Text and Texture

To most people, “text” is the words comprising written or printed matter, such as an email, photo caption, magazine article or novel. It’s all these things to a printer, too, but also refers to textured finishes.

  • Paper Finishes and Textures

Your first tactile choice is coated vs. uncoated paper. Surface coatings include kaolin (a soft, white powdery clay), polythene (a plastic film), styrene-butadiene latex (a synthetic resin), titanium dioxide (a white, powdery pigment) and wax. The coating increases reflectivity and prevents ink from being absorbed, which enhances the crispness of text and the vividness of colors.

 There are four varieties of coated paper, based on the hardness and smoothness of the finish: dull, matte, gloss and cast. Dull and matte finishes, which are flat, are suitable for text-heavy uses. Gloss and cast finishes are highly reflective, and make images pop.

Uncoated paper (also known as offset paper), which has a porous surface that absorbs ink, is often used for business cards, brochures and stationery.

 Paper manufacturers also offer heavier cardstock with a metallic or pearlescent finish; animal hide, woodgrain or pebbly textures or even a rubbery feeling-finish.

  •  Think Ink

In thermography, a resin coating applied to words and graphics produces a glossy, 3D effect that looks like engraving. This technique works well on a fairly smooth uncoated paper for maximum contrast between the textures of the paper and the raised printing.

 An adhesive ink is dusted with finely powdered copper, aluminum, bronze or zinc to create a metallic effect known as “bronzing” that can be used an alternative to foil stamping (see below). Metallic ink containing powdered metals can also be used in place of foil stamping. Metallic elements in a design will look shinier with a glossy coated paper as the substrate.

  •  Tooling and Stamping

Embossing and debossing use engraved metal dies to create raised and depressed areas in the surface of paper or cardstock to make a 3D design with letters, a logo, a pattern or an image.

With embossing, the paper is pressed between a male die—on which the image is raised—and a female die—on which the image is recessed. As the male die presses into the back side of the paper, the female die presses into the front side and the pressure of the two dies forces the paper fibers to stretch into the recessed die. The result is an impression that is raised like a cameo on the front side of the paper.

Debossing is the opposite—the design is pressed below the surface of the front side of the paper or cardstock with a die so that it looks carved into the paper.

“Blind” debossing and embossing is all texture, with no ink or foil stamping. Glazing—which adds shine to an embossed impression with heat and pressure—can be used with or without ink.

Brochure jacket for Spa Botánico with blind embossed logo on woodgrain textured cardstock

The logo on this brochure jacket for Spa Botánico at the Ritz Carlton Reserve in Dorado, Puerto Rico, is an example of blind debossing.

In this project, the color and embossed woodgrain texture of the cardstock from German paper manufacturer Büttenpapierfabrik Gmund, are meant to evoke a unique feature of the resort’s signature spa, Tree House treatment pavilions at treetop level that are designed “to deliver a sense of weightless flotation.”

Holiday card for AMC produced with embossing and debossing in combination with foil stamping.Embossing and debossing can also be used in combination with ink and with foil stamping (also known as “hot stamping”), as with this holiday card for AMC.

For hot stamping a sheet of pastel or metallic foil is placed on a metal die or carved metal plate, which is heated until the foil sticks to the surface of the paper. The uncoated stock provides a counterpoint to the smooth, shiny finish of the stamped logo and text.

Texture literally adds the third dimension to a two-dimensional design to provide another layer of context and meaning to the visual elements.

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