• Vellum is a type of paper known for its high quality and “velvety” surface. It can be purchased as translucent or bristol weights. 1


  • Historically, vellum paper was made from calf skin 4 however, modern vellum is usually plant based, consisting of materials such as cotton or wood pulp. Vellum may also be manufactured using synthetic materials during the chemical processes which make the paper transparent. 1


  • Vellum paper is made translucent through either natural or synthetic processes, in both, the paper will begin in an opaque state, the cellulosic fibers are more loosely compacted in comparison to an average sheet of paper. To be made naturally, the air pockets between the loose cellulose fibers will be “pressed out” resulting in densely compacted fibers. During chemical manufacturing the paper is conditioned using petroleum based resins, this process renders the paper non recyclable. 2 Because no fillers are added in either process the paper will remain translucent.

Human Health

  • When extracting the pulp from wood, workers often come in contact with sulfuric acid, bleach, chlorine and many other hazardous chemicals, this exposure raises cardiovascular concerns and has been linked to lung cancer. 6 Finished vellum paper is safe during normal use.

Safe Use and Exposure

  • Vellum paper is acid free and has a neutral PH balance, this makes vellum paper non-toxic as well as resistant to yellowing. 3

Proper disposal

  • Synthetic vellum should be thrown away and natural vellum should be recycled. The difference between vellum that is manufactured naturally versus synthetically is seen in integrity of the paper. Vellum which has been chemically conditioned will tend to be more brittle than a naturally treated brand which will not crack due to folding. 5 Donate any usable vellum pads to the give take.

Safe Alternatives

  • Certain brands of vellum paper are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified for containing recycled fibers. 2 Brands such as Borden & Riley, Canson, Clearprint and others can be found at Blick and Apple Art and are all FSC certified vellums.


  1. “Paper: What is Vellum?”, Muse Art and Design,
  2. “Is vellum environmentally friendly? Inquiring minds want to know…”, What They Think,
  3. “Canson Vidalon Vellum”, Blick,
  4. “Vellum”, Wikipedia,
  5. “Vellum”, New World Encyclopedia,
  6. “Pulp and paper mills and cancer: Researchers study possible link”, Electrocorp,