58 INTERIORS & SOURCES AUGUST 2015
details need to be initially broken down in the separation process. Each separate print stage is deconstructed individually from the master file. This is
where we figure out how much of each color each cylinder will apply, and
how best to achieve the level of grain detail we’re after.
“The goal is to try to hit the original color of the wood sample,” explained
Smith. “Once you get to that point, you should be able to get the color and
tones you’re ultimately looking for.”
Before engraving the full-size production cylinders, which are up to eight
feet, the separation files are tested on a lab press, where the lab or “baby”
cylinders are only two feet wide, but otherwise identical in output to the full-size
machines. This is also where the ink formulations are tweaked.
“All of our inks are water-based, and have been for quite some time,”
added Smith. “Red, yellow, blue, and black inks are mixed to achieve the
correct color for each of the different print stages, laid down by each of the
print cylinders. We use ink extenders that make each color more translucent
or more opaque. We can also add a percentage of white to the extender,
which can give us the effect of a limed oak with white pores, for example.”
Deciding in which order to apply the inks in order to create a realistic
woodgrain is certainly part of the art of the process. Everyone operating
these huge printing machines has had years of training and apprenticeships.
The print-grade base paper used in décor printing is manufactured to very
high specifications, because it has two very different demands placed on it: It
must carry a high-fidelity rotogravure print, and it must be absorbent enough to
be saturated with the resins required to press a finished laminate surface.
In most cases, a woodgrain print starts with a pre-colored paper, which
eliminates the need for laying down a solid-color “pad coat” of ink in the first
“We use many different base papers in specific colors,” Smith said. “They’re
produced on a monthly cycle, from light to dark, which means the paper manufacturer only has to shut down the machine for cleaning once a month to minimize
contamination from paper to paper. This means if you don’t order enough paper
for a run, you could be waiting a month for them to run that color again.”
When a large decorative thermally fused laminate (TFL) panel producer in the
Pacific Northwest decided to add some new prints to its top-selling collection, it
partnered with a major décor printer to locate and tweak designs that would at the
same time pull their entire collection forward, but still fit into their current offering.
“The project was not simply to pull off-the-shelf designs that are ‘pretty’
or ‘popular’ and try to shoehorn them into the collection,” explained Peter
Garlington, design director for another global décor printer. “We do not believe
that one size fits all. Rather, we looked at the hard work already done by our
client in focusing on the core of its collection, which is very solid, to see if and
where additions would work and what would have the most impact.”
Four new designs were chosen “based on color and contrast values as
well as the scale of the structures,” Garlington said.
“The color and contrast values were chosen to be market-relevant now,
Better than Carbon Neutral…
and to address the growing color tends of complex grays and complex neutrals,”
he added. “Each design was stepped and balanced to work well on a 4- by
8-foot panel, and checked for color and structure for harmony across the
sheet. We then checked a half sheet, quarter sheet, and one-eighth sheet
both horizontally and vertically to ensure usability for both large panel- as well
as small part-cutting, and adjusted the design as needed.”
Three of the designs are balanced linear structures, which have grown
beyond a simple trend to a completely separate design category.
Why are decorative TFL wood panels one of the most responsible choices for furni- ture and interiors? Let us count the ways.
w The composite wood panel substrates in these panels sequester more
carbon than is used in their manufacture, transportation, value-added
processing, and installation. (For more information, see the CEU “Composite
Wood Panels: The Big Green Picture” in our April 2015 issue.)
w The recycled wood fiber used in TFL substrates would otherwise be
landfilled or incinerated.
w Printed décor papers replace wood veneers, saving virgin trees and rare
or exotic species.
w Décor prints of reclaimed wood allow designer to specify species that
are no longer viable or available.
w Decorative TFL panels are far more stable, durable, and easy to maintain
than veneer or solid wood, so they’ll last much longer in an installation.
w Unlike with wood and veneers, you can get an exact match years from
now should you need to replace a damaged panel or component.
w The designs discussed in this article are shared with other material
manufacturers, allowing you to choose the best surface for the job
without sacrificing design harmony.
Samples from the lab
press are checked for
color and fidelity before
the design moves to a
Designs are tested on a lab
press before running on a
full-size rotogravure press.