We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Onionskin Paper?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Onion skin paper is a type of very light weight, almost translucent paper that somewhat resembles the outer skins of an onion. It is also relatively durable, given how lightweight it is, because it usually contains a high percentage of cotton fibers, which make for stronger paper. There are numerous practical applications for this paper, including airmail stationary, Bibles, and other situations where lightweight, strong paper is needed. Along with other specialty papers, it is available from paper supply stores and companies in varying sizes to meet differing needs.

The weight of onion skin paper is very light; a stack of 500 sheets of bond size weighs around 9 pounds (4 kilograms), depending on the manufacturer. Bond size is 17 inches by 22 inches (43 by 56 centimeters), meaning that it is double the size of a standard letter sized sheet. The light weight of onion skin paper makes it ideal for situations where large amounts of records are being generated, but still need to be kept manageable. For this reason, it is also often used to make duplicates, carbon copies, and records of official correspondence. While the official version may be sent out on regular paper, the records are kept compact on this specialty paper.

The finish of onion skin paper is usually cockled, meaning that it was air dried while it was being made. Cockled paper has a slightly wavy, hand-made feel to it, along with a mildly dimpled finish. This property means that the paper often crackles while it is being handled, as the sheets do not lie flat against each other. It also prevents the sheets from sticking to each other or other surfaces, a common problem with very light weight papers.

While onion skin paper and tracing paper are technically not the same thing, this paper can be used for art tracing. It can also be used as an interleaving material in books with color plates that have the potential to be damaged. Entire books are also printed on onion skin paper when they have a lot of material that would otherwise make them very unwieldy. When handling a large onion skin text, such as some versions of the Bible or the Oxford English Dictionary, readers should be aware that the larger pages are more subject to ripping if roughly handled than some other papers, so they should not be hasty, even when an etymological argument is vital.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1005013 — On Jun 01, 2021

You said that it is almost translucent. This paper is translucent. What you are trying to say is that this paper is almost transparent.

By anon163866 — On Mar 29, 2011

Forget sewing your design onto the fabric. Trace your quilt design onto the fabric using graphite paper (or any specialized fabric tracing paper). The graphite is completely removed when you wash the quilt.

By anon152129 — On Feb 12, 2011

I would like to have my family tree chart put on onion paper and I don't know where I can get that done. If anyone knows of any company that can do that or on something similar to that kind of paper. I don't want it to ever fade. I want to frame it. One side of my family goes back 20 generations so it will be a good size chart. I hope to hear from someone soon. Thank you.

By thomasgos — On Dec 05, 2010

where can I purchase a dictionary printed on onion skin paper?

By proline115 — On May 03, 2009

i have what appears to be onion paper copies of american civil war military letters. was the paper used as blotting material and/or copy material?

tks, roland

By anon27272 — On Feb 26, 2009

I am wondering if there is any photocopier (brand) that you know of that can photocopy in black and white on onion skin paper. (double sided.)

By cdkubsch — On Jan 20, 2009

I have a question about paper types and what to use for a craft project I'm trying to do. I'm a quilter and need to use a lightweight, easily-tearable paper. What I do is print or copy a design I've drawn onto paper and lay that paper picture on top of fabric and sew along the outline of the picture to give a quilted shape design. Then after sewing the design into the fabric, I tear away the paper. My problem is that when I'm tearing the paper away, often the sewed stitches come loose or out entirely which defeats the purpose of my using the paper method to transfer a design to the fabric. Any suggestions on what type of paper would be good for this? Onion skin, tissue paper, tracing paper, vellum, parchment? Ideally, the paper might be placed into a computer printer and simply printed upon and and then taken to the sewing machine and fabric. Your suggestions would be very helpful. Thanks.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.