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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


4 Ways to Take Your Cards to the Colored Edge

“How do you color the edges of business cards?” It was a harmless enough question, or so I thought...until I saw the responses piling up in this group discussion.

“As far as I know, you cant.” Angie was the first one to comment and it blew me away. Other suggestions ranged from duplex laminating to printing on adhesives to this: “I have come to believe it is either being rolled on or airbrushed...”

Overall, it was a dismal display of knowledge in this printing group...especially as this is one of the hottest trends this year.

Gilded edges have been a staple of wedding invitations for years. More recently, I’ve noticed the occasional business card with color on the edge. But now...the trend is unmistakable.

If your clients ask about coloring the edges of their cards—or if you are the proactive kind—there are several options. (I fully understand that many of you are familiar with these techniques, but after the discussion mentioned above, I thought it worth sharing this quick overview.)

Duplex Laminate
This is the subtlest way to add some color to the edge of a piece. The general laminate of two sheets together does not really show any color on the edges, so you have to go all the way to a laminate of three—or better yet—four sheets together. Think of it like a sandwich—white paper, two-colored sheets and white paper on top give you (an albeit subtle) colored line on the side of the cards.

Edge Painting
The edge-painting process takes place after all graphics and text have been printed and the piece cut down to final size. The cards are now placed in stacks of 100 each, and tightly and securely held by a jig. Each stack is literally spray-painted with the color of your choice—one side at a time.

“Edge painting is the cream on top of the cappuccino,” says Stuart Slater, director of business development at Contemporary Graphics. There is, as such, no minimum paper weight, he adds. “We have edge-painted projects from 24-lb. Writing upwards.” But the thicker the paper, the more visible the color will be.

Bordering is similar to edge painting. In this process, the color is purposefully sprayed over the edge, giving the top of the business or note card a subtle but unique colored border.

Depending on your client’s design aesthetics, the cards are manually fanned out with the exact amount of border determined (manually measured, my friends), and then spray painted.

“What makes bordering so attractive,” explains Stuart, “is that every piece is slightly different. This is no cookie-cutter job.”

And last, but not least, good old gilding refers to the decorative technique of applying a thin layer of gold leaf to a surface. This is such a specialized technique that only a handful of craftspeople actually offer it in North America. (Most printers outsource to these specialists.)

We see it most often on wedding invitations, but note and business cards are also following in line with our new trend. Gilding adds a somewhat opulent look and feel.

So there you have it: four ways of doing what a number of people in our industry consider a complete impossibility.

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