John’s Print Tip of the Month: 4 Paper Production Tips to Prevent Paper Cracking

The end goal of your paper production process is to make sure the highest quality finished result can be achieved for you and your client – in terms of folding, diecutting, colour, ink, paper and any special finishes.

But production process has many variables involved in getting to this point, and it can be difficult to guarantee a perfect result every time, especially if you are dealing with internet printers and processes. Let’s look a little deeper at the paper production – and cracking – process by reviewing the following scenario:

  • Fast forward to the day your [insert annual report, high quality digital gatefold or complex packaging POS] project is due in the office and you are nervous. Why?
  • Because you have no idea how the finishing on your project’s paper stock is going to react to the [metallic ink] [die-cutting] [variable data insertion machine] it has been endured after your press check and before interstate delivery.
  • And there is no extra time to return it if the finishing is not perfect. What do you do? At this point, you would be drinking coffee, nervous and pacing, but there are some expert tips from John Cole this month to help you rewind the clock:

Four essential paper production tips to make sure your spine doesn’t crack!

1. Make sure the paper grain runs the same way as the fold

Paper structure works the same way as material – there is a weft and a weave, where paper fibres are filled into one direction and other threads woven between them to create the appearance of a paper surface. This forms a chequerboard surface and has different surface textures depending on the type of paper, whether it is dyed, recycled or affected with some other manufacturing process or element, like metallic glitter or seeds.



If your print manager estimates the paper to print in the direction that the paper moves naturally, it will avoid print cracking. Going against this will cause the paper fibres to raise against the surface of the paper, which looks like cracking. If you are printing on a press with other projects or do not have input into the sheet size of the paper, there is less chance you can find out whether the paper is doing what is described above – but you should ask your print manager anyway.

2. Score the spine before folding


Some printed papers will fold perfectly well, such as text-weight paper or lightweight cover stock, but scoring the spine will minimise most splitting and paper cracks without you needing to know the gsm weight or grainage (Point 1). Scoring reduces the stiffness of the paper surface by pressing in a line along spines or other edges to where the fold is located. This weakens the paper to ease bending of the paper to form folds, and is done through press scoring on litho machines and old style folding machine scorers (shown above).

3. Add a celloglaze

Coleface celloglaze

Adding a celloglaze to the outside or inside of a printed paper sheet adds a coating to protect it and make it more durable, but will also minimise paper cracking. Celloglazing is a process where thin plastic coatings are heatbonded to the outside (or inside) of a paper sheet.

4. Handfold!

If all else fails, try handfolding – machines can crush paper in multiple print processes like direct mail, where the paper is printed, varnished, labelled, packed and inserted into envelopes all by machines. Handfolding is just that little extra step that may solve all your paper cracking problems. The environment where the paper is being printed and stored, and its moisture, is also a factor how moist the paper prints..

So many considerations! Best to leave this to your print manager or if you are doing this process yourself, be aware of how your paper production process can prevent or cause paper to crack throughout different treatments.

So if you are a small business, creative agency or Association and need help printing, please consider printing it with Coleface – contact us now.


If you liked this post, please comment below, share it, and click on the FOLLOW buttons to get more! If you love printing, get the latest email updates by subscribing here. Sydney print management experts Coleface Print Management and Production provide advice and support for our clients on all aspects of printing and production such as digital, large format and offset printing, point of sale, packaging and mail management. Written by @Olsonwells.