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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. 


Warning: Do Not Print on Colored Stock


“Many designers make the mistake of printing their designs on colored stock, which ends up distorting the ink colors and makes the design hard to see.”

This from a list of “typical mistakes” made by those designing for print, according to “Vladimir” (let’s just grant him some anonymity, shall we?).

Oh, it is still painful. Especially as Vladimir is from a printing company and shared his “insights” on a design blog. This is so black and white, so all or nothing, so...wrong.

Where was the hint of the amazing opportunities that a colored stock can provide? The promise that an uncoated and colored sheet might speak softer, and thus enhance the message of the piece?

Granted, depending on the color of the paper, CMY and K will have a dramatically different look. Printed on a cream stock, they have a warmer feel; printed on a paper with a blue or cool hue, the image highlights will be the color of the paper, reducing the image’s contrast.

But there are ways around this (under-printing comes to mind). As a good print service provider, you can offer draw downs so your client sees the colors he will actually get on press.

Or even better yet, encourage your client to be bold, to embrace and enhance the design with his/her paper choice. Just off the top of my head I can think of ample ways to do so:

On darker stocks, encourage:

  • Foil stamping—a contrasting color, or even a clear foil, can offer an incredible effect.
  • Blind embossing—subtle, elegant, yet always a great statement.
  • White ink—if you have a white unit on your Indigo press, push the proverbial envelope. You might need a few clicks depending on the color of the paper, but the effect can be remarkable.

On lighter stocks:

  • Deboss effect—when printing letterpress, chose an ink color that is a touch darker than the paper. It will enhance the deboss feel oh so subtly yet scrumptiously. Or deboss and add the ink on top...
  • Print full color—yes, I still have a wedding dress catalog in my collection that was printed on an ivory sheet. The photos of the dresses had a soft, inviting—dare I say vintage—feel, and the paper enhanced this exquisitely.

So please join me in encouraging designers to be brave and bold and spec a colored stock. With the correctly set expectations and preparation it can enhance their design and make their piece stand out that much more.

Let us show Vladimir just what we can do. 

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