CARDBOARD:Board stiff

OK, so board might not seem exciting. But knowing about it can avoid problems both during and after the design stage. Fay Sweet makes board easier to understand.

It takes a lot to get excited about board.

Even the most disinterested person could probably summon up a modicum of interest in paper: the intriguing textures now on offer, the colours and the different applications. But board? It’s about as sexy as a roof tile. However, as an important part of the designer’s armoury, it is worth knowing something about the product, its potential and how to avoid total disaster.

At its most simple, board is a composite material, built up of several layers of pulp and constructed to produce large sheets of near-rigid material. It can be coated or not. At one end of the spectrum sits rough brown cardboard suitable for use in packaging boxes. At the other there are fine white, delicately-embossed boards used for greetings cards, clothes tags and luxury packaging. While most designers are experienced in designing imagery to be printed on board, a vital area of expertise often lacking is that of creasing and folding.

Frank Atherton of Channel Creasing Matrix has worked for a large number of board manufacturers such as Arjo Wiggins and Inveresk, undertaking creasing and folding performance tests. His company also makes part of the equipment used to make precision creases. “All too often the designer will concentrate all of his or her attention on the image to be printed on board, leaving creasing and folding to the finisher, but that’s when problems creep in. By that stage it may be too late to correct an error and the whole job can be spoiled.”

The key to excellence in the finished job is in selecting the most appropriate material at the start of the project. “A lot of the really good quality print board is heavily coated and prone to cracking,” warns Atherton. “If you know the material is to be creased, it’s always advisable to check its performance with the mill or merchant. Don’t just look through the swatch and judge by eye; ask the question, “will this take a fold?'” Just about all manufacturers now have excellent technical knowledge of what their products can and cannot do.” Atherton advises against asking the printer. “It’s also worth considering that the best print quality board is not necessarily the best crease quality – there may have to be a trade-off.”

Cracking and flaking is also a problem if UV varnish is used. “It is notoriously brittle because it’s thicker than regular varnish. The UV-cured version has the added complication of drying out the board, which increases the chances of cracking. The best way to avoid cracking problems is to leave a gutter free of varnish at the point of crease and fold.”

The second most common design mistake is made in measurements for gussets on projects like annual reports, or any job that involves placing a number of sheets in a folder. Atherton explains: “Most finishing houses have access to ready-made creasing equipment for standard size gussets of 3, 3.5, 4 and 5mm. Other sizes will require different tools and will either cost more or take up more time. For the sake of accuracy, it’s therefore a good idea to measure the thickness of the sheets to be enclosed.”

And finally, the matter of grain should also be considered. Atherton says: “Printers will always choose to have the grain of a board running across the sheet as it wraps around their print cylinders. That’s fine, but it’s not right to assume that because it folds easily that way, that is where the crease should go. In fact, the best way to achieve a crisp fold edge is to crease against the grain. Take apart any carton and you’ll see that the strongest folds are against the grain. Of course, in a box with a number of folds some will have to be with the grain and in that case it’s best to compensate for loss of structural strength by using a narrower crease.” To tell which way grain runs, take a sample, a few centimetres square, and flex it between your first finger and thumb; there will be more resistance one way than the other. The fold with least resistance is in the direction of the grain.

New products

Folding and creasing capabilities are high on the agenda in the latest promotional pack for the new Gemini board from Inveresk. The board comes coated on one and two sides and is available in weights from 160-500 gsm. Full marks to Inveresk on its new brochure Life on Gemini, a photographic essay on suggested everyday uses of Gemini board.

From Tullis Russell there is the latest range of Trucard, in weights from 160-450 gsm, available coated on one or both sides. With a nice smooth finish and excellent print quality, it’s recommended for use in book and directory covers, greetings cards, folders, brochures, tags, tickets and packaging.

Robert Horne launches the Huntsman Pearlescent, a new one-sided, ultra-smooth, white coated board with a pearlescent coating. It comes in a range of optional embossed finishes such as Linen, Hopsack, Pinhead, Wicker and Sandgrain. Also from Robert Horne is a comprehensive selection of recycled boards for the packaging and graphics market; new stocks include Horne Triplex, a fully coated, whiteback board, and two fully coated greyback boards called Printa Blade and Greyback 2000. To find your way quickly around the Horne Stock there is a Recycled Rangefinder comprising printed board samples, plus the updated Graphic and Carton Board Rangefinder. Further information can be found on Horne’s updated website at

A new range of brilliant white coated art boards has been introduced by Bunzl Fine Paper under the Crusade brand. The Crusade Super Art Boards being produced by Tullis Russell are aimed at outclassing other twin-coated woodfree stocks. The boards are smooth and glossy with excellent stiffness, they crease and fold superbly and provide an excellent medium for embossing, hot foil stamping, varnishing, film and foil laminating. They are available in silk or gloss finish and weights from 170-400 gsm.

Sappi Europe has added Energy bright white boards to its range of Vanguard coloured papers and boards. It is now called Vanguard bright white, and is ideal for promotional material, invitation cards, reports and accounts and booklets. A useful fan swatch of colours and weights is available from Sappi’s Papersense service.

From Arjo Wiggins Fine papers is 3D Dimensions, a range of packaging papers arranged in five families for luxury packaging, boxes and bags. Each has been thoroughly tested for creasing and folding. Also from Arjo Wiggins is the revamped Rives range of text and cover paper and board in weights of up to 320 gsm. This is wonderful subtle stuff, with nice textures including the all-new Reflection, and some delicious colours including the chunky Rust and Royal Blue.

Rare among office papers ranges is the option of matching board weights. However, Curtis Fine Papers, known for its top quality uncoated boards such as Scotia, Metaphor and Classic, now offers new boards with its mid-range Conservation Doc-IT range and Eureka. Perfect for jobs such as a corporate identity overhaul. Along with this the mid-quality Retreeve papers now sees the arrival of a Retreeve Smooth board at 280 gsm.

Finally, Iggesund has made a massive investment in new product lines. The Invercote G has been improved to become smoother and whiter and there is a raft of new products under the Invercote Creato and Invercote Albato names.

Creato provides a crossover between heavyweight papers and board with the benefit of multiple layer construction for good creasing and folding. It is fully coated and available in gloss and matt, and has been developed in response to complaints of cracking when using two-sided material for covers. Traditionally most of this work is completed in heavyweight paper of single-ply construction; the new multilayer Creato achieves better performance and is recommended for covers of brochures, catalogues, and folders.

Invercote Albato has been designed to compete with cast-coated products where a high level of gloss is required and is ideal for packaging and graphical markets. And Iggesund has just released its first Paperboard Know-How CD-ROM..

Back to the fold: technical tips

From the time we all made our first paper planes, we learned that folding thin, rigid sheets produced aircraft that were a great deal more successful than those made with heavy duty stuff. But there are plenty of jobs that do demand folding and creasing of the most obstinate materials, and it is possible to design out disastrous results by understanding the stock.

If a project is to include the creasing and folding of board, always check with the manufacturer or merchant about board performance. Ask for any technical information about tests on the material and ask for samples. Coated papers can be particularly unforgiving as some will crack along the fold. Opt for uncoated stock if possible, or select board that is known to possess good creasing capabilities.

If you plan to use UV varnish, leave a gutter at the fold edge to prevent cracking and flaking. It’s a good idea to try and leave folds free of print too, if possible, as this will avoid any chance of the print lifting away from the board.

When designing a project that incorporates a gutter, ask your finisher about the standard gutter sizes they use. Take care to measure the thickness of the sheets to be enclosed.

For the strongest possible folds, you should take the material’s grain direction into account. Folding against the grain makes the strongest folds.


Board: A difficult one. No one is quite sure when a paper becomes a board. Thick paper to some is thin board to others. There are no fixed rules.

Creasing: This is the step made before folding. A crease is an intentional deformation of the board made to ensure the fold will be in exactly the right place. Precision creasing requires tools of “male” and “female” parts which press an indentation into the material.

Folding: This happens after the crease has been pressed into the board. A fold follows the line determined by the crease. Folding light material such as paper does not require pre-creasing.

Scoring: A fine cut into one surface of the material. Scoring weakens the board along a line made in a box, for example, to allow the formation of sharp, right-angled corners. A word of warning: printers very often use the term score when they mean crease. A crease is also called a score in the US.

Gsm/microns: The letters gsm stand for grams per square metre. This is a measurement of weight and is the most common term used by printers in describing papers and board. The micron, on the other hand, is the unit used to describe of thickness and a term most used by creasers and folders. Depending on their construction, two boards measuring the same in microns may not weigh the same in gsm, and vice versa.


Tullis Russell Designline

0800 74747Iggesund

01908 64012Arjo Wiggins Samples & Advisory Service

0800 993300

Inveresk for new mailer and stockist info

01324 826462.

Robert Horne Paperlink

0345 44332Bunzl PaperMark

01273 441560

Sappi Europe’s Papersense

01442 233333

Curtis Fine Papers


0500 200 119

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