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Choosing the Right Digital Printing Paper for the Job

Your choice of digital printing paper can make or break your next project. Follow these six tips for matching the paper to the job.

Digital printing delivers many benefits to printers and designers alike. High-speed inkjet and toner-based printers have made print-on-demand services possible for everything from books and brochures to catalogs and direct-mail campaigns. In addition, variable-data printing technology allows printers to customize virtually any project.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all uncoated paper for digital printing. The key to a successful print run is knowing how to choose the right digital printing paper for the job and the printer at hand.

Our industry offers creative professionals more options than ever when it comes to digital printing paper. But like any printing technology, digital printing results and paper requirements can vary depending on a number of factors, and using the wrong paper can create a host of problems on press. Here are six tips for selecting the right digital printing paper for the job.

1. Know Your Equipment

Choose a digital printing paper based on the press or printer you will be using. Every press has different paper requirements. Just because a paper is labeled “digital” in a swatchbook doesn’t mean it’s necessarily well suited for the equipment you’ll be using. Ask the paper or printer manufacturer for suggestions, or run some tests of your own.

2. Know What’s Possible

Learn everything you can about the equipment’s capabilities. Many of today’s digital presses can print white or metallic inks and clear coatings that mimic spot UV, all of which can elevate a project. But not all equipment can produce the same techniques, and not every printing firm has access to equipment that can accommodate the customer’s requirements. Do some research prior to project crunch time so you know which printers in your network can handle specific projects.

3. Identify Paper Requirements

What requirements will inform your choice of digital printing paper? Consider everything from basis weight to finish. Many digital presses can handle up to 130-lb. cover weight but may be limited by paper thickness; it’s important to know the limitations before proceeding with the job. The same rule of thumb follows when it comes to paper finish. Smooth and super-smooth finishes run well on most digital presses, but if you need to print on an embossed finish, like linen or felt, you may need to make some adjustments to the design, the press and/or the paper. Request printed samples that have been run on the paper and the equipment you plan to use.

4. Understand the Specs

Look at the manufacturer’s performance guarantees and commitments for the digital printing paper you’d like to use. Make sure it’s designed for the type of digital printing (toner, inkjet, etc.) you want to use, as well as for any special effects and/or post-printing processing required for the job. But keep in mind that “compatible” isn’t the same as “guaranteed.” Always ask for samples or do a test run prior to printing.

5. Know What’s Available

Find out which digital printing papers are stocked locally. This will vary by market and paper merchant, but knowing what’s available locally can make all the difference when you’re up against a tight deadline. Many Domtar papers can be shipped from the mill or a regional replenishment center to a merchant within two business days; special orders can take longer, depending on the grade.

6. Run Test Prints

Always take time to run some test prints on your chosen digital printing paper before committing to the full job. Test runs can help you identify and resolve a range of issues before creating an expensive mistake across a full print run. By testing and optimizing print settings for the paper you choose, you can be sure the final project will look as good or better than expected.

Before you start your next digital printing job, choose the right paper for the equipment and the project, and start early so you can print samples before committing to a full run. Learn more about Domtar’s full line of digital printing papers, or contact us to discuss your specific needs.

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