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Paper Specification?Simplifying Selection

January 1998
A crucial element of design, paper can add edge to printed advertisements, refinement to annual reports, and can easily mean the difference between the outstanding and the ordinary. Fortunately for designers and graphic artists, the variety of papers in general has expanded—creating a wealth of choices tailored to improving aesthetic appearances.

With more choices, however, comes the need for additional knowledge. The technical demands of pressroom and bindery should be carefully considered when specifying paper for a printed piece. Stock choices inconsistent with the abilities of a printer's machinery can lead to disastrous results—not to mention extra time and cost.

So, what is the best way to eliminate potential problems? Who should assume the ultimate role of paper specifier?

* The customer is always right? A rule necessary for successful customer service, but press operators know that in some instances, clients or designers may not possess specific technical knowledge of the machinery used to produce a given job.

A customer lacking intricate knowledge of paper and press characteristics, if given complete specification control, could end up with unexpected results. Various papers respond differently to production techniques such as foil stamping and embossing, and clients with the best intentions may be left with a piece that cracks after scoring, or numbers poor runnability or rub resistance among its final flaws.

* The printer knows best? Generally the printer is responsible for purchasing the paper. In tune with the workings of specific machinery, the printer's recommendations would no doubt run smoothly on press and result in a piece conducive to finishing and bindery processes. However, without having input in the specification process, the designer's original vision is at the risk of being blurred.

And although a rare occurrence, total specification control could make it feasible for unscrupulous printers to overcharge clients by substituting a lesser-quality paper for the one(s) originally cited.

* Partnership promotes success. Collaboration early on in the planning and prepress stages helps avoid potential problems and allows artists to capitalize on the most efficient ways to design a stellar printed piece. Printers can offer specification advice based on their knowledge of pricing, supply and runnability, while designers are free to voice their concerns and preferences.

Add to this partnership a third party, in the form of paper company or merchant representative, and a winning combination inevitably results. Paper manufacturers and distributers are excellent resources for assistance in paper specification.

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