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What is color-aid paper for?

Color-aid paper is a lightweight colored paper that comes in a wide variety of bright, vibrant hues. It was originally created in the 1930s for use in arts and crafts projects, and has remained popular for crafters and educators ever since. But what exactly is color-aid paper, and what are some of the common uses for it today? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a close look at what makes color-aid paper unique and outline some of its most popular applications.

What is Color-Aid Paper?

Color-aid paper is thinner and more translucent than conventional construction paper, almost tissue-like in weight and texture. It’s made using a blend of short and long wood pulp fibers, allowing it to be lightweight while still retaining its strength and flexibility. Here are some key features of color-aid paper:

  • Available in a broad spectrum of colors – there are currently 182 different shades available
  • Thin, tissue-like texture – each sheet weighs approximately 60 gsm (grams per square meter)
  • Translucent – color-aid paper allows some light to pass through
  • Durable and flexible
  • Acid-free – archival safe for long-lasting projects
  • Smooth surface suitable for drawing, painting, printing, etc.

The extensive range of colors, from primary shades to neons, pastels, and earth tones, is one of the things that makes color-aid paper so vibrant and fun to work with. The translucent quality also allows colors to be layered or blended for additional hues.

History of Color-Aid Paper

Color-aid paper was invented in the 1930s by the Strathmore Paper Company, which was founded in the late 19th century and is still one of the leading paper suppliers today. Strathmore developed color-aid paper as an affordable colored paper for artists.

Prior to its invention, colored construction paper was made using a cost-prohibitive dyeing process. Color-aid paper was revolutionary because its colors were integrated during the pulp stage of manufacturing, eliminating the need for dyeing and reducing the cost substantially.

The name “Color-Aid” was chosen because the paper was intended to aid artists in incorporating more color into their work. After its launch, Color-Aid paper quickly became popular for art projects, crafts, scrapbooking, school activities, window displays, and more – uses that continue today.

Common Uses for Color-Aid Paper

Color-aid paper is lightweight, making it well-suited for a wide range of arts and crafts. Here are some of the most common uses:

School Arts & Crafts Projects

Color-aid paper is frequently used for arts and crafts projects in schools. Grade school teachers often choose it for activities like:

  • Cutting, tearing, folding, and gluing to make collages, paper sculptures, greeting cards, and more
  • Tracing shapes and alphabet letters
  • Wrapping lightweight craft joints and structures
  • Dyeing activities – the porous surface readily absorbs liquid dye

The vivid colors and ability to layer translucently are perfect for school projects. It’s also more economical than construction paper for classroom use.

Painting and Printmaking

The smooth, lightweight surface of color-aid paper makes it ideal for painting. The colors provide a bright base layer. Once dry, additional paint or other mediums can be layered on top. The paper is also suitable for printmaking techniques like block printing, screen printing, and monoprinting.

Paper Weaving

The flexibility and thinness of color-aid paper enables fun paper weaving projects. Long strips can be woven together into decorative murals, jewelry, or sculptures. The semi-translucent quality produces interesting color blending effects in woven projects.

Dyeing and Marbling

As a porous, wood pulp-based paper, color-aid paper readily absorbs liquid dye. It can be immersed in dye baths to produce tie-dye patterns or painted with dye for colorful effects. The paper also works well for marbling using shaving cream, glue, or oil-based inks.

Origami and Kirigami

Color-aid paper can be folded into origami sculptures, shapes, boxes, and more. Its lightweight structure holds creases well. The paper can also be cut and folded for kirigami (cut paper) projects, creating intricate designs.

Decorations and Signage

For seasonal displays, bulletin boards, event decorations, and real estate/business signage, color-aid paper can provide bright, eye-catching color. It can be cut into shapes, layered, or accordion folded, then hung or displayed.

Scrapbooking and Cardmaking

Many scrapbookers and cardmakers enjoy using color-aid paper to provide pops of color. The slim paper can be layered or die cut into shapes like flowers, frames, tags, and backgrounds for cards and scrapbook layouts.

Use Examples
School Arts & Crafts Projects Collages, paper sculptures, tracings, wrappings
Painting and Printmaking Block printing, screen printing, monoprinting
Paper Weaving Decorative murals, jewelry, sculptures
Dyeing and Marbling Tie-dye, painted dye effects, marbling with shaving cream or inks
Origami and Kirigami Folding paper into shapes and sculptures, cut paper art
Decorations and Signage Seasonal displays, bulletin boards, real estate/business signs
Scrapbooking and Cardmaking Adding pops of color, die cuts, layered accents

Benefits of Using Color-Aid Paper

There are many benefits that make color-aid paper a top choice for crafters, artists, and educators:

  • Vibrant colors – With 182 vivid shades that can be layered, the color possibilities are endless.
  • Versatile – Lightweight yet strong, color-aid paper suits many different mediums and techniques.
  • Economical – The affordability makes it feasible for large craft and classroom projects.
  • Acid-free – It’s archival safe for preserving artwork and projects.
  • Ages gracefully – The colorants used retain their brightness over many years.
  • Easy to work with – It’s easy to cut, fold, paint, print, and weave.

The combination of these advantages makes color-aid paper a crafter’s dream and an ideal choice for elementary art teachers.

Color-Aid Paper vs. Construction Paper

While both color-aid and construction paper are colored paper suitable for arts and crafts, there are some key differences between the two:

Color-Aid Paper Construction Paper
Thin, translucent, tissue-like Thicker, opaque
Very lightweight (60 gsm) Heavier (90-160 gsm)
Allows more precision in cutting and folding Harder to cut and fold precisely
182 colors Usually 12-24 colors
More suitable for dyeing, painting, and blending colors Less ideal for wet mediums
Well-suited for weaving and papier-mâché Too thick for weaving, but can be used for papier-mâché
Vibrant, non-fading colors Some cheaper brands may fade over time

As this comparison shows, color-aid paper’s lightweight translucency makes it better suited to detailed cutting and folding, painting, dyeing, and weaving – advantages that contribute to its popularity with artists and crafters. Construction paper is thicker and more opaque, offering durability well-suited to kids’ crafts.

Working with Color-Aid Paper

Color-aid paper is simple to use, but there are some techniques that can enhance your creative projects:

  • Use sharp scissors or a craft knife for smooth cuts.
  • For folding, score the fold line first with a dull edge like a brayer, folder, or edge of a ruler.
  • Layer multiple sheets when wet gluing for added strength.
  • Iron between wax or parchment paper on low heat to flatten wrinkles.
  • Use light pressure and minimal liquid when block printing for best impression.
  • Launder dyed pieces by hand using mild soap and cold water to avoid bleeding.

By understanding the paper’s characteristics, minimizing liquid exposure, using low heat for flattening, and handling gently, color-aid paper will provide years of enjoyment for any craft or art project!

Where to Buy Color-Aid Paper

Here are some of the best places to buy color-aid paper:

  • Art supply stores – Blick, Michaels, and local art shops carry the full line of colors.
  • Online retailers – Amazon, Dick Blick, Smart Art, and Overstock sell individual sheets or packs.
  • Strathmore website – Purchase packs and bundles directly from the manufacturer.
  • Office supply stores – Some larger chains like Staples stock color-aid paper.
  • School supply vendors – Lakeshore Learning and School Specialty supply educational packs.

When purchasing, look for the Strathmore brand to ensure you’re getting genuine color-aid paper. They offer the paper in convenient classroom packs, multi-color bundles, and individual 9″x12″ or 12″x18″ sheets.


With its vibrant hues, lightweight translucency, and archival durability, it’s easy to see why color-aid paper has been a favorite of artists, educators, and hobbyists for over 80 years. It lends itself beautifully to painting, printing, weaving, dyeing, and layered effects. Next time you visit the art store or browse online for craft supplies, pick up a few sheets of this versatile colored paper. With proper care and creative vision, the colorful possibilities are endless!