I am looking for an adjective to describe a surface that feels to the touch like a very fine sandpaper, a bit rougher than the surface of a MacBook laptop, or like the paper used for mass paperback books. When you glide your hand on it it feels both smooth and sandpapery, velvety sandpaper.


The very fine sandpapery cover of the book.

The very fine sandpapery surface of the wall.

would be replaced by the adjective:

The [adjective] cover of the book.

The [adjective] surface of the wall.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jan 15, 2017 at 1:45
  • I recently purchased a pair of golf pants made of polyester fibers, and the fabric was said to have been treated with a "micro sanding" process to render a smooth hand to the material. The pants were claimed to be "micro-sanded". The feel of pants to me was like that of a 120 grits sand paper. If you say " a micro-sanded covered of the book. I 'd know exactly what you mean.
    – gcheng
    Jan 17, 2017 at 21:45
  • @gcheng Participles used as adjectives take two forms: (A) the "-ing form" which indicates the indicative verb and, itself, has two forms - (i) the gerundive that indicates purpose, e.g. The sanding disk = the disk that is associated with the action of sanding' (ii) the participle that indicates that active verb "The sanding man" = the man who is sanding. (B) the past participle form, e.g. "the sanded disk", which indicates the passive form of the verb = the disk that was sanded.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 22, 2020 at 10:56

15 Answers 15


try the word, shagreened:

noun 1. an untanned leather with a granular surface, prepared from the hide of a horse, shark, seal, etc. 2. the rough skin of certain sharks, used as an abrasive. adjective 3. Also, shagreened. resembling, covered with, or made of shagreen.


It's either Grainy

resembling or having some characteristic of grain : not smooth or fine

or Coarse

loose or rough in texture (coarse cloth)


finely textured

slightly textured



texture [teks-cher]

1. the visual and especially tactile quality of a surface: rough texture.


7. a rough or grainy surface quality.

the slightly textured cover of the book

the textured cover of the book

the finely textured surface of the wall

  • I'm not sure if I should list it as a separate answer but I would also suggest 'sharkskin textured' . I don't think 'sharkskin cover' works because 'sharkskin' is commonly used also as a color pattern, or could be taken literally to mean a shark-hide-covered book .
    – Tom22
    Jan 12, 2017 at 23:23

What you're looking for is a term which many fountain pen lovers are familiar with; namely, micro-abrasive.

Micro-abrasives are commonly bonded to Mylar (a trademark for a thin, strong polyester film) sheets which can be used for--among other things--smoothing the nib of a fountain pen. The nib, by the way, is the part of a fountain pen which contacts the pen while writing, and it's commonly made of a blob of iridium which has been welded to the tip of the nib. I've done a good bit of nib smoothing in the last year or so.

The finest grit of micro-abrasive I've worked with is .3 μm. A micrometer (Br. micrometre) equals 1×10 [to the negative sixth power] of a metre (SI standard prefix "micro-" = 10); that is, one millionth of a metre (or one thousandth of a millimetre, 0.001 mm, or about 0.000039 inch).

Rubbing one's finger over .3 μm micro-abrasive gives the sensation of rubbing one's finger over a high quality paper! The process of nib smoothing starts usually with a "rougher" micro-abrasive (e.g., 5 μm) and then proceeds to 3 μm, then 1 μm, and finally .3 μm.


Aphanitic (Greek αφανης, invisible), from geology, refers to igneous rocks whose mineral crystals are not visible to the naked eye. In the same vein, soil textures include silty, which also suggests and evokes silky.


  • This is the most accurate answer so far. I am gonna wait for few more days before I award the bounty but I think you will be getting it. Thank you! Jan 14, 2017 at 7:50
  • Do you have any sources for it being used to describe things other than rocks? Jan 18, 2017 at 7:10
  • @BladorthinTheGrey no, why?
    – Ben Kudria
    Jan 18, 2017 at 23:23
  • Well, if it is only ever used for rocks, it is less appropriate in the OP's example sentences. Jan 19, 2017 at 7:14
  • Oh, that's interesting - I always considered appropriateness of words an intrinsic property, instead of something derived from historical usage. English is full of appropriated words, is it not?
    – Ben Kudria
    Jan 20, 2017 at 3:36

How about granular?


granular: having a roughened surface or structure.

Your examples:

The granular cover of the book.

The granular surface of the wall.

Another possibility is matte. From Wikipedia:

In paint technology, the sheen is the glossiness of a paint finish. Glossy and flat (or matte) are typical extreme levels of glossiness of a finish. Glossy paints are shiny and reflect most light in the specular (mirror-like) direction, while on flat paints most of the light diffuses in a range of angles. The gloss level of paint can also affect its apparent colour. [emphasis added]

Between those extremes, there are a number of intermediate gloss levels. Their common names, from the most dull to the most shiny, include: matte, eggshell, satin, silk, semi-gloss and high gloss. These terms are not standardized, and not all manufacturers use all these terms.

The sheen or gloss level of a paint is principally determined by the ratio of resinous, adhesive binder which solidifies after drying, and solid, powdery pigment. The more binder the coating contains, the more regular reflection will be made from its smooth surface; conversely, with less binder, grains of pigment become exposed to the surface, scattering the light and providing matte effect.

The main idea here is that matte finishes are rougher than glossy finishes, which is why they reflect light non-specularly and feel slightly rougher than glossy finishes.

Your examples:

The matte cover of the book.

The matte surface of the wall.


I will offer two words that people will understand without having to look them up, in case you want to consider something in that category.


  1. having a coarse or uneven surface, as from projections, irregularities, or breaks; not smooth


Here's how I arrived at this word. There is a word in Spanish that fits your description perfectly: áspero. Which can be expressed in English as rough. I would use either of these words to describe a cat's tongue, and how it feels when a cat licks your hand in a grooming fest.


Gritty things have a rough texture that makes them feel like they're coated with sand. After a day at the beach, you might come home with gritty arms and legs.

A baking project involving corn meal might result in a gritty counter and a gritty kitchen floor, and one shake of your dirty dog will leave you with a gritty couch. Grit is a tiny particle of sand or stone, and gritty means "covered in grit."


So, your sentences:

The gritty cover of the book.

The rough surface of the wall.

Funny, that these words have been danced around on this page, but not proposed as answers yet....

  • These both seem like adjectives that would be best applied to standard sandpaper not some extra-fine surface. Jan 17, 2017 at 21:53

Though not a simple adjective and admittedly somewhat technical looking the grit size terminology (see Wikipedia) can perhaps be applied. It is will let you describe the surface's roughness quantitatively and precisely .

The surface of the wall felt like P120 sandpaper.

Or even ...

The surface of the wall had a ISO/FEPA Grit designation of P120.
The surface of the wall had an average particle diameter of 125 µm.

  • 3
    Not my downvote, but this answer is weird. :/
    – NVZ
    Jan 11, 2017 at 2:32
  • @NVZ Agree a bit weird; it seems more unpopular that I ever anticipated judging by the DVs!
    – k1eran
    Jan 11, 2017 at 9:14
  • 6
    It seems a little technical; I'm not sure the OP wanted to imperially measure the roughness of the surface. Nevertheless, it's amazing that there is a specific grit designation system, your answer's probably not relevant to this question but I'll give it an upvote in case someone in the future is looking for a more scientific description. Jan 12, 2017 at 22:21

The Complete Guide to Sandpaper Grit Classification expresses the different textures of sandpapers after breaking it down into two categories: Macro grit and micro grit.

Macro grits can be expressed as: extra course, course, medium, fine, very fine, whereas micro grits can be described as: very fine, extra fine, ultra fine and super fine.


A material equivalent to sand paper, with finer grain, is called Emery cloth, tape or paper. Emery (corundite, aluminium oxide) is named from Cape Emeri (Naxos, Greek Island), where it was discovered.

Emery paper

From my past experience with model making, I know that emery paper was used after coarse and then fine sand paper, because of its finer finishing properties.


  • 1
    I think you're onto something here. This makes me think of emery boards, i.e. nail files. But I think you should make it clear what the word or phrase you're proposing is, and how it will fit into one of the sample sentences provided by the OP. Jan 20, 2017 at 0:04

My offering comes from the world of art, pastel painting in particular:


A pastel artist's work surface or 'ground' generally may be one of two types: a coarse paper, or a paper which has a granular layer adhered to its surface to make it gritty, exactly like sandpaper. In either case, the coarseness / grittiness of the paper's hand, that is, its toothiness, is necessary to grab and hold the pastel pigment, which is in a dry form and would fall off a smooth surface. My pastel artist husband might refer to a ground as having "a toothy response to the pigment", or as having "a fine tooth." The degree of a paper's toothiness is also a consideration for graphite, charcoal, and other dry mediums.

So, if you are looking for a word which connotes a fine, velvety roughness, toothy might just fit.

A pastel artist's description of pastel papers
An artists' forum on the nuances of 'tooth' versus 'texture'.


The SPI (Society of Plastic Industry) has several classes of polish. The grade between A: Diamond Buff Polish and C: Stone Polish is called B: Paper Polish and is equivalent to 600 to 320 grit paper.

From this guide:


SPI Finish B-1 — 600 Grit Paper

SPI Finish B-2 — 400 Grit Paper

SPI Finish B-3 — 320 Grit Paper



1. having, reduced to, consisting of, or bearing grain or grains (usually used in combination): fine-grained sand; large-grained rice.

2. having a granular form, structure, or surface: wood and other grained materials.

3. having an artificially produced granular texture or pattern: grained kid.


The same entry provides some historical examples:

After five minutes the wood is washed, and grained with acetate of iron (the ordinary iron liquor of the dyer) at 20° Tw. Burroughs' Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information, 1889 Barkham Burroughs

grained letter-paper—gilt-edged—with a favorite perfume in it. The Ghost William. D. O'Connor

A grained morocco surface is given to the material by passing it between suitably embossed rollers. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 16, Slice 3

The wikipedia entry about Moroccan leather says:

The traditional tanning process was skilled and elaborate; according to the application, the preparation either would aim for a carefully smoothed finish, or would bring up the grain in various patterns such as straight-grained, pebble-grained, or in particular, in a bird's-eye pattern.

I got the idea of looking up "grained" by thinking about books bound in leather, with descriptions talking about them being fine grained.





The feel of linen is described on this page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linen


A good description for anything that feels ‘like the paper used for mass paperback books; both smooth and sandpapery, velvety sandpaper’ might be ‘papery’.

I haven’t seen a MacBook for many a month but last time I looked almost anything was ‘a bit rougher than the surface of a MacBook laptop…’

  • 1
    Can you expand on the answer here? I've never heard papery used to describe something being "like fine sandpaper"; can you explain how it fits into the OP's example sentence? Jan 17, 2017 at 21:58
  • Uh… Pardon? Are you kidding? Have you ever used fine sandpaper? Did you actually read either the question or my comment? While I wholly agree that 'gritty' and 'rough' don't fit, depending on how fine it is, 'fine' sandpaper can very well and often does feel 'papery'… Jun 1, 2018 at 21:10
  • Uh... No. Yes. Yes. It's more that, when looking for a word to describe the type of paper used in mass paperback books 'papery' would seem inappropriate Jun 2, 2018 at 14:34
  • Oh, please. Might it be better to ask everyone interested to work around "when looking for a word to describe the type of paper used in mass paperback books 'papery' would seem inappropriate" or just to recgnse that one of the best words for describing paper is… uh… "papery"? Jun 4, 2018 at 1:53

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