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Exotic Paper Options

You don't need to print all your jobs on opaque white paper. You have many other options.

Translucent Paper

If you are printing an invitation, for instance, on a unique stock, and you want to give your readers a glimpse of the paper before they open the envelope, consider a translucent paper. GilClear has been replaced by ClearFold (by Neenah Paper), and this translucent vellum sheet folds well, makes sturdy envelopes, and teases the recipient with a view of the envelope's contents. The paper stock comes in a light, medium, heavy, and super heavy thickness.

Seeded Paper

You can actually specify a paper with seeds embedded in the stock. You can plant this paper in the ground, and the seeds will germinate. It is hand-made, so your batch will need to be a custom order. Leave plenty of time for the few vendors who make seeded paper to do their magic.

The stock varies in caliper (thickness), so you may have trouble feeding it into a digital printer (I'd suggest an HP Indigo for this stock). Your print provider will probably need to feed the sheets into the press one at a time, due to the irregularity of their thickness, to avoid paper jams.

If you must print the job on an offset press, the blanket and impression roller pressure may crush the seeds and render them unable to germinate. You will have more success planting this paper if you can print it on a digital press, in spite of the heat and pressure involved in xerography.

Synthetic Paper

Yupo is an example of a synthetic paper stock that has an appealing, rubbery feel to it. Once you have printed your job and the ink has been allowed to dry, the paper can be immersed in water. Since it is not wood-based paper, the fibers will absorb almost no moisture. I personally have seen samples of this stock under water in fish tanks.

Beyond such exotic uses, this paper not only saves trees but also comes in handy for printed products exposed repeatedly to moisture. Yupo would be a good stock for a menu, for instance. When the menu gets soiled with greasy fingerprints, it can be wiped clean again and again. Synthetic paper can be printed, folded, and die-cut just like a wood-based paper stock.

Paper Made from Plants Other Than Trees

Such plant-based paper as kenaf stock, or hemp stock, can provide interesting textures and colors for your printed products. Other non-tree-based products used for paper include grass, straw, and even cotton.

Actually, paper made from cotton fibers is not that unusual. Referred to as "rag paper" due to the pieces of fabric originally used in its manufacture, cotton paper is used to print money. (This currency stock actually has a 100 percent rag content.) If you print letterhead on a "bond" sheet, the paper is usually noted as 25 or 50 percent rag, which means that cotton fiber is mixed with wood fiber to create the slurry from which the paper is made. Rag paper is soft and smooth yet durable, giving a feel of luxury and opulence to the printed product.

One-of-a-Kind Wedding Invitation

Words cannot do justice to a beautiful hand-made wedding invitation I saw recently.

The artist took sheets of watercolor paper (approximately 140# cover stock) and tore them to a 5" x 7" size to create a faux deckled edge (true deckled edges are created during the paper-making process by shooting a stream of water across the wet paper mixture as it travels through the Fourdriner Machine). Nevertheless, the faux deckled edges were most effective.

The artist, who was also the bride, printed a photo of her and her groom kissing. The photo had been imported into Photoshop for adjustment prior to laser printing.

She laid the laser print of the photo on a linoleum block and traced the image, leaving a visible indent on the surface, which she then cut with linoleum gouges. She inked the linoleum block and made prints onto linen (actual linen, not linen paper). Using a sewing machine, she then sewed the printed fabric onto the watercolor invitation paper, which she had ink-jet printed in a cursive font noting the date and time of the wedding. She created a matching reply card and envelope, and then hand inserted all items into mailing envelopes.

Printing is an art as well as a craft. The woman who made these unique invitations for her wedding blended new technology (Photoshop and an inkjet printer) with much older printing technology (the linoleum block hand-cut with a gouge and then printed manually) and industrial technology (the sewing machine). She created an incredibly lovely and memorable invitation for her wedding guests to treasure and possibly even frame.


[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.]

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