Media is an essential element to overall print quality. There are many considerations involved in choosing the right paper for the job, including the application, customer expectations, the type of printing technology, as well as ink or toner characteristics. Digital printing technologies, both electrophotographic (EP) and inkjet-based, require different paper standards when compared to each other as well as offset. An emerging interest in high-speed digital inkjet—both sheet and web fed—puts the spotlight on optimizing media.
The elements of paper—such as brightness and surface smoothness—effect the quality of output. Depending on an application’s intended use, media can offer specific functions, such as improving ink use and preventing show through.
When choosing paper, print providers consider a variety of basic job characteristics. These include print engine technology, sheet size, run length, print quality, color fidelity, turnaround time, cost per piece, environmental concerns, and custom requirements such as variable data. It is also important that the paper and technology match for optimal results.
It is necessary that print providers should be well versed in media properties and selection. However, it is also recommended that designers keep media in mind. "Digital printing has given graphic designers and printers a level of versatility and creative freedom they might have longed for but could not have imagined a decade ago. To be successful in the digital dimension, printers, print buyers, and designers must interact to hone their skills and knowledge," says Kelly Kubiskiak, marketing communications manager, Wausau Paper.
Kubiskiak suggests designers ask printers for samples of digital grades that run reliably in their presses, and identify the importance of paper characteristics for their projects. Likewise, printers should share their expertise on the continually expanding selection of digitally optimized paper for their press.
Print providers new to digital may also want to consider how to maintain or obtain quick access to a comprehensive selection of digital stock. "Since the nature of digital is on demand, it is critical to have same or next day delivery available," notes Ron Pergande, product manager, Ultra Digital by GPA. He notes that performance is equally as important. "Just because a substrate is digital does not necessarily mean it’s going to perform the same every time," he adds.
The type of paper used for a job has a strong affect on the end result. Substrates are often specifically designed for certain applications. While some media options are optimized for better full-color printing performance, others are well suited for applications that require a mixture of text and graphics or text-only jobs. Smoothness, texture, surface treatments, and structure all play a part in determining print quality and the overall effect of printed output.
Digital printing has opened the door to limitless possibilities. Digital papers are evolving with technology advancements. Substrate options are not confined to smooth, white paper. Chris Harrold, VP, business development, emerging print technologies, Mohawk Fine Papers, notes that whether it is a high-end photobook, a simple direct mail piece, or greeting cards, textures and colors are available to satisfy the most adventurous designer.
From an aesthetics perspective, Steve Selvey, director of sales—technology papers, Neenah Paper, suggests color and texture are important to paper selection for digital projects. "Response rates on direct mail can be positively impacted with the selection of a unique texture or color. This adds appeal and effectiveness to personalized direct mail campaigns that use variable data," he adds.
Smoother papers are the preferred choice for dry-toner production presses. "Smoothness is measured on the Sheffield scale; the smoother papers have lower numbers, such as 70," explains Phil Hart, director of product marketing, Finch Paper.
Johannes Klumpp, marketing and sales director, uncoated fine paper, Europe and international, Mondi Group, points out transactional and TransPromo applications that require mass personalization, such as bank statements or customer invoices, are well suited for high-speed inkjet. The company manufactures its DNS high-speed inkjet paper for this segment. The media features a high whiteness and is designed to work with high-speed inkjet presses to achieve impressive contrasts, sharp lines, as well as excellent color density and uniformity.
Other applications, such as digital books, often call for a certain style that can be achieved with paper, such as texture, shade, and grammage. "For conventional text-only books, an industry favorite is BIO TOP 3 digital print, with a pleasant off white shade that is comfortable for reading and features a natural texture and bulk of 1.5," says Klumpp.
Optimized Print Runs
In addition to a substrate’s material make up, factors such as press settings also make a difference when it comes to runnability.
It is important to have the machine on the best possible setting for the type of substrate being used. Kirk Frisinger, manager of print and color technical services, Wausau Paper, explains that many high-end machines still use a type of scripting for the various substrates. These scripts transfer voltage and fuser temperatures. "Many operators just plug and play, printing on standard settings. In an ideal situation, an operator takes the time to fine tune the settings for the slight variation between lot numbers and manufacturer. These are the operators that can make or break the switch to digital printing," he notes.
Dennis Essary, director—digital papers, NewPage, suggests using digital paper precision sheeted in order to deliver a square sheet with clean edges to minimize any contaminates into the equipment.
Anthony Atamimi, sales and marketing manager, Global Paper Solutions, warns against generic papers that are not designed for digital use. He explains that generic paper designed for offset is cut with guillotine trimming, which many lead to printability and runnabiliity issues on digital printers. Generic offset papers generally feature higher moisture levels, lower heat surface resistance, and poor trimming quality compared to specialized digital media.
Sifting Through Options
A number of paper manufacturers offer solutions designed for digital presses. The July/August print issue features a detailed chart of digital media products. Here, we provide a quick look at some of the digital papers on the market, as well as environmental options.
Appleton’s Utopia Inkjet Web products were developed jointly with Hewlett-Packard (HP). According to Howard Kirby, product manager, Appleton, the paper also runs well on the Prosper Press by Eastman Kodak Company.
Additionally, the company manufactures U2:XG, an FSC-certified product that is manufactured with renewable energy and contains 30 percent post-consumer waste. "It is one of the most environmentally sensitive coated papers in the digital space," comments Kirby.
Domtar manufactures its Cougar line of digital paper. The company offers guaranteed products that are created with familiarity in mind. The papers provide a uniform surface with basis weights designed to run with digital devices. To address a demand for environmentally friendly media options, Domtar offers FSC and PCW products, along with ENGO groups.
Global Paper Solutions Inc. is part of Asia Pulp & Paper, manufacturers of the Nevia Digital paper line.
Nevia Digital is offered in C2S Text Gloss and Silk as well as C2S Cover Gloss and Silk. It is available in four standard sizes, 8.5x11, 11x17, 12x18, and 14x20 inches. Other digital offset sizes are available on demand. The company also offers carton packaging with bottom and top lid type, delivered in either ream or non-ream wrap.
Digital C2S Gloss and Silk is a versatile stock designed for digital presses and color laser printers. Gloss and Velvet finishes lend an offset-quality look and feel to digital printing with superb tone reproduction. Dimensional stability of sheet and excellent heat resistance ensures peak press performance. The blue white shade with high brightness level at 91 percent GE provides good contrast and sharpness of color. Digital C2S Gloss and Silk are certified for Kodak NexPress digital production color presses and is an HP Indigo Certified substrate.
Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper’s digital printing papers are developed for use on all modern printing machines. They come in core digital formats and are tested and enhanced for toner and inkjet—both sheet and continuous. Mondi digital paper products complement a printer’s skills and support the benefits of digital printing—small print runs, print on demand delivery, and variable data applications.
The company continuously expands its range of eco-friendly papers. In fact, according to Mondi’s Klumpp, the entire digital printing portfolio is part of the Green Range, which is a sum of the elements of Forest + Water + Air and has the highest priority in the paper industry. All Green Range products must be FSC or PEFC certified, total chlorine free, or 100 percent recycled. Mondi has also included CO2 neutral products in the Green Range, Color Copy CO2, neutral, 100 percent recycled NAUTILUS SuperWhite with a CO2 neutral option, and DNS high-speed inkjet with a CO2 neutral option.
Neenah Paper optimizes its digital products for dry and liquid toner imaging, backed with a customer satisfaction guarantee. Many of its digital substrates are certified by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for HP Indigo presses, ensuring compatibility and performance. Neenah has expanded its digital product line to include 13 brands, 29 colors, 13 finishes, and 12 weights in response to printer’s demands for unique substrates designed to enhance the look and feel of a client’s project.
Kristen Hogan, senior brand manager, marketing, Neenah Paper, sees a noted increase in demand for recycled content, FSC-certified products, and Green-E digital paper options. Over 90 percent of the company’s digital offering contains environmentally friendly options, including recycled content, Green Seal Certified, Green-E certified, FSC Certified, and/or papers made with Carbon Neutral Plus. Hogan says Neenah plans to continue adding environmentally friendly digital paper options as they expand their portfolio.
Sappi Fine Paper offers a variety of papers suited for digital production presses. For example, its Flo Digital product is designed to work as a house sheet for direct mail, loyalty programs, and custom short-run publications. Its high-end digital products, such as McCoy for HP Indigo and McCoy Digital, offer photobook-quality performance and are well suited for high-end photo applications and premium print projects.
Sappi’s digital product offerings are all FSC Chain of Custody and SFI Chain of Custody certified with a ten percent Post Consumer Waste. They are manufactured with Green-E certified renewable energy.
Wausau Paper’s Exact Digital line is created for the unique characteristics of a digital environment. All Exact Digital papers are approved for Kodak NexPress digital production color presses by RIT’s Printing Application laboratory. All coated papers in the line are also certified for the HP Indigo press, including both gloss and matte finishes. Certified paper options assure users that the product will perform satisfactorily in the equipment every time.
Beyond Exact Digital papers, Wausu’s Digital Space encompasses all grades of paper that can be used in a digital format.
The Best Choice
Digital printing technologies help provide designers and marketers with endless creativity. Substrate manufacturers are stepping up to aid in innovation with new products that are specifically designed to improve the functionality and quality of a digital print.
Be sure to check out the upcoming July/August issue, which will feature a Target Chart on digital paper.