Print and paper innovations to push your creative boundaries

‘To create, one must first question everything.’

Eileen Gray


After a recent talk about paper and print innovations at Watermark Creative’s Auckland office, artist Dede Putra decided to experiment with some new techniques and substrates in order to showcase his work in a different way and find out more about what can be achieved.  


In our latest news article we share some of Dede’s explorations and learnings, and highlight some new print and paper innovations you might want to try for your next project.


‘The biggest thing I learnt was that print technology has really advanced,’ says Dede. ‘In the past, I always had to remind myself to work in CMYK. Right now, RGB is the way to go – it opens up a lot of possibility beyond what I see in front of the monitor.’


RGB printing – seeing your work in a different light

Both digital and offset print methods have evolved to embrace files set up using RGB. 


Digital RGB printing

While it’s taken time to gain acceptance, many commercial print houses have adapted to accept files with RGB colour content. This has become possible due to improvements in the accuracy of printer drivers that automatically convert RGB to CMYK, and can save time and money in relation to artwork set up. 


Before you leave a file in RGB and send it to print, it’s always best to talk to your printer about their capabilities and how they would like the file set up. 


Read more about CMYK vs RGB printing on the Creative Pro website


Offset RGB printing

Described as ‘the first completely new innovation in colour printing technology in more than 100 years’ (, RBG offset printing allows creatives to bring their work to life in colours and dimensions that were previously unachievable.


In CMYK printing, the black ‘K’ ink gives the strong black that the mixture of cyan, magenta and yellow can’t create. Offset RGB printing, an innovation created by German pharmaceutical company Merck, uses highly reflective pearlescent red, blue and green pigments on a black surface, plus a silver-white ink to provide the bright white that RGB inks can’t achieve.


Image via Peoplepowerpress

Benefits of offset RGB printing:

  • Ability to print on a black substrate

  • Print with a shimmer or glow using pearlescent pigments

  • Greater range of hues and colour saturations than CMYK can achieve

Find out more on the Merck website.


Digital print – small runs and greater flexibility

According to Scott Chong of paper merchant Ball & Doggett, there’s a growing demand for smaller print runs that can be personalised – and new digital machines can now provide this more cost effectively, even including embellishments like foils and other special effects. 


Inkjet – personalisation and textile printing

Commercial inkjet printing is now being favoured in many instances over traditional offset printing due to increased speed plus the ability to print finer details and add personalisation.


Recent advances in inkjet printing allow for an exciting variety of surface finishes to be printed on the same project, including three-dimensional graphic designs that can be printed with a realistic depth.


Graphicarts Magazine reports that printing directly onto soft substrates is one of the fastest growing areas of print today.


‘The textile markets opened up by inkjet include fashion design, clothing, furniture, and wallpaper. Because inkjet images can be applied without actually pressing on the textile, the technology is being used in textile applications to open entirely new markets for printed fabric.’ (Source:


One of Dede’s many explorations included printing his illustration of a Japanese Onna-Bugeisha (noble female warrior) onto a pair of custom Converse shoes.  For this project he engaged New Zealand’s only custom Converse printer Relentless.  


3 tips from Dede if you’re thinking of printing your own work onto wearable canvas:

1. Be advised that the colour will turn out deeper/darker, so you might want to crank up the vividness of the colour a little bit, but be careful it doesn’t end up looking washed out.

2. If you are going to use acrylic ink, be aware that the finished product might harden the canvas material where the paint has been applied, which may make the item a bit uncomfortable to wear. Also if the paint is too thick, it might crack in the future, so tread lightly!

3. An application of waterproof spray after the print is always a good idea to keep the finished work in its best condition.


Papers and substrates that showcase your art in a new way:

While these print innovations are great, the wide array of substrates, finishes and embellishments available are what’s got Dede really excited. He recently tried printing some of his work on enhanced matte paper and German cotton rag paper.


‘Enhanced matte is best for a very graphic style,’ he says. ‘It’s also great for images with clean lines because the ink stays on top of the paper, so you can get a really deep black. It’s fantastic for printing photography.’ 


German cotton rag is a heavier paper, and twice the price of enhanced matte. It comes in a textured or smooth version and the paper really absorbs the ink, so you won’t get that deep black you get in the matte, but you can achieve a more cool satin black finish that looks luxurious.


‘The result is amazing,’ says Dede. ‘The print almost looks like a real hand painted piece.’


According to Scott Chong of paper merchant Ball & Doggett, the most popular paper colour of the moment is back, but vibrant papers are also in big demand.


‘We have a range called Colorplan, which is available in 51 colours,” says Scott, ‘Environmentally friendly and recycled stocks are still popular too, and for obvious reasons.’


In response to the popularity of more environmentally friendly offerings, Ball & Doggett will soon be launching a new range called Extract, which is made by recycling coffee cups. It will be available in ten colours and two weights, helping to reduce the amount of paper cups contributing to landfill. 

Recycled paper cups turned into art papers – image via @gfsmithpapers


Another paper our artists have enjoyed working with recently is called Renoir, available through New Zealand’s B&F papers.


Renoir is described as a ‘soft feel, deep impression, premier rough gloss paper’. We’ve used this stock on a few client projects for printed collateral and loved the result. It was particularly good for a recent augmented reality project for department store Myer. Because it has the richness of printing on a coated stock but isn’t glossy, it’s easier to use from a technical viewpoint as phones are able to scan it better for augmented reality. 


Embellishments you might like to try out include:

  • Duplexing (bonding two or more papers together for a thicker stock – great for business cards)
  • Black foil deboss (super sophisticated)
  • Scodix high build overgloss 



How to find inspiration:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the options, call your local paper merchant and ask them to come and present to you or send a sample book. It’s also a great idea to check out what others are doing with the papers, print and embellishments on Instagram:


Drool over Australian letterpress and speciality print house @hungryworkshop for chunky embosses and vivid colours



Head over to luxury stationery workshop The Distillery for gleaming foils and glossy laminates


Colourplan Papers showcase their range of luxury coloured paper, board and labels – and they ship worldwide!


New Zealand paper suppliers B&F papers have been in the game a long time, but they’re always on top of the latest paper and print innovations and are happy to come and chat to designers about what’s possible

View this post on Instagram

#holographicfoil #holigraphic #finishings #papereffect #colourful #foilmakers

A post shared by B&F Papers (@bfpapers) on


And Aussie paper supplier Ball & Doggett always have a unique range to excite creative minds

Check out Dede’s Instagram feed to follow his print and paper explorations