Sending Some (Print) Holiday Cheer

parse-parcel-holiday-cards It’s been a busy year at Parse & Parcel. We launched our business complete with a new website and subscription products, moved into a new space, set up The Sample Studio and added two members to our team – Molly & Chris.  I am incredibly grateful to be able to do what I love and help the print and design community that means so much to me. I knew I wanted to do something special this holiday season to say thank you to everyone who has supported Parse & Parcel this past year. With that being said, I wanted whatever we did to be true to our mission to help educate and inspire. What better way to deliver paper inspiration than by sending each member of our mailing list a set of custom holiday cards?

I knew I wanted to give something special to our members that would be both education and functional, so I decided to focus on using colored and textured paper stocks to demonstrate what could be done with digital printing. I chose digital because although it’s used a lot, I still don’t see much being produced on tactile, color paper.


I’m really lucky to have found two people I enjoy working with daily in The Sample Studio let alone two people that are also talented freelance graphic designers. Both Molly and Chris have very distinct design aesthetics, yet are natural collaborators. When it came to the card designs, I gave them little direction other than my expectations as it related to the print production. With that being said, Molly and Chris narrowed the design focus to type and illustration. They collaborated on the concepts and executed well on the designs, and I think the team spirit of Parse & Parcel is reflected in the results.

parse-parcel-holiday-cardsMolly’s inspiration for the Happy New Year’s card came from her love of calligraphy and hand lettering. She began with the concept of a gold brushed lettering effect, and brought ink to paper paying close attention to its absorbency, crispness, and color clarity. Since accessing paper wasn’t an issue (we work in the sample studio afterall) Molly  experimented with four different papers during this process: Crane’s Lettra, Strathmore Pure Cotton, Moondream, and Canaletto Grana Grosso. The next step was to scan the lettering at 600 dpi and bring into Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for clean up and vectorizing.


Neenah Classic Crest Classic natural White 100#C Stipple Digital

For the Happy Holidays card,  Molly decided on clean calligraphic text with simple flourishes. Since she was creating this by hand the first step was to decide on a full concept and composition by doing sketches, line work then inking. After scanning and cleaning up, she selected a traditional color scheme. The design for the Merry Christmas card was directed by my love of white ink on kraft paper. Molly understood the effect I wanted and felt the concept of clean line art with text would be a good fit. She was right, with digital printing heavy solids of opaque white can look waxy or gray, the line art was just enough.

Mohawk Carnival Deep Blue 80#C Vellum with i-Tone

Chris’s process for Relax in Your Little World was a bit different. “I started sketching out various ideas only to realize that coming up with with original holiday imagery and concepts is pretty hard! I ended up deciding to base my card on a snow globe. I think one of the best parts about the holidays is just the feeling of being tucked away in a warm house and not feeling the need to go anywhere. So I took the imagery of the snow globe and combined it with the desired isolation of the holidays and came up with the tag line for the card “relax in your little world”.


Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite 100#C Eggshell with i-Tone

On the collaborative card Tis the Season, featuring type and illustration, Chris says “I created a bunch of vector holiday imagery that would compliment Molly’s hand drawn type. I was really happy with what we came up with as well as how the print turned out.” And I agree, to me there is something really special about the result of this collaboration.


Once we had the concepts flushed out I turned to the production. There were a couple things I knew I wanted to do: feature white opaque ink on kraft and dark paper and show metallics with digital printing. I also wanted to demonstrate how paper finish can add texture especially when digital printing. When I saw Chris’s concept of the snow globe I thought it would be the perfect design to showcase printing white ink digitally on a dark paper stock. And Molly’s concept of gold brushed lettering for the new years card intrigued me but I had no idea how we would achieve that kind if vibrant metallic effect until I saw a recent mill promo. I knew Neenah’s Stardream Gold would be perfect for this but wasn’t sure how the process would work.

Since paper is where my skill set lies, I turned to the professionals for help when it comes to production. Since I wanted to use white opaque ink, I was going to need to select a printer with that capability. I chose to work with a local Cleveland printer I’ve had a relationship with over the years, Consolidated Solution Inc. After talking to their digital print manager, Anthony Pietricini, he suggested we run some tests. Armed with paper samples of all the sheets I wanted to use and having already sent overt the artwork, Anthony was able to show me what the designs would like on each of my desired papers.

Neenah Environment Desert Storm 100#C Smooth Digital

It’s a good thing we tested them. Turns out the kraft paper that was my first choice for one of the cards is not digitally certified for Indigo – while my test ran great, my quantities kept going up and trouble (toner not adhering) can set in once you get into a couple hundred on the run. I didn’t want to chance it, so we opted for the digitally certified Environment Desert Storm 100# Cover. While it was a pretty close match to my initial choice, Desert Storm is definitely lighter and I wasn’t seeing the contrast I wanted between the ink and the paper shade, so we increased the ink from three to five hits of opaque white ink. Had we gone with a bit darker colored kraft paper we’d have been fine with 2-3 hits of opaque white ink. The other design we used white opaque ink on was the snow globe card, we chose Mohawk Carnival Deep Blue Vellum which is pretty dark, so the contrast was easily achieved with two hits, but we wanted to make these a little extra special and opted for three hits of opaque white ink.

Neenah Stardream Gold 105#C Smooth Digital

The design that stumped me production wise was the New Years card. I wanted to achieve the look of gold metallic ink on black with a spot gloss varnish on the dots – I know how to do this if this printing offset but not digital. I showed Anthony that mill promo I mentioned on Stardream and he knew just what to do. He recommended laying down a hit of opaque white ink under everything but the type and the dots, then a layer of black ink over everything but the type. The result was a semi-shimmery effect on the dots due to the metallic finish of the Stardream paper itself – love it when the properties of a paper work for you. The rest of the production process was smooth sailing. I knew I wanted to focus on the tactile properties of the papers for the Happy Holidays and Tis the Season cards and opted for the stipple finish in Classic Crest and a nice toothy eggshell finish in Mohawk Superfine.

holidayscards2014_group_01In the end, I think we accomplished what we set out to do: produce a set of five holiday cards featuring fun type and design, produced on a digital press (HP Indigo 7500) using different colored and textured papers – all on a real life budget. We sent out a set to everyone that signed up to join our mailing (and provided us with an actual street address) be sure to check your snail mailbox for some print holiday cheer!

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