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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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Business Card Printing: Avoid Toner Scuffing

I’m in a bit of a quandry.

I’m have contracted with a commercial printing supplier to print business cards for a brokering client of mine. My client wants 500 business cards on Classic Crest Eggshell cover stock. The plant manager noted that my client’s digital print business cards will not be as abrasion resistant as offset-printed cards. This will be especially true if someone puts a business card in his/her wallet or if the card gets a lot of handling (i.e., abrasion from the natural skin oils on people’s hands). The commercial printing plant manager said the Indigo toners will scratch more easily than offset ink because the toner does not seep into the paper. Instead, it sits up on the paper’s surface.

I let my client know that her options were to print the card digitally, assuming there might be some scuffing with heavy use of the cards, and yet also knowing the digitally-printed job would cost considerably less than an offset-printed job ($77.00 vs. $204.00 for 500 business cards).

Based on the price and the appearance of the digital business card proof on the chosen stock, my client opted for the digital business card printing route. If the HP IndiChrome ink (liquid toners for the HP Indigo) would only scuff under rough treatment (moving against other cards in a wallet or enduring heavy handling), my client could accept that.

A Different View from Another Printer

I mentioned the first printer’s comments to another custom printing vendor who was pricing a different job on another Indigo press. He said that the liquid IndiChrome inks were suspensions of pigment in oil, so the fluid would be absorbed into the paper fibers and give the toner something to hold onto. He thought there should be good rub resistance even on uncoated paper.

My Online Research

Since I was confused by the differing views from the two printers, I did some online research. Here’s what I found. You may find it useful when designing business cards:

  1. Any printed piece not coated with varnish, liquid or film laminate, UV coating, or aqueous coating will have some tendency for the ink to rub off.
  2. Some Indigo operators have had trouble with more offsetting and scuffing on HP Indigo equipment than they had expected; however, there seem to be ways to lessen surface ink abrasion.
  3. Choosing an uncoated press sheet will be more likely to result in abrasion and offsetting of liquid toner onto adjacent sheets.
  4. Coated sheets seem to have fewer problems with rubbing and offsetting.
  5. HP provides a list of certified paper stocks that accept the liquid toner more readily than do other paper stocks.
  6. HP provides a Sapphire coating for paper stocks that can be applied to improve liquid toner adhesion to the paper’s surface.
  7. Some operators have found through experimentation that certain paper stocks that weren’t supposed to work well on the Indigo do in fact work just fine. Other paper stocks do not. In these cases the liquid toner scuffs or won’t adhere to the sheet.
  8. Adjusting the blanket temperature on the HP Indigo can make some otherwise unsuitable paper stocks work just fine (higher temperatures for solid ink coverage; lower temperatures for screens of a particular ink).
  9. Total area coverage (the amount of ink, or in this case toner, on the press sheet) makes a huge difference. According to one printer, total area coverage should not exceed 240 percent (the total aggregate percentage coverage of all screens of all colors). For example, C80 M20 Y40 K20 = 160 percent total. Printing 100 percent coverage of all colors (400 percent) would saturate the press sheet and just make a mess.
  10. Apparently, not using a full 100 percent coverage (but rather a 98 or 99 percent coverage) for solid ink can help avoid scuffing.
  11. When problems persist, take the product offline and add a UV coating or a silk aqueous coating.
  12. Using a gloss or silk coating will minimize scuffing, whereas a matte coating may make scuffs more obvious rather than less obvious.

How You Can Use This Information

The best way to use this information is to share it with your commercial printing supplier. In most cases, he will already know the pitfalls. Ask for a sample of your business card on the paper stock you like. See if it scuffs when you rub the toner. If you’re concerned, ask your printer to add a paper coating offline. Or change the paper stock. Also make sure your printer is using a stock that has been certified by HP. If all else fails, print the job using offset lithography.

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