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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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Commercial Printing: Domtar’s Dream Paper Promotion

I just received the new paper promotion booklet from Domtar called Dream. It showcases some dramatic printing techniques on Cougar paper. I thought you might find the book interesting.

Overview of Dream

First of all, I’d encourage you to contact Domtar and request this promotional book yourself. You will be included in Domtar’s marketing database and start receiving free print books like Dream on a regular basis. Nothing beats seeing what a paper company can do with good commercial printing paper and creative design. The paper mills put a lot of money into these promotions, and they are great educational tools.

If you get this print book, first page through it for the overall effect, and then jump to the “production notes” section at the back of the book. Almost every paper promotion book includes a section like this, with a thumbnail photo of each page spread and a description of exactly how the paper company achieved the custom printing effects.

Paper Use in the Promotional Book

Reading the production notes, you can see that Domtar printed the cover of Dream on 130# double-thick Cougar cover stock, smooth finish. Double-thick cover is also known as duplex cover stock. It can either be composed of two different stocks laminated (glued) together, or it can have one side printed one color and the other side printed another color. Paper mills can even produce commercial printing paper with different finishes on the two laminated paper stocks (smooth and antique, for instance). Duplex stocks tend to be thicker than usual, from 100# to 160# (the one used for the cover of Dream is 130#).

The inside of the book is printed on 100# Cougar cover, smooth finish. Since the surface texture of both the cover and the text pages are the same, the book has a consistent “feel.” The smooth, uncoated sheet makes the photos on the cover and inside the book appear silky (not as crisp and harsh as photos printed on a gloss press sheet). But the brilliant white of the uncoated Cougar stock gives the ink colors a vibrant look.

Normally, 100# cover stock would be exceptionally thick, but if you compare the double-thick 130# cover paper to the inside text pages, the text pages seem quite a bit thinner in contrast (one of the benefits of duplex cover stock).

If you look closely, you will see that the printer scored all folds. This is a necessary step when working with such thick commercial printing stock.

Samples of Foils and Paper Coatings

The production notes refer to “dot-for-dot” dull varnish. Such a coating would normally seep into the paper fibers of an uncoated sheet like Cougar. Varnishing uncoated stock is a little like putting paint on a sponge. That said, it actually does seal the heavy ink coating (for protection and to avoid scuffing and offsetting). The designer chose “dot-for-dot” varnish rather than flood varnish. This means that only the printed halftone dots of the image were varnished. In contrast, flood gloss or flood dull varnish lays down an even overall coating on both the ink and the unprinted paper.

Other pages in Dream include examples of silver metallic foil and clear foil stamping. The clear foil stamping looks like a gloss UV coating. On the page under the front cover flap, which includes a portion of a face, there is a dramatic contrast between the iris (covered by clear foil) and the rest of the eye and face (produced with only ink on the dull, uncoated Cougar press sheet).

Clear foil is ideal for adding a uniform gloss sheen to a portion of an uncoated stock, since it sits on top of the paper rather than seeping into the paper fibers. The silver metallic foil on the child astronaut page of the Dream book works well, too. Unlike silver ink, the silver metallic foil keeps its full intensity on uncoated stock, and its smoothness contrasts well with the rough tooth of the surrounding uncoated black paper.

Process Inks and Touch Plates

The production notes show where four-color process inks were used and where additional touch plates were added. In one case, the background of a photo in which a man is playing a trumpet has been augmented with fluorescent pink ink added with a touch plate. This extends the color range of the image significantly. Without the touch plate (an additional printing plate on an additional press unit) the 4-color process inks alone could not have achieved such richness of color.

On another page, an image of a skyline at dusk was printed with dense black and fluorescent yellow touch plates. The former accentuates the black (sometimes black ink can look washed out on uncoated commercial printing stock), and the fluorescent yellow ink gives all the lights in the buildings an ethereal glow.

What We Can Learn from Domtar’s Dream Promotion

There’s no better way to learn design and commercial printing techniques than to study the work of the masters. Paper companies put all their skills and financial resources behind these promotions. Their goal is to sell paper, but you can learn a lot from them as well.

In addition, always review the production notes section of a promotional piece. It’s dry reading (a little like reading a cookbook). But you can learn the intricacies of custom printing from a close study of these descriptions.

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