Spec Rep Secrets: Do You Know the House Sheet You’re Printing On?

I got an email last week from a former customer of mine wanting info on a printer’s house sheet, which was a private label. The job was scheduled to go to press that day and he hadn’t heard of the paper being used and wanted to know what it was. It’s a fair question. As a creative professional one’s reputation is based on the quality of one’s work, and when it comes to print, paper has a huge impact on the final results. So the fact that my former customer was reaching out to me for answers made me think – do designers really know what they are getting when it comes to a house sheet?

It’s kind of like asking if you know what you are getting when you buy a generic brand at the grocery store. For me, I frequent a local grocer that’s been operating in my city since the early twentieth century. The stores are clean, well stocked, their employees are friendly and knowledgeable, their commitment to sustainability very transparent and their prices are fair – not the cheapest, but that’s OK with me. I trust them to sell me a quality generic brand – not some chemical laden, GMO product imported from half a world away. Obviously not all generic brands are equal and the same goes for private label house sheets. It comes down to one thing – do you trust your printer? Hopefully the answer is yes. If you’re not sure, here are some things to think about when it comes to using private label house sheets.

Paper Inspiration: Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress Papers

I’m not not sure exactly when it happened but at some point during my career I fell head over heels for letterpress. Really, what’s not to love? From a light-weight kiss (slight impression) to an impressive bite (heavy indentation), letterpress imparts a tactile, hand-crafted feel that’s second to none. Which is probably why everyone from blushing brides to tech startup founders are swooning over the time honored print technique. To insure beautiful results, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right paper – for many letterpress designers and craftsmen that means using a high cotton content sheet. One such grade recently added to the swatchbox is Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress Papers from our friends at Mohawk.


Since its beginnings in 1892 the Strathmore name has been associated with innovative cotton fiber papermaking. Its symbol is the thistle, taken by Strathmore’s founder Horace Moses, from the native flora found in Scotland’s Strathmore Valley. Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress papers have been designed to emulate the look and feel of handmade papers, with a luxurious surface that allows for a beautiful contrast between the sheet and the printed impression. Available in four colors: Ultimate White, Soft White, Smoke Gray and Chino – all have been carefully selected to meet the creative needs of traditional social stationers and new letterpress printers. Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress is available in two calipers: 18 pt for digital printing and 20 pt for letterpress printing. And there’s matching 80# Text envelopes available in square or Euro flaps!


The sheet is pure cotton in its makeup, which allows it to be bulky yet still feel soft. It’s this softness from the cotton that allows for a nice impression of the letterpress image. The bulkier 20 pt. weight allows for a heavy bite with little to no show through on the back, which is great for fans of overbite. And with that matching Euro Flap envelope, visions of letterpress lovelies already dance in our heads. Stay up to date on all the latest in paper (letterpress or otherwise), and join our community.  And if you missed it, here’s a recent post on designing for letterpress in case you need a few pointers.

Giveaway: Jessica Hische Daily Drop Cap Stationery


From the time I learned cursive in second grade, I’ve been fascinated with lettering. I love everything about it – the curves, the loops, the flourishes. I think I covered every square inch of my folders in middle school trying to perfect the lettering of my favorite band (The Doors) – I was 13 and had a thing for Jim Morrison. I drove myself nuts trying to get the proportions of the “o” correct. Now, anytime I see a sample featuring hand lettering it goes in my keeper file. So you can imagine my delight when I heard of Jessica Hische’s Daily Drop Stationery for the Luxe Project.


A letterer and graphic designer, Jessica Hische began the Daily Drop Cap project in 2009 illustrating a decorative letter every day until she completed twelve sets of alphabets. Now she’s turned the gorgeous project into a full line of stationery for the The Luxe Project by Moo. The collection includes a full suite of luxe products including letterhead, business cards, notecards and mini-cards (so cute) all printed on one of our favorite papers – Mohawk Superfine. The self professed crazy cat lady is donating 100% of the proceeds from sales of her collection to the ASPCA.


We were lucky enough to have Jessica answer a few questions for us. Check out Jessica’s insights on the Daily Drop Cap project, her take on ‘procrastiworking,’ and the importance of paper specification among other things.

Paper Inspiration: Mohawk Introduces Strathmore Notes

True to form in their celebration of craft and the maker movement, our friends at Mohawk are celebrating their historic Strathmore fine paper brand with the launch of Strathmore Notes, a new line of fine paper journals. Also making headlines is the introduction of Strathmore Pure Cotton Papers (more on that in a bit). With it’s heritage stemming from Scotland’s Strathmore Valley and the country’s national symbol, the thistle, Strathmore has been delighting printers and artisans with it’s beauty and uncompromising quality since 1892.


Strathmore Notes is a new line of paper journals made from papers crafted in Mohawk’s century old paper mill in upstate New York. Each journal sports Strathmore Grandee Charcoal Gray on its cover, a true felt paper perfect for featuring the brand’s embossed thistle icon. Available in three paper styles with a colorful hand-sewn spine.

• Strathmore Pure Cotton Paper – featuring luxurious 100% cotton-fiber paper with a crisp wove finish and the prestigious Strathmore Watermark, orange stitching and matching foil stamp, unlined pages
• Strathmore Watermark Laid Paper – featuring luxurious 25% cotton-fiber paper with the prestigious Strathmore Watermark, turquoise stitching and matching foil stamp, unlined pages
• Strathmore Premium Smooth Paper – featuring a luxurious, super smooth finish, magenta stitching and matching foil stamp, with an innovative linear pattern formed directly in the paper

Strathmore Notes Journals are available in three sizes: small (3.5 x 5.5), medium (5 x 8.25) and large (7.5 x 10);each journal is individually packaged in beautiful, brightly colored wraps featuring designs depicting the iconic Strathmore thistle, complete with a selection of four customizable bookplates.

Each journal is individually packaged in beautiful, brightly colored wraps featuring designs depicting the iconic Strathmore thistle, complete with a selection of four customizable bookplates. As if that wasn’t enough, each Strathmore Notes Journal is linked to enhanced content via Mohawk Live, Mohawk’s mobile augmented reality app.

In addition Mohawk is introducing their new line of Strathmore Pure Cotton Letterpress Papers. We’ll be sharing more info on the new Strathmore Letterpress Papers in a bit, in the meantime sign up to join our mailing list and get all the latest paper inspiration delivered directly to you!

Paper Resource: Mohawk Dimensional Products

Have you found yourself turning your client’s emergency into your emergency? You know the one, you get a frantic call pleading for last minute help with some forgotten event detail. Mohawk, the maker of grades like Superfine and Via, has thought of a brilliant solution to combat those client emergencies with their Mohawk Dimensional Products.

The Mohawk Dimensional portfolio includes pre-perfed and pre-scored packaging, promotional, photo and presentation products available in some of your favorite papers. What makes them so unique, in our opinion, is the micro perf – this totally eliminates the need for creating a custom die. We’ve used them before and can tell you they’re pretty easy to use and assembly requires nothing more than craft glue and a pair of hands (or a few depending on your quantity).

We love these products, especially the boxes. There’s a wine box, a square cube, a pillow pouch even a golf ball sleeve. But the products don’t stop at boxes, there’s doorhangers, greeting cards, table tents, pocket folders, flip tags, name badges, parking passes, plant tags, wobblers, wrist bands and luggage tags. Mohawk has done a great job of making design for these products a cinch by having the templates available on their site for downloading.

Available in Mohawk Superfine Eggshell i-Tone, Mohawk Via Linen i-Tone, Mohawk Color Copy Ultra Gloss and Mohawk Synthetics, this product offering is made for bespoke custom packaging – we can think of a ton ways to use these for weddings, product launches, company outings, trade shows, etc.

Oh and bonus – these sheets are in digital sizes, and available for purchase directly on Mohawk’s site in quantities as low as 50 sheets! With all these options, it’s easy to see why Mohawk asks us “What will you make today?” For more tips on averting client emergencies, join our community – it’s free!

Swatchbook Update – The Curious Collection

It’s time to update your swatchbox, The new Curious Collection swatchbook was released by Appleton Coated. In addition to the incredibly tactile sheets the grade is known for, now designers have yet another option when looking for a textured and sustainable paper – Curious Matter®. A sheet whose finish is as unique as its pedigree, Curious Matter is made with potato starch and is a nice compliment to the existing papers in the Curious Collection.


Available in cover weight only, “Curious Matter provides an unexpected texture with a richly matte surface and deep, ultra-pigmented colors,” says Ferkó X. Goldinger, marketing manager. “Curious Matter’s texture is achieved through a revolutionary, patented process where potato waste, up-cycled from the food industry, is metamorphosed into a sophisticated and tactile paper. The raw potato starch used in this process is a by-product of the food industry and is released from the processing of potatoes into chips and fries.”

The new swatchbook shows off the tactile feel of Curious Matter® on its cover, featuring Goya White 100#C, its paired with the silky smoothness of SKIN Curious Collection® Extra White 91 lb Text for the internal stock booklet. The Curious Translucents Clear 29 #T overlays in the swatch sections showing the full spectrum of Curious’ color. Other colors in the Curious Matter lineup include: Purple Majesty, Ibizenca Sand, Desiree Red, Andina Grey, Adiron Blue and Black truffle.

In addition to the Curious Matter, Curious Collection includes:

  • Curious Metallics – glittering alloy effects with a luminescent sheen offering a play of light.
  • Curious Cosmic® – otherworldly cover-only sheet with a remarkable soft matte metal effect
  • SKIN Curious Collection® – exudes touchability with vibrant, even, matte colors and a smooth, sensual texture
  • Curious Translucents – natural translucent papers that layer a sophisticated veil of show-through seduction
  • Curious Particles – 100% recycled papers filled with gold, silver or white flecks that add interest and sparkle
  • Curious Touch – features a fuzzy feel reminiscent of a peach

Update your swatchbox with this newest resource in tactile papers. Join our community to stay up to date on all the latest paper samples and print resources for creatives.

Here’s a peek at how one creative uses Curious Matter:

Curious Matter Making Off from Arjowiggins Creative Papers on Vimeo.

Print Samples – A Sensory Experience

I recently asked my fellow LinkedIn group members what’s the first thing you do when you receive a print sample. There were two responses that came up repeatedly.  One, there should be a support group for ink on paper sniffers; and two, print is a highly sensory experience. My experience with Sappi’s  promotion, Print &, is proof positive on the subject.
print-samples-a sensory-experience
This should come as no surprise to fans of print, but there’s scientific proof explaining why print has such an emotional influence on us. According to a study by Millward Brown, paper based marketing makes a greater impression on the brain than digital. They used MRI’s to test the same image used on screen and printed on paper and the test showed tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain. We process print as being more “real” – it has a place and reference in our memory. The brain associates the tactile experience with its perception of the content, how’s that for subliminal messaging. If you haven’t seen it yet, the print promotion, Print &, by Sappi is proof positive on the subject.
print-samples-a sensory-experience
Designed by Studio Hinrichs and printed entirely on McCoy Silk, this piece put me in sensory overload. I found myself doing exactly what others in the discussion had stated. First I ran my hand across the luxurious cover, noticing the smooth hand of the paper and then feeling the spot gloss UV on the image. As I opened the cover, I give the sheet a good flick with my thumb and listen for a snap. It’s my little test of a quality cover stock, at 130# this sheet holds up. As you may noticed by now, I am all about the tactile experience when it comes to print samples.

Inside, I am drawn to the soft touch coating on the interior cover. I page through the piece and am struck by the gorgeous combination of photography, illustration and typography Studio Kinrichs is known for. I notice the balance between the positive and negative spaces. Stopping on a spread that calls readers to interact, I pay attention to the solid black area to see if it passes the “orange peel” test. I scour it looking for the tiniest imperfection in coverage (non-glare coated papers are very unforgiving when it comes to large areas of solids like black or metallics). Of course there’s none – this is McCoy we’re talking about.
print-samples-a sensory-experience
As I continue to flip through the piece, I cannot believe I am going to admit this next part, I pull the sample close to my face and take in a good whiff. I’m shameless in my approach. I don’t even check to see if anyone’s looking, I close my eyes and inhale. Before you judge, know that almost everyone who responded to this thread admitted to doing the same thing, along with some other behaviors that could be cause for another study.
print-samples-a sensory-experience
Now that I’m over my initial sensory experience, I dig into the content. And man, does this piece deliver. Full of interesting tidbits like “consumers that can afford to access information in any medium state a preference for print.” This translates to over 460 publications alone targeting the wealthy, a 400% increase since 1997. “Print improves brand perceptions and customer engagement,” and “Among 18 to 24 year olds, 69% say they prefer print and paper communications to reading off a screen.” All of this proving how print & other mediums drive greater success using a smart push-pull marketing approach.

This piece would win a place in my keeper file for the design alone, but the fact that it’s coupled with amazing print techniques throughout, stunning photography and illustrations all backed by powerful content makes it one for The Parcel as well. This is what I call paper inspiration. To learn more, sign up to join our community and get inspiration delivered to your inbox.

About + Samples – by Arjowiggins

Arjowiggins Creative Papers have developed a limited edition book, About + Samples better known as “A+S61.” Designed by stereochromie in Paris, the piece is meant to serve as a working tool and a beautiful object. The promotion was designed for “art directors and those brands wishing to communicate in a way that is arresting and distinctive.” The ‘A’ tells the story of Arjowiggins papers and their intimate secrets. The ‘S61’ presents a selection of Arjowiggins 61 most coveted papers.

The two grades selected for the book covers are Curious Matter and Conqueror. The box encasing the books is produced on Keaykolour 100% recycled Camel. The packaging the promotion comes in is on Keaykolour 100% recycled Graphite. Deciding to highlight the paper itself, the design is understated and the debossed text appears like a shadow on the cover stock. Matching the minimalist design, the print technology has been kept simple as well, using unvarnished type printed in match silver to reveal the grain of the paper.

Developed as a limited edition sample promotion (only 1,000 were produced), it was sent to industry trendsetters with a focus in France, Italy, UK and Northern Europe – where Arjowiggins felt luxury brands and designers are especially active. Since the piece is so gorgeous, we can overlook the fact the promotion didn’t make it to North American – although we would love to see that arrive in our http://parseandparcel.com/the-sample-studio/. In the U.S., their Curious Collection of papers are distributed via Appleton Coated.

To see more paper inspiration like A+S61 delivered to your inbox, join the Parse & Parcel mailing list.

Paper Parse – Eames by Neenah

Parse – \ˈpärs\ to examine in a minute way : analyze critically

Paper Parse is a new series where we take a deeper look at a specific paper, it’s product considerations, specs and applicable uses. The first grade we’ll profile has ties to design legends Ray and Charles Eames.

Launched in 2005, the Eames Paper line has been revamped and is part of the brands comprising The Design Collection from Neenah Paper. So if you still have the old swatchbook, time to upgrade. Inspired by the work and philosophy of Ray and Charles Eames, in our opinion this grade is all about the finish.

The first thing we notice about this grade is the tactile feel of the papers. The patterns and textures of these papers naturally lend themselves to haptic design. Designers can choose from Vellum, Diffused and Canvas finishes – all of which beg to be touched.

The vellum finish provides just enough toothiness, lending a nice hand to the sheet. It’s a great alternative to the multitude of smooth options available in the market. With a range of basis weight from 24# Writing, 80 – 100# text and 80, 100, 120# cover, it’s perfectly suited for identity systems. The writing weight is also guaranteed for laser and ink jet printing, which is good to know as the last thing you want is to spec paper for a system and NOT have it work in the client’s printer, but that’s what samples are for. Did we mention the vellum finish also comes in a digital?

Eames Vellum in Solar White – Image via Under Consideration

The diffused finish has a rippled, crepe like texture inspired by the movable panels in the Eames’ home. If you have the swatchbook, flip open the waterfall and pick up the sheet – it feels unlike any other paper on the market. The heft of the sheet is just different. While this sheet is simple in terms of specs: one basis weight – 50# text, and one color – Eames White; its texture offers depth. I love this sheet as an alternative to a typical fly sheet. It’s light weight and has a translucent quality to it yet still provides opacity – and looks crazy good when printed, especially with metallic inks. A couple things to note, it is not recommended for aqueous coating, thermography or engraving, but none of that would stop us from using this. We should mention it handles scoring and folding exceptionally well.

Eames Architecture Diffused – Image via Neenah Paper

With the broadest offering of color in the line, the canvas finish imparts an amazing pattern to the sheet and feels like a painter’s gessoed canvas. The palette was based on the colors used in the Eames’ artwork. Available in Eames Solar White, Eames White, Eames Natural White, Brown Umber and Graphite (our favorite) it comes in 80# text and 80 – 100# cover and features a rich emboss canvas, creating a dense surface offering exceptional ink holdout. This sheet really offers some bang for the buck. If you think about it, with this sheet you get paper and an emboss pattern all for the price of the paper. This sheet is ideal for packaging applications – take a look at how well the Design Collection swatchbook folds, scores and embosses (even with a silver foil on the spine).

Eames Canvas in Brown Umber -Image via Under Consideration

With its universal color palette, and complimentary finishes, this grade easily lends itself to mixing and matching. Oh and they offer a wide range on envelope options on their website in both the canvas and vellum finish.

We could envision a product catalog using Eames Canvas on the cover with heavy ink coverage, opening to a fly sheet featuring type in gold metallic ink on Eames Diffused and then beautifully showcasing lifestyle images on the Eames Vellum text.  Check out how House Industries used it for their catalog. If you’ve used Eames Papers on a project, we’d love to see it – drop us a note or share using #parseandparcel. In the meantime, join our mailing list and get paper inspiration like Eames Papers delivered to your inbox.

*Note – some of you familiar with the line prior to its inclusion in The Design Collection may be asking where is the furniture finish. Sorry to break the news, but it has been discontinued. However, if you are searching for that weave texture the furniture finish offered, look no further than the next selection in The Design Collection swatchbook – Esse, but we’ll save that exploration for another post.


Above Images Via House Industries

Mohawk Maker – Pride in the Details

Issue Three of the Mohawk Maker Quarterly is out. If you’re not familiar with the Mohawk Maker campaign, it celebrates the culture of craft and the maker movement – you can read more about it in our earlier post Mohawk is for the Makers. The current issue is about the details that make the artisans work authentic.

One of the details in this piece is the paper it’s printed on: Strathmore Pure Cotton. Strathmore has been around for over a century, with it’s heritage stemming from Scotland’s Strathmore Valley and the country’s national symbol, the thistle. Strathmore’s founder, Moses Horace pioneered the print promotion as we know it, collaborating with a graphic artist and printer, the promotion paved the way for craftsmanship in papermaking. This spirit of collaboration between designers and Strathmore continued throughout the twentieth century, including such design icons as Paul Rand and Milton Glaser. In this issue of the Maker Quarterly, Mohawk continues this tradition of collaboration with a print dedicated to the importance of details by graphic designer and letterer, Jessica Hische.

The centerfold reveals a bold and unexpected surprise: a poster illustration commissioned for Mohawk featuring the Wes Anderson quote, “The details that’s what the world is made of”. All of the images in the illustration refer to Wes Anderson’s movies, see if you can recognize them in this time lapse video above showing Jessica at work illustrating the poster. For a better look at the details, subscribe to The Parcel and get loads of paper and design details (including this one) delivered to your doorstep monthly or join our free mailing list and get paper inspiration delivered to your inbox.