Designers are demanding something special of paper at the moment, and manufaturers are happy to oblige with the effects and finishes, says Faye Sweet.

Experimentation is all, in this optimistic new phase in print design. The outpouring of fresh-looking work springs from a happy convergence in the papermaking, printing and design industries. Exciting, versatile materials and improved print and finishing technology are being combined by graphic designers, pushing back the boundaries and relishing the opportunity to explore new materials and techniques.

“There’s a real appetite at the moment for unusual materials, especially synthetics,” says merchant Robert Horne’s Paperlink consultant Rachel Davison. “While working with something unfamiliar requires patience, designers are taking the trouble to create different results.”

Davison has also detected a move towards combining several finishing techniques. “A number of designers are spending more on interesting papers, and instead of covering them in print, they are incorporating finishing effects – embossing is popular at the moment,” he says.

Daniel Mason from screen-printer Artomatic agrees that there is an increasing willingness to experiment. “We’ve heard a number of designers saying they want to move away from always designing on a Mac. They’re looking for interesting ways of using materials and print to express the emotional values of a project,” she says. Along with its screen-printing service, Artomatic operates a consultancy and archive service where subscribers have access to samples and materials bearing thousands of different printing and finishing effects.

Responding to the current enthusiasm for special effects, the normally quiet arena of board manufacture has been very active recently. Specialist mill Iggesund, for example, has released a pack demonstrating the flexibility of paper in finishes such as advanced laser cutting, iriodine lacquer, embossing, hot foil stamping, printing on foil, and varnishes.

Product-wise, there is a selection of new papers and materials fresh on the market designed for high performance in printing and finishing. A new star is Reaction, from the Bavarian Gmund mill. This unusual paper has a twinkling two-tone, metallic effect on one side and a subtle, matt-finish, woven-texture on the other. It is available in a broad colour range of more than a dozen hues with particularly good blues and silvers, and takes well to finishing effects such as embossing.

From York & Ford Paper come two new coated papers and boards – Profistar in a silk finish, and gloss-finish Profimago. They have both been designed for maximum flexibility, performing particularly well in embossing and varnishing.

The stream of translucent papers continues with the latest РXpos̩ Рfresh from Arjo Wiggins Fine Papers with marketing material and name created by Silk Pearce. This is a wonderfully delicate material with a swatch of clear translucents ranging in weight from a gossamer-fine 62gsm to a substantial 285gsm. Colours range from powerful red and purple, to a pearly white iridescent available in 100gsm and 200gsm weights. Surprisingly, this paper can take a wide range of finishes including spot UV varnishing, shallow embossing, die and laser cutting and spiral binding.

Finally, for anyone wanting to experiment with plasticised and synthetic papers, the French-made Polyart range is an impressive performer. In its naked state it looks and feels like a good quality matt paper, it prints beautifully, but try tearing it and you’ll get nowhere – this is an incredibly tough material made in seven weights from a very fine 75gsm through to 240gsm. Already these synthetic sheets are becoming indispensable in areas where paper just can’t cope, such as tags and labels, maps and banners. It also takes well to special effects including embossing, sewing, hot foil stamping and die cutting. For even tougher applications, there’s a heavier, smooth-finish range called Polyprim and the woven-finish Tyvek.

See “DW200103230055”, “DW200103230056” and “DW200103230057”.

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