Are Vellum Paper and Tracing Paper the Same Thing?

Vellum in white and cream

Vellum goes by many names – see-through paper, semi-transparent paper, translucent paper – but what about tracing paper? Is that the same thing? People very often ask us this, and in this post, we discuss the answer.

In a nutshell, the answer is yes – but be aware that not all translucent papers are created equally.

Vellum and Tracing Paper are Made the Same Way

Both translucent (see-through) and opaque (non see-through) papers are made with cellulose fibers. When air is trapped between the fibers, paper is opaque. When air is not present in the fibers, paper is translucent.

Both vellum and tracing paper are created by beating and processing cellulose fibers until there is no air present, resulting in dense, strong, moisture-rich sheets that you can see though.

Vellum and Tracing Paper Look and Feel Alike

Naturally, since they are made the same way, vellum and tracing paper have similar physical properties. Both are translucent with a non-porous, plastic-like finish.

They Can be used for Similar Applications

Given that these two papers are so similar, yes, vellum can be used to trace just like tracing paper can be used for a craft project. Both can be written on, printed, cut, scored, folded, converted, and so on, depending on the project. Handed a sheet of translucent paper, a scrapbooker or stationer may use the term vellum where a drafter or an artist may term it tracing paper.

So then, is it safe to say that the words “tracing” and “vellum” are just industry terms for the same paper? Almost.

But Beware! Not all Translucents are Created Equally!

Yes, essentially vellum and tracing papers are the same. However, depending on the industry they are manufactured for, there may be slight differences. Not all translucent papers are created equally, so know your intended use, and be aware of this.

For example, tracing paper sold in the children’s art section of your local craft store may not be suitable for scrapbooking or invitations. Sure, it may look just like the vellum sold at the stationery store (and for half the price), but it is likely not made with printing, cutting, folding, and longevity in mind.

Similarly, a drafter would likely not purchase vellum that was manufactured with crafts in mind, as they would likely prefer their translucent paper be on a large roll. They would also likely go for clear vellum as opposed to the colors and patterns that vellum may be offered in.

Collage of translucent papers offered at

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