The Beauty of Engraving

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Have you ever thought about the process of engraving? What it takes to get the perfect amount of ink applied to the paper in such a way that it raises off of the page, giving it a unique look and feel? Chances are you have come encounter with engraving many times but never knew the labor-intensive printing process that it took to get you to not only see the design, but feel it as well.

The Ligature has teamed up with Neenah Paper as well as MODSF, a design solutions firm, to display how when design, quality materials and engraving come together, they can produce a truly beautiful piece of art.

2-Fanned-Prints-500-widePhotographer: StudioAlex Photography

Michael Osborne, the president and creative director of MODSF, designed this limited edition print No. 6 for Neenah’s Beauty of Engraving series. He derived inspiration from his personal collection of currency, stocks and bonds to push the boundaries of the engraving process. With original cartouche, very tiny print, special inks and special paper, this exquisitely detailed work of art masterfully highlights the intricacies of engraving and the possibilities abound. See below just how this exclusive print was made and the true beauty and essence of engraving.

Are Custom Branded Online Catalogs and W2P the Same Thing?

Not even close. W2P (the generic term for web-to-print) services run the gamut from “plain vanilla” to gorgeous, comprehensive platforms where users may not even realize they’re no longer on a company site.

Some confuse e-commerce with W2P because  both happen online, but e-commerce is generally a “generic ordering platform”whereas sophisticated W2P services provide a User Name/Password-protected platform where customers can see all of their print and related needs, can enter only variable information to proof and order anything from a brand image business card or digital printed brochure with variable text options.

The “flip side” of custom branded online catalogs is that they come in several ‘flavors.’ One model is purchased software which printers buy and tweak for each new customer they add. Another model is “co-op” where those running the actual system are 3rd party resources who may take a small piece of each transaction.  Not every system or platform offers all the same advantages. Most offer good ordering and proofing tools, but the best offer sophisticated usage information which makes future budgeting easier, enable “direct oversight” of “who can purchase what, in what quantity” and do not permit deviation from brand image standards.

It pays to ask for a W2P demonstration when a printer offers these services. Know what you want, understand the reliability and security of an offering before you commit.

If you’re interested in establishing a custom branded online catalog, you can contact us today about getting started! If your employees regularly purchase the same branded products in volume, it’s worth consideration.

The Next Trade Fight: Office Paper

Four Companies and Union Allege Dumping by China, Indonesia, Brazil, Portugal and Australia

Four U.S. paper manufacturers allege that five countries are dumping uncoated paper on the U.S. market, including the kind used for computer printers. PHOTO: MICHAEL RUBENSTIEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Four U.S. paper manufacturers allege that five countries are dumping uncoated paper on the U.S. market, including the kind used for computer printers. PHOTO: MICHAEL RUBENSTIEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Four paper manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union are asking the U.S. government to impose duties on imports of office paper that they say are priced unfairly low.

Their claim, due to be filed with the U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday, alleges that rivals in China, Indonesia, Brazil, Portugal and Australia are dumping certain types of uncoated paper on the U.S. market, including that used for such things as computer printers, book publishing, junk mail and envelopes.

Dumping involves selling at prices deemed less than “fair value,” which can mean below the price in the exporter’s home country or less than the cost of production plus a reasonable profit.

The companies also say producers in China and Indonesia are benefiting from government subsidies that allow them to reduce prices.

The U.S. market for the type of uncoated paper involved in the complaint is estimated at $4.5 billion a year, according to Domtar Corp. , one of the companies calling for duties. In the first nine months of last year, imports of such paper from the five countries named were up 40% from a year earlier, even though U.S. demand for it is declining, the companies say.

Imports of such paper accounted for more than 16% of the U.S. market in last year’s first 11 months, said Chip Dillon, a partner at Vertical Research Partners in New York, up from 12.7% a year earlier. As U.S. paper makers have retired old plants, he said, importers have rushed in.

The Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission will have up to about 14 months to determine whether trade laws have been violated, U.S. producers have been harmed and duties should be levied on the imports.

Over the past 15 years, U.S. paper makers have persuaded the government to put duties on a variety of products from China and other countries, including tissue paper and some coated paper.

The Commerce Department generally has taken a tougher stance against Chinese exporters in dumping disputes in recent years, said William Perry, a partner at law firm Dorsey & Whitney in Seattle. Mr. Perry, who often represents importers in trade cases, said the trend is worsening trade tensions with China, provoking more retaliation. “We’re throwing a rock; they’re throwing a rock back,” he said.

In addition to Domtar, the companies filing the latest complaint are Packaging Corp. of America, Lake Forest, Ill.; Finch Paper LLC, Glens Falls, N.Y., and P.H. Glatfelter Co. , York, Pa.

International Paper Co. , Memphis, Tenn., declined to participate, a spokesman said. He said the company manufactures in 10 countries and relies on the flexibility of a global network.

The steelworkers union, which represents about 130,000 paper, pulp and forestry workers in the U.S. and Canada, said eight U.S. paper mills that made uncoated paper have closed or curtailed operations since 2011, eliminating thousands of jobs. Domtar, a Montreal-based company that makes paper in the U.S. and Canada, plans to convert a paper production line in Ashdown, Ark., from uncoated paper to fluff pulp, used in diapers.

“These jobs are too valuable to let go to people who aren’t following the same set of rules we are,” said Jon Geenen, the union’s international vice president.

The U.S. market for uncoated paper has been shrinking 3% to 4% annually in recent years as more documents are handled electronically and companies shave costs, said Mike Garcia, president of Domtar’s pulp-and-paper division. He said the market appeared likely to continue contracting gradually in the next few years but should eventually level off.

U.S. imports of uncoated paper in rolls or sheets, a broader category than covered by the trade petition, totaled $2.71 billion in last year’s first 11 months, while exports came to $1.05 billion, according to Global Trade Information Services.

From The Wall Street Journal, by James R. Hagerty. 

Our average customers

Our “average customers” are anything but average. They do amazing things – they make wine, and publish books, and create art, and power our homes. While we serve a wide variety of industries, when we sat down to think about our “average” customer, we were surprised to find that it’s easily boiled down to three personas: Melissa, David, and Lisa. These are fictional names, but they represent the people we work with across all industries, from entertainment to agencies to law to wineries to hospitality.

Stock photo from Death To Stock PhotosMelissa: Manager of Design & Marketing

Melissa graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts 6-12 years ago, and has worked her way up the creative ladder to management. Outside of work, she enjoys going out to eat with friends at up and coming brunch locations and supporting local museums and art fairs. Melissa will occasionally take up freelance design or consulting work to round out her portfolio. Her coworkers would describe her as task-oriented, precise, outgoing, creative, and independent.

She works with companies to help create brand identity, gives suggestions and advice on printing techniques conducive to what their client is trying to portray. Melissa can create and set-up print ready files, but someone from her team is more likely to create them. Melissa though will work with the printer to discuss best possible results for the end user, submits specifications to the printer for quotes, and likes to go on press checks.

Melissa wants to work with someone who understands the importance of choosing the right paper, process, and color and show her new options, and she needs someone who can work with her and her team to translate their designs to print. Our sales team has decades of experience in choosing the right print for Melissa’s message. We’ve created creative spaces for her to peruse paper, foil, and ink samples and brainstorm – and a fully stocked sample area to pillage for inspiration. When the job is run, press checks are open to everyone – Melissa, her boss, her client, her mom, whoever see wants to see and approve our work. Melissa has a vision, and we want to help her achieve it.

DeathtoStock_SlowDown4David: Director of Sourcing & Facilities

David has been in the workforce for about 25 years, most of it with his recent employer. His own children are in college or about to be, so outside of work David and his wife are readjusting to an emptier nest, complete with date nights and renovating one of the empty rooms into hobby space. While he takes his job very seriously, and can be resistant to change, he’s described as stable, practical, and friendly.

He’s responsible for reprographics, stationery purchases and office supplies, along with physical space. David will source vendors for competitive pricing and printing capabilities that fit their needs, and will create contracts with delivery time schedules, late order penalties and vendor company profile information.

David has been doing his work well for many years, and does take it seriously – and wants vendors who do the same. He doesn’t want to be involved much beyond coordinating orders and contracts, and that’s just fine. Once David has his specs together, we can take it from there. We do lots of contract work, and hold ourselves to high standards in quality and timeliness. Should he need to get in touch with someone, our customer service staff have longer than usual phone hours to accommodate early risers and those that stay in the office late. We’re low maintenance, good quality, and reliable, like the car that’s been in the family for decades.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community6Lisa: Legal Administrator

Lisa has also been in the workforce for a while, and when her kids were in high school she got her Masters of Business Administration to move to the next level of her career. Also facing an empty nest, Lisa now spends more time with her girlfriends, going to industry mixers, and getting to all the projects she’s put off for years. Her coworkers think of her as very detail-oriented, organized, and analytical – she often learns the basics of what she needs to hire vendors for.

Lisa manages business functions and overall operations for her law office, a firm of 5 lawyers. In addition to being responsible for purchasing, inventory control, and reprographics, she’s also in charge of records storage, reception, telecommunications, mail, messenger and other facilities management. Lisa will send Requests for Quotes (RFQs) to printers for pricing on their stationery products. As a member of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), she attends tradeshows and monthly chapter networking meetings.

To help Lisa accomplish her print purchasing in the little time she has, we have a full line of ready to order legal stationery and common legal documents at competitive pricing, even compared to office supply stores. With a full line of engraved stationery packages, practice essentials like manuscript covers, pleading papers, and jury instruction sheets, will & trust suppliesmailing supplies, plain paper, and exhibit tabs (and more! it’s already a long list), SFCooper.com will be her one-stop-shop. If Lisa has any questions, she can call our customer service center and talk to one of our representatives with extensive legal print experience, like Rosina.

Like any business, we’re always looking to expand to serving new business – and new people. Are you similar to Melissa, David, or Lisa? Vastly different? We want to know how we can help you in your industry.

Print in 5 years – A Guesstimate

future ahead concept

Since the computer grew to popular use, we’ve been hearing about the death of print. We’re still waiting for that to happen, and while we’re waiting, new uses for print and whole new print technologies have sprung up – at the start of 2015, let’s take a guess at where we’ll be in 2020.

Print has been in technology news a lot in the last three years, from 3D to QR. While technologies like augmented reality (AR) and quick response codes (QR) have remained mostly gimmicks (sorry enthusiasts!), others have taken off. Why not AR and QR? Like any technology, it either doesn’t fill a need or fit into existing technologies seamlessly enough to make it easy to pick up. What filled those requirements? Printed electronics and 3D printing.

Printed electronics is now in use, doing everything from collecting solar to being disposable electronics on space shuttles. There’s even college programs dedicated to its development, like California Polytechnic’s Printed Electronics and Functional Imaging certificate and master’s programs. Oh, and tradeshows. Given the recent state of the maker scene, I expect printed electronics to be entering the work of high-tech interactive art in the next two years. I think it’s safe to say that printed electronics will be in daily use in 2020, if only in high-end products and technical applications.

The prospects opening to 3D printing is possibly more exciting. We’re printing consumer goods, housing, food, and soon, spare body parts:

That’s just amazing. Our course, what catches our eye is using 3d printing for letterpress:

I think that if we haven’t mastered printing organs by 2020, we’ll be very, very close – and 3d printing will be a part of many lives.

Creating new technology in print is amazing, but we’re also adapting current uses and seeing new trends emerge. The area with the largest growth in print is definitely packaging. Not only is everything that is ever shipped and purchased wrapped in it, but sometimes people purchase things just for the wrapping. A recently-turned 21 sister of mine admitted to buying wine based just on the art. I don’t think that’s wrong – a lot of wineries are counting on you doing just that. That’s why they use foils and embossing and engraving and many other techniques to catch your eye and delight your fingers. And while there are a lot of boards for a lot of things, packaging is one of the most popular pins on Pinterest. We’ve even got one – did you know that wine labels, hang tags, and box labels count as packaging? Packaging is going to grow even more by 2020, and we might be seeing some printed electronics incorporated as security measures – or even design elements!

A party invitation from Sugar Paper Los Angeles

A party invitation from Sugar Paper Los Angeles

While packaging is growing (and newspapers are hurting), the rest of print it changing. There’s definitely been a movement toward high-end print products, as boutique shops like Sugar Paper – and a favorite customer of ours -have shown. Fancy foil, letterpress, and engraving items are also Pinterest hits, and if they don’t know the exact name of a technique, a person can identify the feel of it. As more consumers are aware of the finer aspects of print, more of it will be purchased – by 2020, I can see purchasing personalized fine stationery to once again be a mark of adulthood.

Themochromatic inks create the blushing effect seen above.

What could change consumer goods, print goods, and packaging are changes in ink. Do you know about theromochromic inks? Photochromic? Hydrochromic? All of these already exist, but aren’t widely used. The most well known specialty ink is glow-in-the-dark. As Dreaming In CMYK covered, special inks are growing. Thermochromic inks change color with temperature – like Coors Light cans and many coffee mugs – but has the potential for incredible packages, like the picture above. The packaging concept is that the skin-colored packaging blushes when touched. Photochromic inks are popular in apparel – when ink is exposed to UV waves, the ink changes color, and reverts when the light is removed. Hydrochromic inks are activated by water – and even sweat. These inks have been around for a while, but the recent craze in wearable technology may bring renewed interest in -chromic inks.


People are innovating with things as simple as newspaper ink, too. An Sri Lankan newspaper mixed citronella with ink as a part of a campaign to educate the public about mosquito prevention. If newspapers work as mosquito repellent, then this might be implemented in more third and second-world countries.

And that’s where we think print will be in 2020. What about you? What will you be watching in the next 5 years?

What do you look for in a printer?

If you’re not familiar with print, your options in print, or printers, finding one can be daunting. You know you can get digital prints from Staples, or a variety of cheap options from Vistaprint, but where do you look for higher quality? What do you look for?

You might want something local so you can meet with a salesperson in person, visit, and do press checks. You might want something national, so production can be split to assist with shipping costs. You might need one process done really well, or many. Maybe you need help with choosing the right process or paper. Or you want experience in traditional methods, or the ability to innovate – or both.

I’m going to toot our own horn here; that’s us. Continue reading

We moved!

We moved about 4 miles southeast of our location on 23rd street. Starting Monday all correspondence should be directed to:

323.585.6000 / 800.944.5440
4909 Alcoa Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90058

All our phone numbers will forward for the next year, and we will update our contact information as we get our numbers sorted out at the new location.

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If you didn’t remember, we merged with The Ligature at the beginning of the year and this move is a part of our continuing effort to combine Los Angeles’ most powerful printing capabilities under one roof. If you haven’t been there before, you should come by and take a tour! We’ll be settling in for the next month but will be happy to show you where we plan to continue to serving you by providing the best print around.