Scoring inline with the folding caused major cracking. What’s a better way?

I recently printed a high end brochure requiring five scores and folds on an 80# Utopia Silk Cover. My vendor did the scoring inline with the folding on the folding machine. The paper cracked on each fold, which made for a very ugly result, especially on the glamour shots. The vendor stated there was no way around this unless we had paid an extra $1,000 to letterpress the scores. Is this true? If not, what are the correct ways to eliminate cracking? By the way, the vendor ensures me the project was printed with the grain.

B. G.

There may be a legitimate reason your printer had trouble with the inline scoring of this job. Generally cover stock is more problematic. Even if the grain was right and the score was made properly, it seems possible that your job would be ruined because the scoring was done on press as opposed to on letterpress. But it could also be that the blanket pressure on press was insufficient or that the score was not wide enough for the stock used. In short, it might have been a "press problem".

In any case, if the printer anticipated a problem with the chosen method, did they suggest up front that this was a job that required letterpress scoring? If they recommended letterpress scoring and you chose not to use it to save money, you might not have much room to argue.

Before you jump on the printer though, talk to your paper vendor. They don't like to be caught in the middle of this kind of dispute, but they might be willing to offer their expertise. You might consider framing it as a "hypothetical" question: "What method do you recommend for scoring this sheet?"

A lot of variables can affect cracking, and scoring a job doesn't necessarily eliminate this potentially ugly effect. Some papers quite simply are more prone to cracking than others. Of course if the sheet must be scored both horizontally and vertically, it is impossible to go "with the grain" for all of the scores. Temperature and humidity during the printing process could also be a factor.

As often happens, there is a communication gap here. You haven't said whether the printer warned you about this potential problem ahead of time. If the method used was of the printer's choosing, it really should be their responsibility.

I'm sure the fact that this job will have to be reprinted to make it right makes fault-finding an issue. We don't have enough facts to make any such a judgment and would not pretend to do so. The chief concern is to find out what really caused the problem and how to avoid it in the future, not to point the finger of blame. If you find out that the printer is absolutely right: that the only way to fix the problem is scoring on letterpress, whether you should have known that before the job was printed is a separate question.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at
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