The site for prepress & print devotees

Prepressure covers design techniques, PDF, PostScript, fonts, JDF and numerous other prepress topics that have to do with printed communication and graphic arts.

Why print money on polymer

In June the Bank of England introduced its first banknote printed on a polymer substrate. The five pound note features a portrait of Winston Churchill. All the other UK banknotes are still printed on cotton. These are the advantages offered by polypropylene banknotes:

  • Plastic banknotes are more durable since they are more difficult to tear and more resistant to folding.
  • The notes repel dirt and moisture so they don’t soil as easily. The polymer is also more resistant to micro-organisms.
  • Because the bi-axially orientated polypropylene (BOPP) is more rigid, the banknotes work better in ATMs and automated sorting operations.
  • Plastic currency is up to twice as expensive to produce but the bank notes last two-and-a-half to four times longer than notes printed on cotton paper. The notes can be recycled so there is also an ecological advantage.
  • The new banknotes are more difficult to counterfeit. In Canada, a pioneer in the use of synthetic currency, the number of reported counterfeits dropped by 74%.

How ink is made

It’s a bit of surprise when you see offset printing ink for the first time. You expect it to be a colored water-like substance but instead it is more like a paste. This YouTube movie shows how it’s manufactured.

Money trivia

Follow the #MoneyFact hashtag on Twitter if you’re interested in all kinds of trivia about money. I’m of course mainly interested in printed bank notes.

The world’s first paper money was created in China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) by merchants who wanted to avoid the heavy bulk of copper coinage. By the 1120s the Chinese central government produced their own paper money using woodblock printing. The largest bank note ever was the Chinese 1 Kwan, printed in the 14th century, measuring 9×13 inches.

The first US paper notes were printed in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents. In 1862 the United States issued their first one dollar bill in order to make up for coin shortage and to finance the Civil War. Apparently green ink was used because it stuck best to the paper.

US printed money 1 dollar billGreen is of course still used today in dollar bills. In 2014 2278400 one dollar bills were in circulation, which was close to 40% of all the bank notes. The average production cost of a US bank note was 10 cents. Bills are composed of 25% linen and 75% cotton. According to the US Federal Reserve, the average lifespan of a $1 note was just 18 months back in 1990. By 2012, it had grown to 70 months because the replacement rate was slowed down. A US bank note can be folded back and forth 4000 times before it tears.


Vellum is a parchment that is made from calf skin. It was used for manuscripts in medieval times. Even a quarter of the first Bible for which Johannes Gutenberg used movable type was printed on vellum. Much to my surprise the British House of Lords still record their Acts of Parliament on vellum. They briefly considered a switch to paper in early 2016 but had to reverse that decision due to public outcry. You have to admire the Brits for sticking to age old customs.

Interesting reads

Recently I read two white papers that I really liked, which is rare since so many of these documents nowadays get written by content marketing companies who don’t really have any expertise in the subject they are covering.

  • Do PDF/VT right‘ is written by Martin Bailey of Global Graphics. This guide is useful for anyone working on or interested in variable data processing.
  • Differences between the GWG 1v4 and 2015 specifications‘ sounds boring but this is a very readable overview of how preflight requirements have changed in the past few years. It was written by David van Driessche as part of the documentation for the new Ghent Workgroup preflight specifications.

Prepress Pete is tweeting

Acrobat DC? On one of my systems the DC stands for ‘Daily Crashes’!

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The local village idiot, also known as Prepress Pete, has been on Twitter for quite some time now. Since he cannot be relied on for any serious messaging, there is now an official Twitter account. If you’re serious about prepress and would like to know when new content appears on this site, please follow us. If you are somewhat less serious, consider following Pete.

New terms in the dictionary

DTG – Abbreviation for Direct To Garment, the process of printing directly on T-shirts and other clothing. This is typically done using inkjet technology.
Scratch off printing
– The process of applying a foil to specific areas of a document. The foil can be removed with the edge of a coin or a fingernail to reveal the information printed beneath it. The process is often used on giveaway and contest printed materials, such as lottery tickets.
Short grain web press – A web press that uses printing plates whose long dimension is along the cylinders.
Ghost bar
– A ghost bar of take-off bar is a rectangular solid line or pattern that is added to a press sheet and trimmed away after printing. It helps equalize ink laydown on the sheet by extending and evening out the printed area, thus avoiding ink starvation in any one place.

What’s new?

New or reworked pages on print trivia, 2015 prepress & printing news, the preflight pollcommon PDF issues2015 prepress news, offset lithography2014 prepress news, Xiaomi Mi2s, RAID, drupa, A8 and various dictionary terms.

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8 June 2016

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