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Web Exclusive: Enhance Your Bottom Line with Color

As a commercial printer, you’re a key player in the outcome of your customer’s final printed piece. You have a vital role in explaining the value and importance of print to your customers, as well as advising the appropriate paper color, texture, and weight. In order to achieve optimal results, it is important to cultivate a cohesive relationship by closely communicating with your customers.

Paper is a timeless analog tool that has incredible versatility. Not only does the tactile experience of paper heighten the impact of the design, but the tangible product increases awareness and loyalty. In fact, according to a recent study by the Digital Printing Council of Printing Industries of America, print is still the best way to develop brand loyalty and is the most trusted media overall. Print isn’t dead—it’s evolving.

A Printer’s Role in Paper Selection

When creating a printed design, there is much take into consideration. Establishing a partnership with the designer will make for a seamless process and will help ensure the final piece meets, and ideally exceeds, expectations. It will also allow you to have a say in the outcome, as you can aid the designer in choosing which type of stock is best for the design and the print run. For example, choosing a stock with a unique finish will differentiate the printed design from the rest. Using a textured substrate is another great option that adds interest, depth and detail, as it makes a two-dimensional piece seem more three-dimensional. One of the best ways to enhance the project, however, is to employ the use of colored paper.

People connect with color easily and often assess projects, products, and images based on color alone. Color psychologist, Angela Wright, notes, “Color is noticed by the brain before shapes or words. Since a high percentage of our response to color is unconscious, brands are sending a message to consumers whether they know it or not.”

In addition to capturing attention, the use of a colored stock can truly enhance a design’s bottom line. According to studies by the Color Marketing Group, color improves readership as much as 40%, increases comprehension by 73%, accelerates learning from 55-78%, and increases retention by 18%. But not only does it aid in message comprehension and retention, colored paper is one of the easiest and most cost-effective tools designers can employ to truly make their projects “pop.” Colored paper is like a free spot color with the benefit of a solid, evenly colored backdrop. The value of color association is apparent without the need to layer colored ink, which can help designers enhance their projects without stepping out of their budget.

A Colorful Assortment

Selecting a colored stock opens a world of creative possibilities, and there are colors that will work for just about any project. There are brilliant brights for projects that need extra attention, sophisticated colored metallics to convey elegance, subtle hues to add a “pop” without overwhelming the message, and neutral tones to soothe the eyes and attract readers.

There are many ways to work with the array of color options. If your customer or designer is working on a campaign that brings awareness to unfortunate circumstances, such as abuse or depression, recommend using a cool, ashy blue substrate while incorporating images and texts in shades of gray to really strengthen the message’s tone. If the design is loud and energetic, recommend using a bright yellow backdrop, as yellow is the brightest color on the spectrum and immediately lures the eyes of a reader. A bold orange or a fresh green substrate is another great option to complement the design’s message while garnering attention.

If your client is looking for a more subtle printed project, suggest using soft neutral tones, such as off-white, tan, or even chocolate brown. Neutral tones complement nearly every color on the spectrum, which allows them to be an excellent backdrop. You may also want to recommend using a softly colored metallic paper to add a dazzling effect. Incorporating a sparkly silver or champagne substrate is a striking way to add a layer of visual texture while incorporating color.

You can also recommend using different ink colors to correlate with the colored paper selection. Instead of printing black ink on white paper, you can help to create a simple, yet dramatic appeal by printing black ink atop a bright paper, such as a black image over a yellow stock. Similarly, you could use white ink over a dark colored paper, such as a midnight blue or a rich violet. This technique is a great way for designers to have the best of both worlds—a simple, budget friendly ink option, while producing a visually enticing design. For best results, make sure the chosen ink color provides a high contrast with the selected paper.

Coordinating colored ink on colored paper is another option to recommend to your customer. This technique boasts drama and impact as the paper shines through the layers of the ink. If your customer’s design has a strong blue base, printing it on a bright-blue paper will enhance the color tone. For a contrasting, attention getting project, try vibrant inks—such as green, orange, and blue—over a bold yellow stock. The key is to understand the paper on which you’re printing, as the color of the ink can look vastly different depending on the color of the substrate.

The Bottom Line

Go beyond black-and-white, and embrace colors to truly enhance a print project’s message and objective. Knowing about color association and color trends will allow you to better serve your customers. What’s more is knowing about the way specialty stocks, such as colored paper, metallic paper, and textured paper, will work with your printing press. The more you know, the better the resource you’re going to be.

Printers are a key player in the final stage of the design process, and knowing which products, colors, and textures to recommend gives you the opportunity to turn a project into perfection. Immerse yourself in the creative world of design to better understand how you can have an impact on a final project. Together, designers and printers can hone their skills and knowledge to create a stand-out printed piece.

Andrea Alstad is the manager of strategic markets, print & color for the paper segment of Wausau Paper, a leading manufacturer of colored uncoated printing and imaging papers. For more information, visit For resources on digital printing, visit Wausau Paper’s Digital Space at