paper has the option of a page-margin.

Advantages? Grid paper is the most structured of all paper styles and gives a fantastic framwork for writing and drawing, if that suits your way of working.

Disadvantages? The disadvantage of grid paper is that with so many lines, the page can become quite busy before you even start writing.

grid paper
Grid paper (5x5mm)

4 - Dot

Now this is where paper rulings become very modern. Dot paper, also known as dot-grid, is something of a more recent arrival to these shores and often confuses people. It is actually very straightforward and is proving extremely popular as it is a great all-rounder.

The dots come from the fact that at the intersection of where horizontal and vertical lines would be there is a small dot. There are no lines, just the dots at regular intervals. What it means is that dot paper has a grid-like structure but without the lines.

What options are available? There is little in the way of choice here - typically you will find that dot paper works off a 5x5mm grid, with the dots spaced 5mm apart horizontally and vertically.

Advantages? Dot paper has the advantage that the dots form a structure to write with but are feint enough. This means you can sketch and draw without the page structure getting in the way. Many people find that dot paper combines the best of lined, grid and plain paper.

Disadvantages? The disadvantage of dot paper is that it is neither one thing nor another - not structured enough to be lined or grid and yet too 'dotty' to be useful as plain paper.

Dot paper
Dot paper

5 - Seyes

Seyes paper (pronounced say-yez) is a uniquely French thing. In fact it is so specific that most people need not even consider it as an option but it is widely available on our website so we will cover it here.

Seyes has a very particular page layout of horizontal and vertical rulings, but in a seemingly irregular pattern. In fact it is a repeating series of narrow and wide rulings. The purpose of the paper is to help children learn to write. It is something that French children are very familiar with, hence the wide choice of Clairefontaine and Rhodia notebook with seyes paper.

What options are available? Because the paper is intended to be used for children of all ages, the rulings start very wide and progress to quite fine. There is a method to how the paper is used, and we will explain this in another post. However in summary it is about using the lines to form the different elements of letters.

Advantages? Er...not many. Seyes paper is something you specifically want and are looking for, in which the advantage is that it will be a unique layout designed for that purpose.

Disadvantages? The disadvantage is that if you are not familiar with seyes paper then it won't be of much use since it is intended to serve a specific role in writing evenly.

seyes paper
Seyes paper (3mm Stage VI)
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