Help! My Designer Wants To Use A 15% Screen of Metallic On An Uncoated Stock

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre Press Manager and Writer

I work with a designer that wants to use a 10% - 15% screen of metallic ink on an uncoated paper stock. The stock and ink both need to be laser compatible. Please help me give the right, polite answer or an alternative. I’d rather not say “no way!”.


Your client certainly has thrown a dilemma your way, but it might not be as bad as you fear. There are some heat resistant metallic inks, so your ink vendor may very well be able to provide you with a solution to the laser printer compatibility problem. They will also be able to tell you if printing a tint of the ink would make more or less of a problem when printing through a laser. My gut tells me it would make things a bit easier, but I would defer to an ink expert.

I have actually had the experience of having a customer request a very faint ghosted photograph printed in gold metallic ink on an uncoated dark blue sheet. Actually it was a duotone of metallic and white if I remember correctly. The designer was looking for subtlety and that's certainly the result she got. But it did work and she was quite pleased. I can also tell you it was a huge pain, although I'm told we made money on the job because we assumed it would be a problem and charged accordingly.

Proofing such a thing is problematic. There are a few devices that can proof metallic inks, like the Alps MD-5000. We used one for proofing this job, but no longer have the machine. Used ones are available on EBay for about $500. Last time I looked you could still get cartridges for them (and they are also on EBay), but I don't believe they are still made. Kodak at one time marketed a version of this printer with a Kodak logo, a few enhancements, some software and a much heftier price tag. Obviously you won't want to buy a $500 specialty printer for one proof.

If you don't have such a device or access to one, an actual press proof or ink draw down could be needed to show the effect you are really going to wind up with. But if the job is printing on a white sheet, a standard ink jet that uses extended gamut inks like an Epson 4800 can come reasonably close to the color, even if you can't duplicate the metallic sheen. It's also possible to compensate for the press gain you will get on an uncoated sheet, but again, if it's not something you do a lot, just making the adjustments to your proofer can be time consuming.

Any way you look at it, you are being asked to go through an expensive process that is full of potential problems, not the least of which is determining if what they client wants is really what they are going to get. The effect is definitely subtle, but believe it or not, you can retain some of the metallic look even with a tint of the ink. If the job is too problem plagued and profitless to do, there really is no reason not to simply say so. Or charge an appropriate price and proceed with caution.

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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