What is Swedish tracing paper?

This is a thin but strong tissue paper made from natural abaca fibres. Its usual use is for tracing dressmaking patterns.

I am really grateful to Jo who brought some along to the last York Printmakers meeting – nobody had come across it before.

If you sew as well as a printing, you may have discovered its potential for printmaking, but if not, I hope this post will encourage you to give it a go.

swedish tracing paper printed in colourful lettering

Comparing Swedish tracing paper to lens paper / wet strength tissue

Lens paper is also made of abaca fibre, it is very thin and when wet it tends to crumple up into a tiny heap. (See the picture below  where the wet lens paper is on the left, looking sad.)

Swedish tissue is thin, but it is stiffer and has more body than lens paper; it is easy to handle when wet.

I thought wet strength tissue was a good cheap option for chine collée, but Swedish tracing paper is far more absorbent as well as having a good wet strength. This means it is much easier to glue it down flat, and avoid wrinkles and bubbles when it dries.

The Swedish tissue does have a manufacturing pattern of tiny holes, but these are more obvious when it is wet. On the dry paper you have to look really hard to spot them.


wet lens paper compared to wet Swedish tracing paper
wet Swedish tracing paper showing manufacturing pattern

What printmaking techniques is it good for?

It could be easier to ask ‘what isn’t it good for?’, this is such a versatile paper, I feel I have only just begun to explore printmaking with it.

Chine collee

This was my first thought. Yes, it is perfect for chine collée!

In this example I glued the orange paper, laid it face down on the inked plate and then laid a clean piece of Swedish tracing paper over it.  The finished print covered the backing paper and the orange chine collée.

Both papers were dampened before printing. (see the post on chine collée for more info)

I like the delicate nature of using the tissue for the main print as well as for the chine collée, and as the papers are the same weight there is less likelihood that they will wrinkle or buckle.

a print in blue ink with orange chine collée on Swedish tracing paper


For the chine collée I dyed the Swedish tissue with acrylic inks – the process is basically the same as you would do for lens paper.

Paint diluted ink onto the paper with a soft brush, blend and fade colours as the fancy takes you.

The main thing is to make sure your inks are water-proof when they are dry, or they will run when you re-wet the paper.

Block printing

Lay the Swedish tissue on a pile of old newspapers (the ink can come through to the back as the paper is so thin) Ink up your blocks and stamp away!

This worked well, and the bold shapes combined with the transparency of the paper means you can layer up pieces with different text, colour or other images printed on them.

layers of Swedish tracing paper with block printed text

Mono print

This print was taken from a piece of flat acetate – the Swedish tracing paper was hard to pull off the plate but it is strong so didn’t tear at all.

abstract mono print on Swedish tracing paper

Roller Printing

Swedish tissue is ideal for roller prints – you need something thin and strong. Just lay your paper over an interesting texture and roll over it with an inky roller.

This is like a rubbing but made with the inky roller instead of wax.

a roller print taken from cardboard packaging

Relief print

In this example I rolled ink on the collagraph plate and used two pieces of Swedish tissue, one wet and one dry to illustrate the difference in colour tone

Both worked fine, but I prefer the more vibrant colour on the damp paper.

two relief prints from a collagraph plate, one on wet and one on dry paper

Intaglio printing

Here is an intaglio collagraph print on Swedish tracing paper. The paper absorbent but as it is so thin I suggest you avoid using too much ink, as excess ink in the grooves can a bit blobby.

The paper picks up all the marks on the plate but it will ot hold any embossing as it is not thick enough.

intaglio print on Swedish tracing paper

How to use Swedish tracing paper

If you are using oil-based printing inks the result is much better on damp paper, dry paper does not take the colour so well and the image is paler.

To dampen your Swedish tracing paper before printing on it;

1. Cut your paper to size and lay it on a piece of clean newsprint paper.

2. Spray with water then brush it gently with a baker’s brush to make sure it is all wetted.

3. Blot between newsprint to remove any excess water and use it immediately.

I put the inked-up plate on the press and then laid the Swedish tissue gently over it, avoiding any wrinkles. I covered it with a piece of clean newsprint before folding down the blankets and running it through the press.

Where can I get it?

There are lots of sewing sites on line so a big choice of where to get it. I got mine from Patterntrace

At the time of writing is £15.85 for a roll 1m wide x 10m long. I think this is a bargain!

Nb It is sometimes called Swedish pattern tissue.

a roll of Swedish tracing paper from pattern trace

That’s not all folks!

You probably notice that I am very keen on Swedish tracing paper – I think it is a great discovery, and I am sure it will feature in quite a few of my prints in future.

To take you back to the beginning of the post, this tissue paper is designed for pattern tracing and cutting, and as well as that you can actually sew it to make up a test garment!

You could literally wear your prints, but you may need to add extra layers of chine collée at strategic points…..

patchwork sewn from paper

If you havent already tried Swedish tracing paper for printmaking I hope you will make some time to experiment with it.

When you do please share anything new you discover and leave your comments here below.

the snail reversed on Swedish tracing paper