Frankly Speaking: Paper is Part of the Process

9 tips for getting the most out of your digital printing project.

If you’ve been following the printing world—and if you’re reading this column we’ve got a hunch that you have—you know that advances in digital printing have transformed the technology from the world of the small-run to a viable print-on-demand option for publishers of all sizes and stripes.

But don’t be fooled: Digital and offset lithography remain quite different beasts. As such, the process choices you make for one won’t necessarily translate to the other. And while offset processes present a fairly consistent set of choices, digital printing is schizophrenic by comparison: It can use dry or liquid toner, or inkjet using water, solvent or UV. It all depends on the printing system that will be employed and there are now about 40 systems you can select from. And that all depends on what system your printer of choice is using.

Here’s a handy guide to help you navigate the new set of choices this miracle technology will throw at you.


In digital printing, paper is part of the system. Offset uses more or less plain paper but digital papers must be treated or specially formulated. There is no such thing as “plain paper” when it comes to digital printing. Choose a paper that has been tested and approved for the digital printing system that will be using it, or you may encounter poor results such as flaking and streaking. Your print provider can show you the approved paper stocks and substrates for its system. A test run or proof may be the best way to determine if the paper that is to be used is the best choice for the application.

Once you know the printing system that will be used, get a list of approved papers, usually posted on supplier or service websites.

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