Security papers

Depending upon how secure you feel your documents need to be, you need to start any printing solution with a good quality substrate (security paper, card or stock) that offers basic security measures in itself. Some of these papers are readily available off-the-shelf from paper merchants and, when bought in bulk, provide a good basic level of security compared to the costs involved in other processes.


Such examples of this are CBS1 (UV dull paper) with or without UV fibres and some contain a security thread.

CBS1 paper will not reflect ultraviolet light. This means that it is suitable for printing with ultraviolet inks and that they will show up easily under black light (also known as UV hand-help lamps).

It also has added chemical resistances as specified by APACS. Some of there properties are bleach, solvent, water and a range of chemicals that would be used for altering what is printed on the paper. The paper also provides a good medium for personalization (over printing) with a laser printer and the porous properties allow the toner to penetrate the surface which makes it more difficult for people to alter numbers, figures, names, dates and other details – examples of usage would be on cheques.

CBS1 with UV fibers

UV Fibers are per-added to the CBS1 paper and provide flecks of UV colour when viewed under the right lamp. The paper may contain one or more threads/fibres and usually can be seen with the naked eye too. This means that the counterfeiter will be aware that this is the case. It is, however, another problem for them to overcome as this substrate is not easy to acquire.

CBS1 Security threads

Security threads are rolled between the layers of the CBS1 paper and add another degree of security. They are very difficult to copy and you need expensive machinery to be able to counterfeit this feature. You will also see holographic threads. As much as the holographic threads may present additional security you need to make sure that the verification process is thoroughly vetted as you could emulate a thread with a simple foil.

Bespoke watermarked paper (Standard water mark design & Custom watermark paper)

You can opt to either a) buy an existing watermark paper off-the-shelf or b) choose to have your own logo, text, coat of arms, etc. as a bespoke watermark. For the custom watermark, this involves one of two processes 1) for smaller quantities (e.g. 2,000+ A4) we can produce your watermark paper using our patented process that can have your watermark paper ready to despatch within 7 to 10 days, or for  more substantial orders (200,000 A4 sheets plus) we can get a custom dandy roller made at the mill, this works out more cost effective for higher volumes, however the lead time for this is in weeks, rather than days.

Heavier stock such as thicker papers, coloured paper and card stock

Most security applications use CBS1 as this has so many built-in features and keeps the cost relatively low, however there are times where you may need to use a heavier weight board.

There are boards that you can buy on the market that offer UV dullness but you need to make sure that the printing method you use for these thicker materials is viable. Please also note that certain printing processes will need the substrate supplied in a roll or sheet – if you are post-processing these documents with serial numbers or holograms you will need to make sure that the process is possible, certain hologram application machinery will only be able to apply on a reel format.

We used 200gsm card stock on our offset lithographic presses and the printing press was creaking as the stock went through. We managed it, but only just. The customer had to have the stock printed with our method as there were intricate workings within the design (to add security) and alternative printing methods just wouldn’t cope with this.

Sandwich paper with a coloured centre

You can buy paper (which we used to call colour rip) that had a coloured leaf, sandwiched between the layers. Once the paper has been torn or ripped you can see the colour revealed. This is good for not-so secure solutions as it could theoretically be copied. We would recommend you go for as thin as possible to make counterfeiting more difficult.

The reason we say thinner is that in order to copy this, the counterfeiter would have to glue three layers of paper together – when you add the thickness of the 3 layers, along with adhesive it should make the illegal copy more obvious at redemption.

This is relatively cost-effective and you can buy the paper in both sheets and roll formats at reasonable prices. Your “trusted printer” can use this with most conventional printing methods.

Situations where this may be good are in nightclubs, low-key events and exhibitions – especially where the purchase of additional verification equipment would be prohibitive. In other words – where the relative threat of counterfeiting is low, this is a sufficient method of protection.

Tear resistant paper, such as Picophan

We have used this material when a document has to withstand general wear-and-tear, acute water contamination and where it may be passed between people or changing locations more than once.

The layers of paper have a sandwich between them made of a tough plastic.

The last time we used this was is pub licensing certificates, as it might well have to be resistant to spills and the rigours of daily use or presentation in pubs.

DNS-IRAN definition of security paper;

Security Paper also is well known as Watermark paper were first introduced in Fabriano, Italy, in 1282. Watermark paper were produced by impressing a water-coated metal stamp or “Dandy Roll” into the paper pulp during the manufacturing process and done by hand on a sheet by sheet basis In 1826 John Marshall revolutionized the watermark process and made it easier for producers to watermark their paper, whilst new technologies have evolved over the years to further prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or otherwise duplicating sensitive and valuable documents.

As materials technology has developed, likewise the ability copy and fraudulently alter documents has unfortunately gained momentum as well. It has therefore been essential for security printers to keep (at least) one step ahead of both the opportunist and professional counterfeiter.

The base of many secure documents is the material on which they are produced and the controls surrounding its availability.

Most security papers incorporate features that can act to identify or authenticate a document as original, e.g. watermarks or invisible fibres in paper, or features that demonstrate tamper evidence when fraud is attempted, for example to remove or alter print such as amounts or signatures on a Bank cheque.

By far the most secure papers are those used in Banknotes, and whilst many of these are being replaced with the new polymer technology it is expected to be many years before all paper Banknotes move over to this.

What makes Banknote paper so secure is the content of the paper fibres which is mainly a cotton fibre (80-99%) originally sourced from common white linen rag. Technically it is not a paper but a cloth with the look and feel of paper.

Banknote paper is also made by a Cylinder Mould process which enables very distinct watermarks to be created and accurately positioned for placement within a Banknote design. The Cylinder Mould process also facilitates the inclusion of “woven” metallic and holographic threads, so familiar in today’s notes.

By its very nature this type of paper is expensive to manufacture and is therefore mainly limited to the currency market.

A more cost effective alternative to the Cylinder Mould process and by far the most widely used commercially is the Fourdriniér process, whereby the paper pulp is pressed between engraved rollers which impart a watermark pattern into the paper. This process utilises paper pulp which is commercially more cost effective than Banknote paper and opens up the use of watermark paper to everyday documents such as certificates, tickets, cheques and many other items of value.

Additional features which can be incorporated into the paper include:

  • Embedded threads which are only visible when held up to the light
  • Invisible Ultra Violet fibres – these are usually between 3mm and 10mm long and are sometimes incorporated as daylight visible coloured fibres in the paper surface.
  • Planchettes – very small circular discs – sometimes micro engraved with images are another covert feature used in some papers.
  • Tamper evident chemicals that react to solvents, acids and alkalis have been used in cheque paper for many years and still have a place today in many secure documents

Most Security Papers are “UV (Ultra Violet) Dull”, often termed as OBA Free, and do not glow under UV light as normal commercial papers do.

OBA stands for Optical Brightening Agents which are bleaches and other means of making the paper appear whiter. This is the reason most watermark papers are off-white in colour and is essential if invisible UV fibres or UV printing is to show up clearly on the paper surface.

As well as preventing the counterfeiting of documents, security papers also help detect fraud whereby attempts are made to alter the data entered onto a document, whether it be changes to the value of a Bank Cheque or to the examination grades or candidate’s names on Certificates, there are numerous areas where this is essential to a documents integrity.

Removal of laser printed data has become a greater threat as more and more organisations print their variable data in-house on desktop printers.

The incorporation of laser adhesion surfaces and special varnishes greatly diminishes the ability of toner removal and many security papers specify this as standard.

There are also special taggants incorporating a chemical “DNA” that can only be decoded by special means and act as a unique identifier for that material.

These can be electronically read to give and instant remote verification, particularly useful in the packaging and mass transit industry.

Since the introduction of digital copying and printing it has never been more important to use secure materials such as watermarked papers to give tangible and tactile credibility to valuable and sensitive documents.

True Watermarks | Artificial Watermarks

Watermarks can be used on documents to provide an effective form of protection against counterfeiting. The watermark images are invisible or difficult to view unless held up to the light or held at a 45° angle. They can be applied as a true watermark which is applied to the paper during the manufacturing process or as an artificial watermark which is applied by a printing process. Either type of watermark provides a security feature that is difficult, if not impossible, to copy by copiers and scanners. Shown below is a description of a true watermark and an artificial watermarks.

True Watermarks

True watermarks are made during the paper manufacturing process. An image is formed when different degrees of pressure are applied to the paper by a dandy roll, containing the image, while the paper is still wet. True watermarks are also referred to as fourdrinier watermarks. Security paper with this feature is distributed only to authorized manufactures, making it difficult for counterfeiters to obtain.

A true watermark is visible from the front and the back of the paper when viewed in regular light. The image of a true watermark cannot be copied or scanned to produce the same effect. The inability to be copied or scanned provides, to your document, a high level of security against counterfeiting
True watermarks are most often a standard watermark applied by the paper manufacturer but can be applied as a custom application. A custom watermark will add extra security to your document by making it next to impossible for the counterfeiter to obtain your special watermarked paper. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the use of a custom watermark. A dandy roll must be special ordered with the custom image that is to be applied. The cost of the custom dandy roll can add a substantial amount to the initial cost of the paper but is usually a one time charge as long as the image does not change. The cost per hundred weight of the paper may also be affected. There are generally additional setup charges from the mill, minimum order requirements, and extended lead times on delivery of the paper. These issues need to be considered when determining the value of a custom watermark.

Artificial Watermarks

Artificial watermarks are applied after the paper manufacturing process. They can be applied by the paper manufacturer or by the printer. Many paper manufacturers offer stock security papers that have a standard artificial watermark applied to them. The cost of the security paper with an artificial watermark is generally a little less expensive than one with a true watermark.

An artificial watermark can be seen from one side only. It is generally applied to the back side but can be applied to the front side also. The watermark is achieved by printing the image in opaque white ink, transparent ink or by using varnish. They will all produce an image that is visible when viewed at an angle. An artificial watermark is sometimes also referred to as ghost printing. Artificial watermarks are nearly impossible to duplicate by copier or scanners, making this a good security feature to add to your documents. Adding a customized artificial watermark to your document will make it even more difficult to duplicate. Customizing an artificial watermark is less expensive than customizing a true watermark. The customizing can be accomplished by the paper manufacturer or the printer. The most cost effective alternative will depend on the quantity of watermarked paper needed. Consult your supplier as to what would be the best alternative for your needs.