Layering Color to Add Depth, Interest to Your Design

Few design techniques lend as much versatility, drama and impact as printing color on colored paper. Selecting a colored stock opens a revolving door of creative possibilities that ordinary white paper simply can’t deliver. Because offset inks are transparent, the paper on which they are printed shines through the layers of ink; so, depending on the color of the substrate, printing CMY or K can look vastly different. For example, images printed on cream-colored paper look warmer due to the yellow tones in the substrate. This same technique can be applied to more vibrant paper colors as well.

You’ll be amazed by the final product. You can use readily available printing techniques to achieve amazing results on colored papers. The key to perfecting this design technique is understanding the paper on which you’re printing. Start with the following tips to truly push the envelope:

• Metallics are beautiful, yet simple and sophisticated; incorporating them along with the use of color can bring drama and impact to any project. Metallic paper enhances and highlights the glowing quality of art. You can make a bolder statement by doubling-up and printing metallic ink on metallic paper. Try a silver ink with a spot matte varnish on a metallic, majestic blue stock. The pearlescent sheet transfers a beautiful shimmer to the already metallic ink for a final piece that dazzles. To add dimension and shadows to your design, try printing opaque violet and opaque purple with silver ink and a spot gloss varnish.


Paper suggestion: Royal Metallics® Majestic Blue™




• Bright, fluorescent papers make a perfectly unexpected statement. Be daring and print a headshot on lemon-yellow paper. The contrast of a blue tie or shirt against a bright-yellow paper will make your piece pop. Fluorescents also are a great way to intensify an image. For example, if your image has a strong blue base, printing it on bright-blue paper enhances the tone and demands attention.  Printing a green Flemish engraving creates a rich, classical counterpoint to an intense fluorescent green paper showing through the type.


Paper suggestion: Astrobrights® Lift-Off Lemon™, Lunar Blue™ and Martian Green™


• Black and white photography is subtle and sophisticated. Print a black and white, or even sepia photo on colored paper to breathe extra life into it. Try using a metallic or marble paper for an even more striking effect.


Paper suggestion: Royal Marble® Blue Jade™


• Printing color on paper of virtually the same shade is a unique and unexpected way to achieve a daring design. For example, a strawberry graphic printed on dark red paper grabs attention because the red paper adds depth and dimension to the red image, as well as plays off subconscious color association. Remember that the darker the paper, the more the image will be influenced. When working on dark stock, try giving the image two hits of opaque white as a base for the process printing or solid ink coverage. This technique makes the image pop.


Paper suggestion: Royal Complements® Haute Red™

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




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