Learn about the amazing range of papers designed for ultimate impact from translucent to metallic to handmade and how they can take a project from ordinary to extraordinary.
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- Imagine this, you have a client who needs a short run personalized menu design that also needs to be waterproof but feel like supple, elegant paper. Oh, and they also need a launch package for their boutique hotel that emulates their posh interior. Welcome to the world of specialty paper. Probably the hardest to define and arguably the most fascinating category in printing papers, specialty papers are an amazing catchall for any kind of paper that, well, justifies categorization any other way.
That said, let me try to walk you through a few paper types which are often referred to as "specialty" because of their unique appearance, unusual origin, or application-specific character. Let's check a few of them out. One is metallic and pearlescent papers. These are paper-based materials that have a carefully applied surface coating with pigments for color and also a metallic or pearlescent surface, like you can see on the liner of this black envelope.
They emulate metal in their color, their finish, their texture, or all of the above. These kinds of papers are used in projects as diverse as luxury packaging, as you can see from this example, greeting cards, and even for photographic printing. Translucent papers, this class of paper is made translucent in the paper-making process. Right, so light comes though these papers in a really beautiful way. Translucent papers come in whites and colors and even in pearlescent finishes, and are commonly printed or simply used as flyleaf pages in package design or as an element of a design in a printed book.
Next is handmade paper. It never gets enough attention but, as you can imagine, this is all about making paper by hand one sheet at a time. This is the way paper has been made for centuries and continues to be made by craftspeople around the world. Like couture clothing, every sheet is unique. Handmade papers are available online and are perfect for super special short run projects. Then just a big catchall called special color or texture. Sometimes you can't find what you want off the shelf and need a paper to match a brand color or a special texture for creating a box or a brand-specific combination of texture and color for high impact direct mail.
That's totally possible if you work with a paper manufacturer and can meet the minimums to create your very own bespoke paper. Next is an emerging category called paper electronics. This is really new and really still being defined and it's a category of papers which are somehow enhanced with either the ability to accept printed circuitry for the purpose of RFID, meaning radio frequency identification, or NFC, near field communication.
These elements are embedded in the paper and are really interesting to use in applications around packaging where you want that piece of paper and that element in a printed campaign to be interactive. Then there's tree-free paper, and this is all about fiber origin. This is a new and also a growing category of papers which are made of fiber not harvested from trees and include sources as diverse and bizarre as rocks, using calcium carbonate, bamboo, reclaimed denim scraps, and even, wait for it, elephant dung.
Yes, elephant dung. All of these so-called tree-free materials are being developed to explore ways to harness alternative fibers. And then there's a big category referred to as synthetics. You know this is about polyester papers. And synthetic materials that on their own are a category that satisfy the needs for paperlike materials which need to perform under harsh conditions or repeated use. Think of that menu example I started with. It's good to know about a slightly exotic category like this to help when you have a project that needs super paper, it bends and folds like paper, but is way, way more durable.
The best source for finding papers like this is either a local paper distributor, paper makers who have separate lines or specialty products or even your printer who will likely have access to a broad range of resources to find these kinds of papers. That's a peek at a crazy, interesting paper category which continues to grow as ingenious inventors harness new materials and innovative processes to meet the very real demands and the super creative aspirations of designers just like you.
Chris Harrold of Mohawk Paper teaches the basics of paper, including physical attributes like color and finish, and shows how to select the right paper for a project and ensure the best results on press. Altogether, this course helps you take full advantage of one of the most important elements of any print project, and choose paper to support any type of design, from luxury packaging to short-run press projects.
- Examining paper finish, texture, color, and weight
- Using coated vs. uncoated paper
- Papers for packaging
- Finding paper samples
- Working with printers