by Newprint | May 22, 2019
Spring’s here! Time for seed paper?
The idea: Symbolise growth!
Recently, a customer came to us with a request to print a leaflet on seed paper. It should have the potential to be planted in order to ensure a “growing and blooming” future. Of course, the double meaning was the marketing intention of the customer. While Newprint has realised a range of diverse and challenging projects, we had never actually printed on seed paper before. However, we wouldn’t be Newprint had we not given the project a try. Naturally.
What is seed paper?
Seed paper is handmade paper that consists of pulp mixed in with small plant seeds. When laid out, the paper sheets must be dried very fast in order to prevent the seeds from shooting prematurely within the production process. There are only a few small manufacturers of such materials. The substrate variants are limited and the quality is not always consistent. Generally, the surface of hand-made papers is extremely open-pored and absorbent. The papers are not thin, but nevertheless unstable and brittle. You have no influence on the variety of plant seeds.
So how do you print on seed paper?
After a long search, we finally found a manufacturer in the Netherlands. However, when we received the first samples, we had to learn that the material could not be printed on conventionally. Even if the porous surface were to withstand the strain of laser printing, the the heat generated during fixation would kill the seeds before they even had a chance to germinate. Due to the uneven texture of the sheets, offset printing could not be considered an option either. Thus inkjet printing remained the only available option. But this has the disadvantage that the ink begins to bleed as soon as it comes in contact with water (when you first soak the paper in the pre-germination stage). And as the product’s ink would melt, so would its message…
How do you process seed paper?
The processing is difficult. Due to the irregularities of its edges and surfaces, accurate repeatability of the printed image cannot be achieved. Thus, a double-sided congruent print is virtually impossible. Problems arise when you intend to cut the printed sheets: crop marks jump up and down and you get white edges along some of the margins. There is no such thing as a straight lay-on edge when trimming.
When we finally completed the printing, we were curious to know if and how our flyers would actually bud after being planted. So we put it to the test: First, we carefully watered our paper to set off the process of germination. And indeed: After a few days, we noticed the first tiny green shoots. However, despite all the loving care in our office we did not manage to grow our germinated micro-plants into plantable seedlings. After a reaching a maximum height of 6 mm, the shoots died. Not one of the seedlings in our test survived.
Hands off! Seed paper might seem like a nice idea – in theory! But when put to the test, the material fails to convince: Proper printing on the paper is nearly impossible, processing the finished prints also proved hopeless. And most importantly: The seed paper’s seedlings fail to grow into lasting plants! In consequence, the product’s desired message (growth and bloom) could be turned into the opposite when the seedlings miserably die on the customer’s window sill. Therefore, we do not offer this special material (any longer), however, we’ve gained another experience! That must count for something, too.