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During my trip to France last month, I was given permission to photograph the Canson paper mill in Annonay France. This has never been done before, so I was really thankful and grateful for their trust.

During my tour, it was fascinating to learn how paper is made, and how difficult it is to create just the right texture, feel, color, and finish that will appeal to painters and photographers. To learn that artists such as da Vinci, Monet, Picasso, Degas, and Van Gogh used Canson paper, and that many of the originals in the Louvre Museum in Paris were painted on Canson paper is both impressive and speaks volumes about their quality and legitimacy. I came away with a deeper respect for the pride they take in paper making, as well as their commitment to being green and environmentally friendly.

Because Canson does not allow any photography during public tours, I couldn’t take any photos but kept wishing I could after seeing how impressive the mill was. I thought it would be great to show my blog readers (you) some behind the scenes images, so after some friendly negotiation, I was allowed to return to the mill camera in hand, with full clearance. I promised to let them approve all photos first before I made any public. They will also be using some for their own promotion.

I hope you enjoy this inside look at paper making, and learn something in the process about the value of quality in all of our creative materials and tools.

Quick Facts

  • First papers made in 1557 for writing and books
  • 1809 – first tracing paper
  • 1947 – Canson supplies all paper for school students in France
  • Raw materials used to make paper: wood pulp, water, bleach pulp, fillers (calcium), starch, dyes, sizing agents, steam (to dry paper)
  • Fourdrinier – machine used to make the paper
  • Capacity – 1 roll per hour (each roll is 3 tons , 2.6 meters wide)


Raw materials used for paper making

Raw materials entering the manufacturing process
Paper pulp ready for the "Fourdrinier Machine"
The huge and loud Fourdrinier machine where the paper is rolled out to exhaustive quality standards.
The "wire" where the water is separated from the pulp
The “wire” from overhead – moves very fast and I had to make sure not to drop anything, otherwise the whole plan would have to stop because of me!

Canson Technical Director Philippe Noblet explaining how the texture of the paper is tested daily for consistency.

Then final roll which weighs 3 tons and is 8 feet wide – ready for testing and cutting into proper sizes. These papers are used by artists as is. Inkjet papers are then sent to another processing plant to revive the inkjet receptive coating. Otherwise, the papers are the same in quality and feel.
Cut sheets ready for boxing
Rolls ready for distribution plant
Rolls ready for the converting plant

And here’s how the machine looked 100 years ago – these images from the Canson Museum.


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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. You are a lucky man. Even as an employee and technical consultant, I was not allowed to take photgraphs inside the factory. These are invaluable and I will use them during my paper lectures, giving you credit of course.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Thank you so much for posting these photos and info. We have been using Canson papers in our artist studio to create paper mache masks for many years now, we really treasure their paper’s quality. It’s really inspiring to see your photos, thank you so much for sharing them!
    kind regards from a very rainy Amsterdam!

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