Printing & Design Tips: October 2004, Issue #39

Effect of Paper on Ink Drying Time -- REVISITED

A reader recently asked about the effect of paper coating (or lack thereof) on ink drying time, questioning whether a past issue of Quick Tips was in error in noting that coated stock dries faster than uncoated stock. I realize this is counter intuitive. I, too, had initially thought the reverse was true.

Ink on coated stock dries faster because the entire ink surface is exposed to air. On an uncoated sheet, the ink is nestled in and around the paper fibers instead of sitting up on the coated surface of the paper (which is called ink holdout). Since ink on the uncoated sheet receives less exposure to air, it dries more slowly.

A somewhat related item to note is that ink specified for coated stock can be formulated to have a higher tack (bonding between ink particles), since you are printing on a glass-like surface. This quality also allows the ink to dry faster.

Final Responsibility for Printable Job Files

Over the past few years, final responsibility for providing press-ready files has been moving from the printer back to the content creators: the designers. This has been the trend, and it has profound implications.

First of all, why is this happening? Job turn around requirements have been getting shorter and shorter, and handing off PDF files to your printer can get your job on press faster (if the files are correct). After all, the printer spends less time doing prepress work on your job.

The availability and affordability of PDF distilling and editing software and preflight applications have also fostered this shift in responsibility. These programs allow the content creator to match a specific list of job definition standards provided by a particular offset printer. A savvy designer can actually hand off a press-ready file.

However, consider the following. There are so many variables in these programs, so many options you can choose, that ignorance of the printing process can be costly -- in a big way. Not understanding color management or trapping, or not adhering to your offset printer's specifications (based on their presses), can blow your budget by necessitating extra prepress work or even a total reprint. Clearly, there is no substitute for a printer's human judgment that comes from years of putting ink on paper.

Paper Price Increase

In response to several articles I have read in trade journals, I recently asked several printers I work with about paper price increases. Why is the price of printing paper increasing, and what kinds of paper will this affect?

Consistent with elementary economics, the price is increasing because paper demand is growing, and paper availability is not. Gradually, since the terrorist actions of 2001, paper usage has increased. Ad sales are up, so magazines are getting fatter. Direct mail is increasing. People are just printing more--not just here in the United States, but globally as well.

At the same time, some paper mills are closing, and others are just not expanding their operations. In addition, imports of paper from Europe and Asia have lessened. In short, more demand, less supply.

Therefore, it is a seller's market. The price of paper has already risen. There will be another increase in September. And experts say prices will continue to rise until late 2005.

What kinds of paper is this affecting? Coated and uncoated stock, with web stock more in demand than sheetfed stock.

What can you do? Ask your printer about buying more paper now to stabilize prices a bit (it's worth a try). And consider decreasing the weight of the paper you specify. For instance, switch from a 50 lb. stock to a 45 lb. stock for your magazine cover.

[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.]