Important Design Factors To Consider When Printing Onto Coloured Paper

Coloured papers can be used to create unique prints, but before you try it's worthwhile knowing what some of the issues are. Here we explain some common uses of coloured paper prints, and the issues with colour that you may need to take into consideration – especially when you consider the way certain colours interact with others when transparent (which applies to printing ink.)

Digital printing on white and coloured papers

In digital print, we usually print onto white paper. There are different finishes – gloss, silk and uncoated – and various weights of each type of finish, but the paper is almost uniformly white. Some are a fraction more yellow or blue (cooler or warmer) but we are only talking about tiny amounts, and you’d never be able to tell the difference unless you held two slightly different brands in your hand at the same time.

But what about coloured papers? Manufacturers do offer entire ranges of coloured digital papers, but of course you do have to take the colour of the paper into account when designing your print artwork.

Using coloured paper in creative digital print

If you want to be creative with coloured paper, then it's slightly different to printing more utilitarian items such as copy pads. We need to understand how the colour of the paper affects the overall colour of the print.

The CMYK colours used in digital print are basically translucent, not solid. With white paper this is fine – the colours of the print are unchanged. With coloured papers, the colour of the paper influences the print, and how it will look.

Pale coloured digital papers

If you print onto pale cream paper, any photographs that you print will take on the creamy yellow hue of the paper. People’s faces will look more yellow and jaundiced.

With a very pale coloured paper, you can almost make up for this by pulling some yellow (or whatever the relevant colour is) out of the artwork.

Done right, you can achieve natural-looking photo/artwork reproduction, but it can be tricky and you'll need to run some test prints to make sure you've got it right.

Vivid coloured papers

Once we get into more brightly coloured papers the problem of colour shift becomes much more significant. If you print yellow into a blue paper it will come out a very dark green. If you print blue onto a red paper it will come out almost black. With vivid coloured papers this is almost impossible to adjust for, so the idea is to either just use black print (the most common way) or take advantage of the extreme colour shift of your artwork as an artistic effect.

Printing black-only is often a cheaper way of printing anyway, so it can be great to save money, and black print onto a coloured paper can also look really cool! Printing coloured artwork onto coloured paper can have unpredictable results, but at least with digital printing you can run a few copies at a low cost, unlike litho printing where you would have to pay the setup charge just to see what it would look like.

Not sure if you can print on coloured paper?

If you have a certain digital print design that you'd like to use with coloured paper, but aren't sure how it will actually turn out in print, then we'd be happy to share our advice beforehand – or to recommend a coloured paper type that may work better for your prints. With so many paper types, weights and colours out there, and with multiple finishes available, there's endless choice when it comes to putting your design into print. If you aren't sure that your design will work on coloured paper, just get in touch – there could be a whole range of printing options open to you!