“Oh, this is an amazing sheet. Feel it.” After viewing
more than 100 printed pieces on traditional whitecoated
papers, my fellow judges at a local printing
competition were excited. This was something different
The paper felt like rose petals. No, more like
velvet. Or was it rubber? Whatever it was, it felt luscious
and conveyed elegance all on its own.
Before we even take a closer look at any marketing
material handed to us, we take it into our hands
and the tactile communication begins. This first
impression sets the tone for the complete experience.
Is the paper sleek or soft to the touch, warm and sensuous?
Is it smooth or did we feel the subtle texture?
Does the paper make the piece stand out from the
crowd? Is it unique? Does it have a personality that
enhanced the design?
THE TOUCHY-FEELY SIDE
In the age of e-mail, text messaging and advancing
digital-communication options, it is now even
more important that designers never underestimate
the “aha!” experience that a paper’s tactile dimension
brings to a design. From suede to rose petals
to the feel of skin, there is no shortage of the most
unusual, soft, touchable finishes to add that “wow”
factor to your project.
The rich feel of leather
Featuring a rich, supple texture that simulates leather,
SuedeTex was the perfect paper for designer and photographer
Erik Stenbakken’s “Rodeo” catalogs. And
he knew it the first time he saw—and felt—it.
“I have worked on this catalog for a long time,”
he says. “It showcases a limited-edition print series, and the visual and tactile appeals of the sheet are
just an unsurpassed match.”
Stenbakken’s former portfolios were actually
bound in real leather, but with a print run of 2000,
that was definitely not an option for this catalog.
Moreover, SuedeTex’s latex content ensured a resistance
to moisture and tearing—added bonuses for
any catalog cover.
In collaboration with Allan Recalde, creative
director at Doane College, the design was finalized,
and a printer who was willing to take on the project
was found. “Some printers straight-out declined
to print on a substrate they had not used before,”
Stenbakken explains. “They did not want to take any
chances.” But a local print shop, Kendell Printing,
did not shy away. The company worked closely with
Stenbakken and created the desired distressed look
and feel for the catalog’s cover.
After all was said and done, Stenbakken’s choice
proved to be perfect. “I have only been sending the
catalog out selectively, but so far, every gallery I sent
it to was very impressed by the complete presentation
and has agreed to hang my images.” What better
ROI can you ask for?
To be plastic or …
Twentyfour22 Design is known for its love affair
with unique papers: “We love the way an innovative
paper enhances our design. Adding a unique finish
makes the piece different and adds an additional
dimension.” The firm’s first promotional piece for
retailer New York & Company was such a success
that the client included the sheet in its branding and
requested the same paper as its signature sheet for
several subsequent pieces.
What paper got New York & Company all
excited? Plike, whose name refers to plastic-like, or
pleasure to touch, is produced by Gruppo Cordenons.
An avant-garde paper with a unique tactile surface
some find evocative of rubber, Plike also reminds
more romantic souls of the distinctive texture of rose
petals or velvet. Plastic-like it may feel, but the sheet
offers the ecological edge and manufacturing versatility
typical of the fine paper it is.
Thanks to a special surface treatment, Plike
gives printing results that cannot be achieved with
other uncoated papers. Remarkably, standard- and
specialty-printing processes work well with the sheet
and lighter weights can even work with your laser or
The tonal range of skin
“Skin is a sensual material, invitingly soft to look
at and touch,” says Emeric Thibierge, art director
and paper designer for Arjowiggins, which offers the
Curious Collection of papers. “The increased use of
the internet and other digital media have enhanced
the need for papers with great personality,” says
Thibierge. And ample personality the Skin line has.
“I was sitting on the terrace of a café in Orchard
Road in Singapore, watching the Malay women walk
by,” Thibierge explains of his inspiration. “Their
skins portrayed a range of warm tonalities and soft,
Just launched in the U.S., Skin is already a huge
success with designers all across Europe. The fact that
this unique paper is also scuff- and fingerprint-resistant
is only of secondary importance to those
who spec the sheet. Skin’s amazingly even colors—inspired by Thibierge’s trips to Asia—and especially
its tactile feel, top the list of reasons this sheet is
loved for prestigious packaging, as well as brochure
covers, invitations and other applications in which
touch is essential.
Paper made from stones
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, something
new and surprising comes along, like paper made
from stones. Well, calcium carbonate to be precise.
Around 10 years ago, the first rock papers
were made in Asia, mixing ground rock (mainly
limestone) with a binding agent and forming it into
paper. No trees were felled, no water used. No toxic
gases released, either.
Creamy, smooth and cool to the touch, these
papers have a very distinct feel. In addition, they are
tear-resistant, water-resistant and absorb less ink than
For Robert Combs, senior packaging design
engineer at Burt’s Bees, replacing the double-layer
wrapping system on the group’s soap wrappers with
a material that is tree-free and has excellent barrier
properties was the challenge he faced.
Combs says, “Using TerraSkin has allowed us to
reduce the amount of material used in our packaging
by half, while giving us a white printing surface
that gives us the look we want for our brand.” Burt’s
Bees’ soap wrapper is currently a finalist in the PAC
Sustainable Packaging Leadership Awards.
But where does all the stone, or calcium carbonate,
come from? TerraSkin claims 80 percent of its
base material is derived from post-industrial building
material waste, like limestone scraps. As for the environmental
side, tests conducted on TerraSkin showed
the paper begins to degrade after six to nine months
when exposed to direct sunlight.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
“This incredible mirror finish is the shiniest one on
the market,” raves Bill Sutton, purchasing manager
at Creative Packaging Solutions. In the short time
that Mirricard has been stocked and made available
in the U.S., Sutton’s company has already run several
jobs on the reflective sheet.
Even though Mirricard had gained popularity
in the high-end packaging industry, its availability in
North America was limited—due to the mill being
based in the U.K. And with short turnaround times
… well, you know the problem.
Now, the entire range of vibrant colors, from
silver to red and purple, is readily available and
stocked in the U.S., thanks to Legion Paper. “It
is not used for packaging alone anymore,” says
Sutton. “The entire range is used for all kinds of
business applications, such as presentation folders
and formal invitations.”
Before Mirricard, the same mirror-like effect was
achieved on a piece with the extra step of foil stamping.
Now, this shiny alternative can be used and
simply printed offset. Your clients will appreciate the
shorter turnaround times.
The architecture of a great invitation
Sure, unique papers have a great look and feel to
them, but they can do so much more. “Before Chen
Design Associates [CDA] designed our invitations, we
spent no money and there was no impact—less than
1-percent response,” says Katie Nicely, development
director for Stanford Lively Arts. “A lot of invitations
went out and no one showed up for the events. In
contrast, the first of the series working with CDA,
our response was 18 percent. Now at the fourth in
the series, we’re receiving a 30-percent response.”
For a series of four wine reception invitations,
Josh Chen of CDA, in San Francisco, aimed high
while his client took the leap and reaped the rewards.
In the case of a not-for-profit organization like
Stanford Lively Arts, it means increased donations,
ticket sales and an elevated public image to help continue
attracting the best artists, loyal audiences and
In these days of e-vites, receiving such a unique
invitation in the mail has to capture attention. Chen
chose from the Eames Paper collection by Neenah
Paper, a relatively new product in terms of paper lines, and one that is inspired by the work and philosophy
of designers Charles and Ray Eames. Eames
Architecture, with its diffuse finish and slight translucency,
was selected for the invitation wraps and combined
with a blotter paper for the actual invitation
and stickers. Add Chen’s skillful mix of offset and
letterpress printing, and you have an award-winning,
and, in this case, a donation-winning piece.
“Of course there are many factors in making an
event appealing,” Nicely remarks, “but our audience
was definitely struck by the invitation design, which
is artistic and elegant and reflects Stanford’s distinctive
PUT IT ON PAPER
Niche and new materials and finishes enhance a
project and provide creative materials in their own
right. Recognizing a paper’s personality, along with
the technological capabilities of today’s press and
pre-press world, make these papers effective, easy to
use and memorable to experience.