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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven 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.

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The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

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Custom Printing on Seeded Paper: Avoid the Pitfalls

A client of mine was recently looking for printing companies for a single-page panel invitation. The most appropriate vendor for this particular project was a printer with both an HP Indigo digital press and a small-format offset press. He specialized in business printing work such as custom envelopes, print newsletters, and the like.

Production of this job hit some bumps. Here is what happened, along with the lessons learned.

Problem #1: Client Chose Hand-Made Printing Paper That Was Not Readily Available

Background: The client had seen a sample invitation printed on “seeded paper” (paper with actual seeds embedded in the stock). She loved it and wanted a similar product for her upcoming event. The job was a very short run (300 copies), and since it was to be printed in 4-color process ink, a digital printer with an HP Indigo was the ideal vendor. In addition, I believed the Indigo would be the best digital press for high-end (or difficult) work. Since the paper was unusual, I called a paper merchant for advice, and also checked the Internet for “seeded paper.” Apparently the paper was hand-made and not readily available.

Solution: Based on suggestions from the paper vendor, I found two sources for seeded paper. Both were halfway across the country. I called to request samples for both the client and the digital printer. When the client had chosen the paper stock and color, and the printer had determined its “runnability” (ability of a press sheet to be used efficiently on a particular press without undue problems occurring and slowing down the process) on the Indigo press, I ordered a specially made batch of paper sufficient for the 300 invitations (plus potential waste). Paper manufacturing had to occur within a tight window of time to allow for printing and delivery by the client’s deadline.

Lesson Learned: Particularly when unusual paper stocks are involved, start early. Involve the printer. Leave room in the schedule for testing the process and paper.

Problem #2: Printing Paper Didn’t Feed Properly

Background: The paper was hand made. Therefore, the paper caliper (thickness of the paper) varied from sheet to sheet. This caused paper jams in the Indigo (while using up the limited stock of paper).

Solution: The printer was able to slow the process down by feeding each sheet, one at a time, into the Indigo digital press. This minimized paper jamming. The printer was able to print all 300 invitations using the available paper (without needing to order more, which would have compromised the schedule).

Potential Alternate Solution: If hand-feeding the paper into the digital press had not worked, the next step would have been to print the job on a small offset press. Fortunately, this particular printer had both offset and digital capabilities in-house (for a job like this, it’s wise to choose a printer with both).

Lesson Learned: Don’t assume the paper you like will be runnable on press. Have a back-up plan. Choose a printer with more than one printing capability.

That said, according to the paper manufacturer, seeded paper can go through a digital press and then be planted (literally), and the seeds will grow. On the other hand, the high pressure of the blanket and rollers in an offset press might crush the seeds in the paper and render them unable to sprout and grow. So it was fortunate that the printer was able to do the job on the Indigo.

Business printing is an art and a craft. The success of your custom printing job depends on the skill and knowledge of your vendor as well as his printing equipment.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing on Seeded Paper: Avoid the Pitfalls”

  1. Some printing companies offer seed paper printing as part of their standard list of services.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for mentioning this product. I think it’s a great idea. It engages the recipient of the card, who can continue the experience by planting it and growing beautiful flowers. I specified this paper for a promotional card I designed last year for a national magazine.


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