Printing and Design Tips: February 2012, Issue #127

Deckled Edge Vs. Rough-Front (Faux-Deckled Edge)

You have probably seen books with a roughened face trim. The paper looks almost like it has a deckled edge (torn and ragged at the edges). It has an elegant look, and it was far more popular in past decades than in the present. However, old styles often become popular again.

This effect is achieved on the trimmer by turning off one of the blades. It should not cost you extra, but do mention it early in the process. Your book printer will tell you if it's possible on his trimming equipment.

In contrast, a true deckled edge is created during the paper-making process as a stream of water is sprayed across the paper as it runs through the Fourdriner machine. True deckled edge paper is often used for such items as invitations. It has a more feathered edge than the “rough-front” edges of books. It is more expensive than regular book paper, and the technique is more often applied to specialized text papers.

What is Groundwood Paper?

As the name implies, groundwood stock has been made from wood chips that have been physically ground rather than chemically pulped. It has good bulk and opacity.

Groundwood stock is of low quality and will not last as long as “archival quality” paper. It becomes yellow and brittle over time due to impurities in the paper. Groundwood is great for newspapers, directories, and trade journals, for example. These are items that will be read and discarded quickly. Newsprint, which is used for newspapers, is considered a groundwood paper stock, but there are other groundwood stocks as well that are coated papers.

A paper stock that includes no groundwood component is called a “free-sheet.”

What is Acid-Free Paper?

If you want your printed paper to last, a good alternative to groundwood stock is acid-free paper. The quality that makes a groundwood sheet turn yellow and become brittle is the acidity of the paper. Acid-free stock, which is manufactured with a neutral or slightly alkaline pH, is perfect for documents or any other printed material that must last a long time.

Acid-free printing sheets also are lignin free and sulfur free (two natural components of paper that otherwise would aid in its decomposition). In addition to having increased longevity, acid-free paper usually has a high brightness and opacity. These qualities come with a higher price tag, of course.

What is Fluorescent Paper?

Fluorescent dyes can be added to paper to make it appear brighter than usual in natural daylight. These papers can include colors from a brilliant white stock to a multitude of other hues. Fluorescent stock in various colors will attract attention and may therefore be a good option for signs, posters, and similar projects.

Is All Printing Paper Trimmed Square?

The answer to this question should be a resounding “yes.” However, in reality, mistakes do happen, and out-of-square paper is inadvertently made, causing printing problems.

Stock for a sheetfed press must have trimmed edges that are all 90 degrees in measure. That is, it needs to be perfectly rectangular. Any angles greater or less than 90 degrees will cause the paper to travel through the press in a somewhat diagonal manner, and will cause problems with the register of inks as the paper travels from one press unit to the next. Running several test sheets of a stock on press once the paper skid has been unpacked will quickly determine the accuracy of the trimming.

Banding or Strapping

Printed publications need to get from the printer to you in a manageable form. That is, they must be counted, gathered, and transported while being protected from damage. Although cartons are the usual vehicle for a given count of your publication, sometimes this is not necessary. For instance, if you have printed a tabloid that will be read and discarded, a perfectly good way to collect and secure a given number of copies is banding.

Banding involves wrapping a predetermined number of copies of your tabloid with a thin strip of plastic, which is then secured by the banding equipment. The bundle of newspapers is then easily grasped and carried using this strap.

Banding or strapping is not as good a protection as cartoning, but for quick and dirty (and cheap) counting, collecting, and securing operations, it can't be beat. In addition, your delivery person can just drop a bundle of your tabloids at the newsstand without needing to cut open a carton, empty it, and then take the used box away.

Just to be safe, though, it would be a good idea to ask your print provider to add a few extra copies to the bundle to account for the potential damage to the top copy and bottom copy (or to wrap the bundle loosely in paper).

[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]