Paper fibres, what difference do they make to my badge making?

We have covered aspects of this question in previous blog posts, about six years ago.

When you use paper in your printer, the type of paper is sometimes dictated by the printer manufacturer, where they recommend a particular type of paper, or, when you need to print to a budget so you will purchase whatever paper is cheapest, and fits your machine.

There are two common or basic types of printer, there is laser and inkjet. There are other types but we won't discuss those in this blog as it is outside the scope of general users.

With laser printers, a tiny amount of a solid material, called the toner, is electrostatically placed on your paper. With an inkjet, a tiny amount of liquid material is placed on the paper.

With normal photocopy type of paper that you get in almost every supermarket or office supply store, the surface if you look at it VERY closely, is quite fibrous, in other words you can see the individual short strands that make up the paper itself. If you can imagine that the small particles of toner can sometimes end up on the top of those fibres and sometimes can slip down in between the fibres. The end result of this is a slightly fuzzy finish, or to put it another way, slightly out of focus or blurred. This same blurred effect can also happen when the tiny droplet of ink hits the fibres. But in this case because it is a liquid the ink will actually be drawn along the fibre, this is called wicking. This also causes a fuzzy or blurred finish to your artwork.

How do we fix this?

The above problem has always existed, and as you can imagine, printers (I mean the people who actually run the printers, not the printers themselves) over the centuries have come up with an easy answer: use a better quality paper.

There are many different types of paper that will give you a better quality finish to your artwork, but the most common is what is called a coated paper. This is when a fine coating (Usually kaolin, a type of clay) is placed over the fibres to give a more flat uniform finish.
If you can imagine a wicker basket with its very rough surface, now imagine taking some builders plaster and carefully covering up that wicker surface and leaving a smooth finish so that you can't actually see the wicker strands or fibres, this is what a coated paper achieves.

This coated paper is more expensive than the standard photocopy paper, And the price will vary depending on how fine the surface finish is, but, the finer the surface finish the better the quality that you will get from your printing.

So, if you find new artwork is not looking particularly colourful, even though it did on the computer screen, load your printer with a coated paper, sometimes this is called photo paper, make sure your printer knows that you are using a high quality of paper (this will be in your printer setup area) and you will be surprised at the more vivid colours Of your artwork and sharper outlines of your text.

The second aspect we need to touch upon is quite important too, the strength of the paper.

It may occasionally happen that you are making some badges, and after you have finished completing the badge you examined the edges and notice a slight tearing of your artwork, you may just be able to see the steel dome or shell in between that crack.
This can also happen if you have a badge that is not round, for example our square badges or our triangular or hexagonal badges.

This mostly happens because the paper is just not strong enough, the fibres may be too short, the binding agent that holds the fibres together may not have been formulated correctly or the paper could be slightly damp.

There is a very easy fix, use a different or better quality brand of paper, or perhaps slightly thicker. In most countries of the world paper is measured in grams per square metre so for example 80 GSM which is a popular size of photocopiers may be not quite strong enough for your badge making. You could try 85 GSM or 100 GSM and test that on your badge making.
This will normally cure that slight tearing.