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Printing on Uncoated Paper Stock

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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The enormous variety of uncoated paper stocks poses a challenge when it comes to meeting customer expectations on press. Proofing devices use one type of stock, offset presses another. And uncoated papers traditionally have been troublesome on jobs that call for fine details, which diminish as dot gain increases. Large solid printed areas present another difficulty, especially on lightweight uncoated papers.

Jim Murray, co-owner of M&M Printing in Auburndale, FL, explains that most of his customers specify paper based on swatchbooks from paper mill sales reps. “They'll bring them all kinds of fancy, expensive papers — most of them uncoated — with a deckle edge or a felt weave pattern.”

On press, the challenge becomes producing a high-quality image and turning it around quickly. “The nature of the business is turning to same-day or next-day turnaround,” says Murray. “And when you're printing on an uncoated sheet, you really have to give it a day or two to get good and dry before you work with it in the bindery. So it's a little trickier to get it to the customer as fast as they would like.”

Rise above

M&M Printing runs two Presstek Direct Imaging 4-color waterless offset presses — a 34 and a 52 — along with two small-format AB Dick presses and a bindery with Polar, Horizon and Baum equipment. Waterless printing enables the sheets to dry faster. “Some of the ad agencies we deal with that prefer these uncoated papers also like to load the area up with solids and photos,” he explains. “A waterless press makes that a lot easier to run.”

Murray and his two full-time press operators each have 20 to 26 years of experience. “We always talk about it when we get one of those challenging jobs,” he says. “We look at each other and say, ‘Remember when we had the conventional press? This job would be so hard to print.’ It's still a little bit of a challenge, but nowhere near what it would have been [without the waterless press].”

“We always run a 300-line screen no matter if it is coated or uncoated,” says Murray. “Most people are afraid to run a 300-line screen on uncoated paper [because] they feel it will plug. We just feel that the press can handle it on most of the uncoated stocks that we run, as they are very high-quality stocks.”

“Standards have dictated that when you're printing on an uncoated paper, you need to adjust for a specific dot gain. And that dot gain was traditionally higher than on coated paper,” explains Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) Prinect color specialist Chuck Koehler. He notes that while it's true you can't print details as fine on uncoated papers as you can achieve on coated papers, choosing the right paper is key. “Traditionally standards have suggested 133 lpi for uncoated paper, which hasn't been done for years,” says Koehler. “People have been doing finer and finer line screens on uncoated paper based on the quality of that paper. And that's the thing about uncoated paper — it ranges from a very good quality sheet to a horrible quality sheet.”

A paper's density, fiber makeup and fillers incorporated into the sheet affect absorbency and the ink's ability to hold out on the surface. “Coated paper within the same grade rating has more consistency than uncoated,” adds Russ Barton, director of operations, Print Media Demonstration Center (PMDC), Heidelberg USA. “Say you went to a 60-lb. uncoated sheet — from manufacturer to manufacturer, you'll see huge variances in how that paper prints.”

The holdout hurdle

UV printing is another nontraditional printing method that helps with dot gain and drying issues. Because the ink is cured quickly on press, UV printing improves ink holdout and dot gain. Some printers even apply a white primer coat in the first unit to ensure crisp images. “UV gives you the ability to have your ink cured on the surface, so you get a product that is instantly dry,” says Barton. “With conventional printing, you always have rub issues. But with UV, you're able to stop the penetration of ink to the substrate. So you're going to get less dot gain, a much higher holdout and a more manageable product.”

Heidelberg's new Gray Balance Optimizer — part of the Prinect Color Toolbox v3.5 — enables printers to calibrate for different substrates based on the conditions in their own pressroom, whether they're running conventional or UV offset. “We have had standards that specify the line screen or dot gain that you can expect. But because of the range of different characteristics of uncoated papers, those dot gains might not be achievable if you went by those standards,” says Koehler. “So traditionally you've calibrated to a dot gain, but the dot gain didn't necessarily equate to a good look of the final product, for various reasons having to do with the stock color, absorption or other factors.”

The “near-neutral” Gray Balance Optimizer procedure enables prepress to calibrate the platesetter to achieve a specified gray balance and density based on the paper being used. “It's based on ICC profiles,” Koehler explains. “So, for example, if you want to set up on a Grade 1 coated sheet as a standard for the highest print quality, you want all of the other stocks you print to [produce similar results].” The Gray Balance Optimizer tool enables users to apply the ICC profile of the Grade 1 coated sheet, or another such as a GRACoL profile or an ISO profile, as a target. “Then just calibrate your uncoated sheet based on those target values,” says Koehler. “You might have to apply tone compression to format print characteristics to the uncoated sheet, but that's all very easily obtained. Gray Balance Optimizer will produce the closest possible visual appearance between different substrates and processes, without the process of calibrating dot gain and color managing the result.”

Barton notes, “From printer to printer, the conditions vary so greatly that Heidelberg can't send out a standard on what you should do on a certain sheet. This gives you the ultimate control and flexibility to do this within your own conditions.” The Prinect Color Toolbox also enables printers to calibrate their equipment to GRACoL G7.

Ensuring proof accuracy

Inkjet proofers can be calibrated according to a specific press profile to achieve a very close match to the final press sheet. The key is to apply the proper profile, incorporating not just the press but the specific substrate and ink. Color management also is critical for demanding jobs. “That's always been the case with conventional dot gains and conventional standard methods of doing things,” says Koehler. “But it's made much more accurate and precise with Gray Balance Optimizer technology.”


Exceptional uncoated projects

“Anyone who thinks print is dead needs to look at this show,” says Debbie Millman, Sterling Brands (New York), a juror in Mohawk Fine Papers Inc.'s (Cohoes, NY) ninth annual Mohawk Show competition. “Not only is it not dead, it's not even waning — it's alive and better than ever. This is an exceptional collection of pieces. I haven't seen this quality of work in any show I've judged before.”

The Mohawk Show was created “to challenge conventional wisdom and create a paper mill competition that would be both rigorous and inclusive — fostering a sense of community and celebrating the roots of design and print and craftsmanship.”

Mohawk Show 9 received entries from firms all over the world. From more than 1,200 entries, the jurors chose five Best of Show winners — all of which were printed on uncoated Mohawk papers. They also named 20 finalists. In addition to Millman, the designers who made up the judging panel included Sam Shelton, Kinetik, Washington, DC; Bart Crosby, Crosby Associates, Chicago; and Mick Hodgson, Ph.D, Santa Monica, CA. The criteria: aesthetic value, content, paper usage, appropriateness, production quality and excellence of craft.

Face forward

Robert Valentine New York's “Interface Folio No. 1” for Interface FLOR took special honors this year as the “Small Design Firm Best of Show.” Earth Enterprise (New York) printed the 6×9-inch piece using 4-color process plus match beige and match red, with satin aqueous coating. The papers used are Mohawk Superfine, Eggshell, Ultrawhite, 130 dtc/352 gsm, 100 text/148 gsm; Mohawk Via Smooth, Light Gray, 70 text/104 gsm; and Mohawk Via Linen, Scarlet, 65 cover/176 gsm. Earth Enterprise printed a white silkscreen image on the Via Linen.

“This takes you on a wonderful visual journey,” says Millman. “It's very stimulating — sensory overload in a good way — it's inventive. Really good use of paper.” Juror Sam Shelton also noted the stories and photographs.

It's all here

Geographics (Atlanta) printed “HERE No. 3, The Cooper Carry Magazine” for Atlanta design firm Iconologic. “There is enough here for me to rip off for the rest of my career,” says juror Bart Crosby, noting another project from some 30 years ago that he valued for years as a reference. “This is like that,” he adds.

This 7.5 × 10-inch piece is printed on Mohawk's Beckett Concept, Vellum, Glacier, 100 cover/270 gsm; and Beckett Expression, Super Smooth, Snow, 70 text/104 gsm. Geographics printed it UV with hexachrome cyan, hexachrome magenta, match yellow and black.

High impact

Impact Teen Drivers commissioned this winning set of classroom materials, “Impact 2008 High School Campaign,” from Hybrid-Design (San Francisco). “It's amazing,” says juror Mick Hodgson. “You'll notice that what we all responded to was the subject matter. It's not gratuitous — they're beautiful.”

Hatcher Press Inc. (San Carlos, CA) with production contribution from Allen Strohmeier Print (Half Moon Bay, CA) printed this project on Mohawk Via Smooth, 100% PC Cool White, 100 cover/270 gsm, 80 cover/216 gsm, 80 text/118 gsm. They used several match colors — sea blue, gold, pink, bright red and sage — and an overall satin aqueous coating plus an extra hit of one match color (varied per piece).

Simply stunning

The dust cover on this Ziggurat Brand Consultants project — on Mohawk Options, Smooth, 100% PC White, 100 dtc/270 gsm, 100 text/148 gsm — earned many favorable comments from the jurors. Beacon Press (East Sussex, England) produced the 11×13.5-inch book using 4-color process plus match metallic copper and match slate.

“Look at it — it's perfect,” says Millman.

Finch scores high on photo repro

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) testing recently commissioned by HP (Palo Alto, CA) gave Finch Paper's (Glens Falls, NY) Finch Fine iD uncoated paper the highest marks possible (three stars) for photo reproduction on HP Indigo digital presses.

Topping the brightness levels of coated papers, Finch Fine iD's uncoated, non-glare surface conveys a sense of high quality. Available from 50-lb. text to 16-pt. cover, the paper scored high on factors including ElectroInk fixing (adhesion) for photo peeling and flaking, and blanket memory.

“The market is quickly moving toward papers that look fiscally and environmentally responsible. And so, customers are choosing uncoated paper,” notes Anthony McDowell, vice president, sales and marketing, Finch Paper. “Many digital photo products, such as photo albums, are moving to uncoated papers for their tactile, keepsake quality.”

The complete RIT testing results are available at

For paper samples, see

Find it online

For more on UV printing, see “Tough Enough,” January 2009, at

Mohawk purchases SMART Papers Premium Uncoated

Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. (Cohoes, NY) has purchased the premium uncoated writing, text and cover brands from SMART Papers (Hamilton, OH). The purchase includes the Carnival, Passport, Genesis, Synergy, Pegasus, Magna Carta, Solutions, Feltweave, Nekoosa, Proterra, Skytone and SMART Brights brands, reportedly making Mohawk the largest supplier of premium papers in North America.

Mohawk also will become the exclusive marketer of SMART's Kromekote and Knightkote brands to traditional paper distribution companies and graphic designers worldwide.

The companies are working together to smoothly transition manufacturing and sales of all uncoated products within the next 30 days.

SMART Papers will continue to manufacture Kromekote and Knightkote brands in its Hamilton, OH, facility and will continue to sell to strategic accounts worldwide, including specialty converters, original equipment manufacturers, label manufacturers, laminators, gift and box wrap printers, and greeting card companies.

i-Tone excels on HP Indigo

Last year, Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. (Cohoes, NY) became an HP Indigo Preferred Partner. To qualify, Mohawk had to demonstrate the ability to provide superior products, service and support with regional and global presence, as well as environmental responsibility. Mohawk's proprietary i-Tone family of papers — which come in uncoated and coated sheets — played a key role.

“The i-Tone surface treatment was developed in our labs to ensure consistently superior on-press print performance. HP and the fast-growing community of HP Indigo printers recognize our efforts to support the digital print market and together we are all achieving remarkable growth in this area,” says Chris Harrold, vice president, market development, emerging print technologies.

The HP Indigo Press has relied upon pre-treating papers with a Sapphire treatment to ensure the transfer and adhesion of liquid toner. Mohawk i-Tone papers perform on the HP Indigo Press without a Sapphire-treatment. In addition, Mohawk i-Tone papers reportedly do not pose any shelf-life issues.

Mohawk i-Tone offers exceptional image transfer, with fewer “clicks” to clean blankets, longer blanket life and heightened productivity. Because blankets stay cleaner when using i-Tone papers, cleaning sheets normally used after running 250 printed pages are not necessary. Superfine i-Tone requires zero, to a maximum of one, cleaning sheet.

All of Mohawk's i-Tone papers are available in standard digital sizes as well as a 13×19-inch sheet size for the latest generation of digital presses.

Mohawk i-Tone is a proprietary process which is formulated to enhance toner-to-paper performance on the HP Indigo, the Kodak NexPress, and the Xerox iGen3 Digital Production Press. Mohawk i-Tone papers can be used on offset printing presses prior to running on the HP Indigo.

Domtar named HP Indigo preferred partner

HP (Palo Alto, CA) has named Domtar (Montreal) an HP Indigo Preferred Partner, a standard HP created to recognize its partners who, by satisfying stringent program criteria, are the best positioned to provide tailored substrate solutions for HP Indigo equipment.

Cougar DigitalChoice Super Smooth product line — the newest extension of Cougar premium uncoated printing paper — has been certified for HP Indigo by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Printing Application Laboratory.

Cougar DigitalChoice Super Smooth also is recommended for digital printing platforms including the Xerox iGen and Kodak NexPress. It is available in sizes from 8.5×11 to 14×20 inches, in matching text and cover weights (70-lb. text to 100-lb. cover) from Domtar's strategically-located regional replenishment centers.

Cougar DigitalChoice is FSC-certified, contains 10% post-consumer recycled fiber and is endorsed by the Rainforest Alliance.

Show your stuff

Mohawk is accepting entries in this year's Mohawk Show 10 until May 29. While the designers win the cash and their printers win only bragging rights, there are no entry fees and no limits on the number of projects entered.

This year's show offers the “Specialty Finishes Award” for work featuring special embellishments such as embossing, engraving, foil stamping and thermography.

Download the entry form at