Security substrates such as paper and card

What are the different types of substrate I can use for my application?

Depending upon how secure you feel your documents need to be, you need to start any printing solution with a good quality substrate (security paper, card or stock) that offers basic security measures in itself. Some of these papers are readily available off-the-shelf from paper merchants and, when bought in bulk, provide a good basic level of security compared to the costs involved in other processes.


Such examples of this are CBS1 (UV dull paper) with or without UV fibres and some contain a security thread.

CBS1 paper will not reflect ultraviolet light. This means that it is suitable for printing with ultraviolet inks and that they will show up easily under black light (also known as UV hand-help lamps).

It also has added chemical resistances as specified by APACS. Some of there properties are bleach, solvent, water and a range of chemicals that would be used for altering what is printed on the paper. The paper also provides a good medium for personalization (over printing) with a laser printer and the porous properties allow the toner to penetrate the surface which makes it more difficult for people to alter numbers, figures, names, dates and other details - examples of usage would be on cheques.

CBS1 with UV fibres

UV Fibres are pre-added to the CBS1 paper and provide flecks of UV colour when viewed under the right lamp. The paper may contain one or more threads/fibres and usually can be seen with the naked eye too. This means that the counterfeiter will be aware that this is the case. It is, however, another problem for them to overcome as this substrate is not easy to acquire.

CBS1 Security threads

Security threads are rolled between the layers of the CBS1 paper and add another degree of security. They are very difficult to copy and you need expensive machinery to be able to counterfeit this feature. You will also see holographic threads. As much as the holographic threads may present additional security you need to make sure that the verification process is thoroughly vetted as you could emulate a thread with a simple foil.

Bespoke watermarked paper (Standard water mark design & Custom watermark paper)

You can opt to either a) buy an existing watermark paper off-the-shelf or b) choose to have your own logo, text, coat of arms, etc. as a bespoke watermark. For the custom watermark, this involves one of two processes 1) for smaller quantities (e.g. 2,000+ A4) we can produce your watermark paper using our patented process that can have your watermark paper ready to despatch within 7 to 10 days, or for  more substantial orders (200,000 A4 sheets plus) we can get a custom dandy roller made at the mill, this works out more cost effective for higher volumes, however the lead time for this is in weeks, rather than days.

Heavier stock such as thicker papers, coloured paper and card stock

Most security applications use CBS1 as this has so many built-in features and keeps the cost relatively low, however there are times where you may need to use a heavier weight board.

There are boards that you can buy on the market that offer UV dullness but you need to make sure that the printing method you use for these thicker materials is viable. Please also note that certain printing processes will need the substrate supplied in a roll or sheet – if you are post-processing these documents with serial numbers or holograms you will need to make sure that the process is possible, certain hologram application machinery will only be able to apply on a reel format.

We used 200gsm card stock on our offset lithographic presses and the printing press was creaking as the stock went through. We managed it, but only just. The customer had to have the stock printed with our method as there were intricate workings within the design (to add security) and alternative printing methods just wouldn’t cope with this.

Sandwich paper with a coloured centre

You can buy paper (which we used to call colour rip) that had a coloured leaf, sandwiched between the layers. Once the paper has been torn or ripped you can see the colour revealed. This is good for not-so secure solutions as it could theoretically be copied. We would recommend you go for as thin as possible to make counterfeiting more difficult.

The reason we say thinner is that in order to copy this, the counterfeiter would have to glue three layers of paper together – when you add the thickness of the 3 layers, along with adhesive it should make the illegal copy more obvious at redemption.

This is relatively cost-effective and you can buy the paper in both sheets and roll formats at reasonable prices. Your "trusted printer" can use this with most conventional printing methods.

Situations where this may be good are in nightclubs, low-key events and exhibitions – especially where the purchase of additional verification equipment would be prohibitive. In other words - where the relative threat of counterfeiting is low, this is a sufficient method of protection.

Tear resistant paper, such as Picophan

We have used this material when a document has to withstand general wear-and-tear, acute water contamination and where it may be passed between people or changing locations more than once.

The layers of paper have a sandwich between them made of a tough plastic.

The last time we used this was is pub licensing certificates, as it might well have to be resistant to spills and the rigours of daily use or presentation in pubs.


Update: 13/12/2013 Spelling and terms