Thermography and Printing, a Dying Art?

September 23, 2011
Eric Johnson

By Eric Johnson | Minuteman Press





Thermography and Printing, a Dying Art?

     At one time or another we have all seen or have been given a business card that has raised letter printing on it.  Upon rubbing one's fingers across its surface one can feel the texture this process creates.  Like any trends, whether in fashion, printing, or any number of other trend setting industries, changes are made based on the preferences of consumers.  With the updates in printing equipment from traditional offset presses to the now more readily utilized digital presses, flat image printing has increased.  A major cause in this shift is that the modern digital press allows short run, lower cost, high quality, faster turn-around full-color printing to take place.  So is thermography really a dying art?  I wouldn't go so far as to say that it is a dying art; however, as a result of the new technologies the process of theromgraphy being used in printing while still present is not as common as it once was.
     The term thermography in printing involves a process where powder is added to the ink and heat is applied to fuse the two together forming a raised effect.  There are a number of printed items that this process can be applied to.  The most common of these is Letterhead, Envelopes, and Business Cards.  Wedding Invitations have quite often been printed using this technique as well.  You mentioned letterhead is sometimes made using this process.  Are there any limitations in the types of printers I can put that back through when printing a letter I write?  This is a good question to know the answer to because you wouldn't want to pay money to have the letterhead created only to possibly damge it or worse your printer.  Let's talk a little about that now.
     There are two types of thermography available depending on the equipment you plan on running your end product through.  If you plan on running your newly created letterhead through a laser printer, instead of the Standard Thermography process being used you need to request that Laser Safe Thermography is done.  What are the differences between Standard Thermography and Laser Safe Thermography?  It is important to start off by discussing, in simple terms, the difference between how ink is applied to your paper when you print a letter depending on whether you are using an Ink Jet printer or a Laser printer. An Ink Jet printer literally sprays droplets of ink onto the paper. The Laser printer makes an image with a laser on the paper, dry toner is then applied to the paper, and finally heat is used to fuse the ink to the paper.  Again, this is a simple explanation but serves our pupose here. 
     Due to the differences in the way that ink is applied between these two types of printers, it is important that you have knowledge of how you will be using your end product prior to ordering.  If you were to run letterhead that was made with Standard Thermography through your Laser printer you may end up with some melting and gum up your printer over time.  There are other things to know when choosing Laser Safe Thermography as your preferred method of letterhead creation.  This method of thermography can alter the colors of an ink a little so that they may print darker than they would with Standard Thermography. Whichever method you choose to utilize should be consistent then with your letterhead, envelopes, and business cards if these are being made to match. Laser Safe Thermography is a bit more expensive as well.  Your artwork needs to be considered when thinking about using thermography in your printing. Does your artwork have a lot of detail in it, or is it simple line art?  Thermography will thicken lines, so a lot of detail in art can become distorted by this method.  How many colors are in your artwork?  Since spot color is traditionally used when printing with thermography one or two colors is fine; however, if you were to print in full-color using this method it could get significantly more expensive.
     Why would I even think about using thermography in my printing?  For one thing, it is becoming less common so your printing may stand out a bit from the rest.  Since people like to touch things and feel textures, raised printing provides a unique feel when running a finger over it.  This just may capture a potential customer's attention and make them take the time to read the information on the paper.  Thermography remains a valid printing form, but is it right for you?  That is something you'll have to decide.  If you would like to sit down with us to discuss whether this is a valid method for your printing then click here so we can "Make You an Appointment".  We will gladly sit down with you and discuss all the options for getting you the right process for your business printing needs.  If you already know exactly what you need in the way of printing using thermography or any other project, simply click here to "Place an Order", and we will be glad to get your items designed and printed for you just the way you envisioned them.

Special thanks goes to Raygan Earl, Store Manager, for her contributions to this article.