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Thermography uses a combination of special inks and powdered polymers to create a raised dimensional image on paper. The powder adheres to the special inked areas, the excess is vacuumed off, and then heat is applied briefly to melt the polymer. As the paper exits the heated section of the press, the polymer cools and hardens. The result? The look of expensive engraving at a much lower cost. The thermographic printing is not fake engraving. With modern polymers effects such as transparent dimension, matte artwork and even textural fields like granular sand and florescent and pearlescent finishes, even glitter can be created with thermographic methods.
There is no limit to the colors that you can use in thermography. Now there are a few things to consider when you're designing for thermography. Large areas of thermography may become modeled with an irregular surface. Although that might actually be kind of neat, you should avoid folds in the middle of the thermographed area because the art might crack. You should design so that thermography is applied to only one side of the stock, applying to both sides requires reheating, and that could melt and deform the artwork on the first side. You should avoid having thermographed areas bleed, because trimming will cause the finish to crack.
For the best results, you should use uncoated hard finish stocks. Stock weight should be at least 20 pounds, up to a 100 pound cover stock. Now that you have some idea of the possibilities afforded by thermography, if you're working on a project that could benefit from the added dimension and interesting finish, ask your printer if thermography would work for you.
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