Designing with colored papers

None of these colored papers are appropriate for projects that require productcolor matching-the paper color itself is too overwhelming. But they’re spectacular for designs that involve unexpected techniques, such as embossing, debossing, thermography, opaque printing and varnishing.

Colored papers are well-suited for stationery systems, in which the deeper hues can be used for business cards, and the pater shades for companion letterhead sheets and envelopes. Strathmore relaunched its Writing System line in 2000 with this palette of complementary Light and dark colors.

When designing with these colorful papers, it’s very tempting to use the paper color itself in lieu of paying for a second color on press. Resist the temptation. Designing with colored paper is a far more subtle process than simply slapping one-color ink on a colored background and calling the job done.

Rather, you should think of paper color as a pure design element in its own right, almost as though you were painting with the paper itself. Just as you mix oil paints on a palette to create new colors, so can you apply inks to colored paper to create new effects. The paper color works with the ink to bend light in new ways. Here’s why:

Paper is more than a substrate for your creativity. It actually reflects light back to the eye. When you lay transparent ink over paper, light passes through the ink layers, hits the paper and bounces back to your eye, allowing you to see color. White paper reflects the entire visual spectrum of white light. Colored paper, however, absorbs some of the wavelengths of light, depriving the ink films of the full spectrum. As a result, the ink colors laid on top of colored paper are skewed. For example,

yellow paper absorbs blue light, rendering process-color skin tones much warmer. A blue sky printed on a yellow sheet appears green; neutral grays look yellow. In the same way, match ink colors printed on colored paper become skewed, too. If you print a royal purple on yellow paper, for example, the purple comes out brown.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid printing custom inks or four-color process on colored paper. It does mean that you should check ahead of time to see exactly how your designs will appear. For custom inks, ask your printer to do an ink drawdown with your match color. The printer will smear a swash of ink onto your specified paper, and you’ll be able to preview the results before the job goes to press.

Dewdrops on a spiderweb appear touchably real when they’re printed on a holographic paper that’s made up of tiny, circular prisms. The droplets were reversed out of the background image, printed on Proma Technologies’ HoloPRISM sheet.

However, ink drawdowns are not effective with four-color process inks, because you can’t really see how the process inks will trap on the colored paper. Ask your printer to run a few sheets of your spec’ed paper at the end of a press run on another job. This will cost you a modest sum, but it’ll give you a fair representation of how the job will print.

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