I have a question for seasoned graphic designers.

I'm designing a logo and a stationary including the letterhead. The back of the letterhead uses a very dark background. The question is, is it risky to use such dark background as it will show through on the other side? Or is it risky only with certain paper types? If there is type of paper that is safe to use? Any paper type/brand would you recommend?

This is the stationary:

enter image description here

External image link

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    You might ask a printer: they may actually have done this at one point and might even have a sample in their flat files. Side note consider: what this will look like in a stack of 5 or more pages; consider the extra cost of printing this item: 1/1 (or is it 1/4 color?) is going to be a lot more expensive, especially if the paper needs to be heavier to avoid bleed-through – horatio Sep 26 '12 at 17:10
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    @ben The word is 'stationery'. It's easily confused with the adjective 'stationary', but it might help to remember that the word originally meant 'writing and paper stuff sold by a stationer', see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stationery – TehMacDawg Sep 27 '12 at 12:43
  • Minor side point, but shouldn't the logo's (C) symbol be a bit smaller and to the left, so it doesn't butt right up to the clear space margin? Also, is the letterhead reverse printed CMYK? If so, what is the value of the darkest purple? – e100 Sep 28 '12 at 10:14
  • BTW, I think the design is respectable. I thought of other possible concerns: chalking and ink rub-off. – horatio Sep 28 '12 at 14:24

that is some serious ink coverage there. As such, your printer is probably going to want you to go with a thicker paper stock to begin with. Coated would help as well.

Bottom line, though, is that this is a question for your printer. They will guide you through the process based on the ink coverage and paper style you want.

Do keep in mind that the paper likely still needs to be laser-printer compatible, so you may have to make some compromises...perhaps leaving the back-printing just for the business cards and skip it on the letterhead.

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    Regarding laser printing (for the OP): the toner for laser printers is basically a plastic and laser printers use a heat drum to fuse or melt the plastic to the paper (AKA a fuser). Thicker papers can take more time to heat up and so the toner might not adhere as well. I have had card stock print fine in short runs, but begin to ghost and smear in longer runs. Your milage may vary – horatio Sep 26 '12 at 17:12
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    the other problem is that some printers just can't feed the thicker paper through without jamming every 3rd page or so. – DA01 Sep 26 '12 at 17:21
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    Yeah, that too! There are potential workarounds (straight paper path), but a workaround for letterhead is . . . inadvisable – horatio Sep 26 '12 at 17:23

Your main concerns are paper opacity, grain and suitability for both offset and laser printing.

Opacity: You need high opacity for obvious reasons, to prevent the dark back from showing through on the front. The paper manufacturer will have an opacity specification. I would want 95% or better for this purpose.

Grain: For letterhead, it is very important to specify short grain (grain parallel to the short side of the paper), because letters are folded parallel to the short dimension. This is specified by the manufacturer.

Suitability: Not all offset papers are usable in a laser printer. Heat can cause the paper to scorch, the higher moisture content commonly used for offset paper can make it curl horribly, which not only looks bad, it jams the printer.

Talking to a paper supplier or a reliable printer will help ensure you don't commit these errors. Any one of them will make your client very unhappy.

A third factor that you must consider is the ink. Not so much the ink quantity as the ink type. Inks that are unstable or otherwise damaged by high temperatures will not work for this application. Some types of ink can cause contamination of the imaging drum. This is a trickier one to find out about. Your best bet is to get some recommendations from your print provider (or find out what they use in normal practice) and cross-check with a couple of office laser printer companies.

Xerox has a helpful document online. See the section headed "Preprinted materials" starting on p23.


This effect can and has been used to give letterhead more of a 'wow' factor. You can use a heavier paper to avoid the back showing through; anything of ~125 g/m2 or heavier is unlikely to show through. It depends a bit on your ink percentages in the dark print, though.

I have also seen letterhead that intentionally used a light paper and a dark print on the back to elicit an effect on the front of the paper. Any part in the dark back you leave white is prone to stand out more on the front in this way.


That's a tough one for sure. It poses questions/considerations on a few levels.

  1. Reasonably priced papers typically suffer from show-through and evenness of coverage on large flat areas of color.
  2. Not all ink jet printers respond well to heavy ink coverage on the back.
  3. What will you be doing for additional pages? If your client will need them often it could either get expensive or there will be an odd discrepancy between the first and subsequent pages.

Some clients are ready to make the extra investment for lots of ink, heavy stock, and special treaments (foil, varnish, rounded corners, etc). Some are not. Just make sure your client knows the costs and risks.


Here are some Ink density tips, on how to adjust it to keep the ink levels below a too high of a perctange:


As a further tip, FlightCheck, a tool I represent from Markzware, can also check page ink density. As recommended above, I would get your printers specific feedback on this as well.


ink up the back of the cards and envelopes all you want. then consider that running thicker coated stock through a laser printer or xerox machine will result in crimps, tractor and roller marks, ghosting, and heat damage all over your pretty ink. then decide to leave the back side of the letterhead blank. save the heavy coverage for adhesive labels or packaging.

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