Many beautifully designed books use a tiled paper texture on their pages, e.g.,

enter image description here

In the PDFs of these books (see http://www.tsengbooks.com), the paper texture is highly visible. But oddly, I've never actually seen (or perhaps I've never noticed?) a printed book with such a paper texture. All of the books I've handled seem to have perfectly flat and solid-colored page textures. Is the printed difference, contrary to the digital difference, just very subtle and I'm missing it; or does the paper texture make a big difference when it's used?

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    Welcome to GD.SE!
    – Mensch
    Dec 3, 2021 at 19:37
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    A guessed explanation (=no scientific proof presented, cannot be an answer)Paper texture on the screen reduces contrast when compared to white background. Often that doesn't harm at all, because many people have bright screens, maybe even too bright. In that case the dimmed background can be seen pleasant. Paper books do not offer such contrast in ordinary light conditions. The printed texture would make reading more difficult.
    – user82991
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:05
  • @user287001 Thanks for the guess. Likely it's correct—I suppose that the publisher is simply using the paper texture for the online PDF samples (to simulate paper) but are removing it before printing. Hence, the texture is used in the sample of "The Federal Appointments Process," but does not seem to be there in the Amazon.com preview of either the paperback or hardcover edition of the book.
    – Lijishe
    Dec 3, 2021 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


Actual paper is both a sensory and a visual experience while a digital imitation is purely that. Paper can be as much part of the design process as the choice of type and color.

It comes in both uncoated and coated including matte, gloss, cast coated, and now the very popular soft touch that gives the paper a velvety texture. The uncoated sheets can also come in everything from smooth to linen.

When it comes to book publishing, the decision is usually made on what the surfaces will be holding from purely type to high end photography to original artwork. Bottom line is you get both the visual experience of the paper which can be subtle, to a sense of touch. All have an impact on the design, structure, and impact.

Dare I say that an agency that designs a digital version with these background textures can only be trying to add to the visual experience and taking a leap that it will somehow provide the sensory. But it really doesn't.

If you've never experienced the range of papers, what they feel and look like, you can always reach out to the paper manufacturers and they will be glad to send you sample swatch books for you to see and feel. As for choosing a paper stock for the ink on paper version, that's up to design and can often be constricted by budget. But very much worth a look and feel. Providing an actual sample to someone who you're trying to sell a print project to goes a long way to finalizing a design.

I don't know if I've answered your question. But as an old school print production and account manager who was born into the business when hot metal was still being used, I can say that there is no substitute for real paper.

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    Nice answer. Took the liberty to add line breaks to make it easier to read. You are perhaps being a bit nice here. 😀 To me, using paper texture to simulate "real paper" digitally is a bit bad taste. Give me memories of skeumorphism of the past. And printing such a texture on top of a real paper texture is a total no go. (Except for some special cases of course. Like games and fantasy literature and the likes.)
    – Wolff
    Dec 4, 2021 at 16:37
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    @JeffK Thanks. What you wrote doesn't answer my question, because my question—asked out of deep confusion—is confused itself. Contrary to what I assumed, no venerable publisher actually is printing serious books with fake-textured pages—for the reasons that you and Wolff mention: genuine high-quality paper is always better, and pages printed with a fake texture are a form of skeumorphism. I simply mistook the PDF sample spreads for the PDFs headed to the printing press. Now everything makes sense.
    – Lijishe
    Dec 4, 2021 at 18:40

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