Me & my: Derprosa Soft Touch

Pushing the boundaries of digital printing is second nature at 1st Byte. The Clerkenwell-based printer has specialised in fast-turnround digital printing for almost 20 years, mainly using a succession of Indigo sheetfed presses with a Xeikon for larger format work.

It long ago got past the novelty factor of short-run CMYK and is now offering personalised metallic and embossed effects that would be impossible, or ludicrously expensive, to produce by conventional print and finishing.

Often the most complex and unusual work is only made in a handful of copies, for the likes of creative agency pitches and very exclusive property brochures.

“You can say that it is our ambition to be seen as a leader in innovation in digital printing,” says managing director Lawrence Dalton. For the past couple of years he’s been running lunchtime education sessions where he invites local agencies to come along to learn about the possibilities of digital beyond CMYK. 

“The effects we show are partly to build brand awareness,” he says. “We get lots of trade work too – it’s our aim that if a printer gets asked for something unusual then their first call will be 1st Byte.” 

Derprosa’s range of Soft Touch lamination films are among the speciality media that are used to achieve these effects. The Spanish company has developed films that work with HP Indigo presses, including a Metalised material that goes from matt to mirror-like when spot-printed with gloss clear ink. Its UK distributor is Graphic Image Films, based in Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire. 

Although Soft Touch is the name of Derprosa’s range it’s also a generic term for similar materials from other manufacturers. This is a matt film that has a particular texture that feels rather like velvet to the fingertips. It’s often used for book covers, business cards and anything else that requires a ‘luxury’ feel. 

If you run process colours over the matt silver Soft Touch Metalised then a full range of metallic colours can be achieved, including gradations and halftones. Using white ink opens up the ability to combine ‘normal’ looking print with metallic or other soft-touch effects in the same sheet – the white is used as an undercoat with normal coloured print on top. Reversed-out ‘holes’ in the white layer let the special substrate show through.

In 2012, the installation of an HP Indigo 7600 sheetfed digital press opened up a new range of digital effects potential for 1st Byte. This press introduced both an opaque white ink and also the ability to create an embossed effect by building up layers of clear ink. 

Over the past 18 months 1st Byte has been running a Scodix inkjet ‘digital embosser’ for clear raised UV coating effects. It’s there on a trial basis, although Dalton says that he and his colleagues still aren’t sure that the cost justifies the relatively low order volumes they’re seeing. However, it does allow them to offer even more striking effects with special media. 

If you print a spot gloss over matt metalised laminate, the coating fills in the surface roughness and you get a brilliant metallic reflectance. The raised clear gloss of the Scodix acts as a lens and accentuates the effect while resembling foil blocking. If you run that on top of white and coloured overprint, then a glittering range of metallic effects are possible. 

Instant metallics

There’s no need to wait and pay for expensive metal hot foil dies and the effects can incorporate variable data if needed. 

“After we took on the Scodix about a year ago, one of the aims was to get metallic effects,” says Dalton. “Initially we used Mirri board, but then Derprosa called us. They and Graphic Image Films have been particularly helpful. Other people do make soft-touch films, but we’ve found that only Derprosa works with the Scodix other than Scodix’s own Soft Touch Metalised. We also use the Derprosa black and anti-scratch laminates successfully.”

Celloglas’ Mirri board is popular with printers who need a ready-made near-mirror or other metallic effect and some of its grades work with Indigo presses. However, while Celloglas will laminate onto printers’ own stock, it does this to special order with minimum quantities. “Derprosa lets us laminate on whatever stock the customer wants. It works brilliantly on the Indigos, particularly using white ink,” Dalton says. 

Note that Scodix’s rival MGI can achieve a true foil effect. Its iFoil unit goes on the end of its JetVarnish 3D inkjet and heats up the just-printed raised clear UV coating, then presses standard hot foil on top of that. 

While the Derprosa-Scodix metallic effect resembles hot foiling, the MGI system is the real thing. Dalton says that MGI told him that an iFoil unit could probably be adapted to fit on the end of a Scodix press, but the tight confines of his building mean there’s no room for this. 

Sandro Mosquera, sales and marketing director at Graphic Image films, says that Derprosa is testing an improved Soft Touch range, with stronger adhesive and the film thickness reduced from 32 to 30 microns. This will also work better with the Indigo’s PIP (Photo Imaging Plate) he says. Also in the works are a gloss Metalised film (without the soft-touch feel) and a gloss Anti Scratch film that will sell alongside the matt. There are also printable matt films (not Soft Touch) that include silver and metalised blue and red. 

Workflow switch

Dalton says that the only production issue worth noting is the workflow order. “Originally you’d have the pre-press people create a file, it would go through the pressroom and go upstairs to the finishing department and they’d laminate, stitch and trim it, then it was out the door. 

“Now the process is quite often the pre-press guys doing the work, then the job ticket goes upstairs to finishing to get the Derprosa laminated, then the sheets go downstairs again to be printed. More steps are needed to achieve the end-result.”

Operationally there have been few problems. “We get issues with laminating occasionally, but we know how to work it,” says Dalton. “It’s run at the same temperature as standard laminates. My production director says there are no problems on the Indigo presses. It doesn’t work very well with the Xeikon toner press, though. If we print a book cover, say, on the Xeikon over Derprosa then wrap it around a book block, the laminate can lift away on the crease where there is four-colour ink.

“It’s definitely brought in new clients though, and it allows us to offer a wider range of services than before,” Dalton says. 

“What it mainly brings to the table is lower costs and speed. You can achieve 100 metallic colours on a sheet of paper, which you can never do with traditional foil. You can achieve gradations going from, say, silver to gold, which would be totally impossible with hot foiling.”

Customer awareness of digital special effects is still limited, he notes. “We have to go out and sell it. We’re marketing it and our website brings in queries. I get probably two request a day for samples. The year before last I found that and were not taken so I own those now. If people put in search terms for sensory print it takes them to our website.”

Asked if he would recommend it, Dalton replies: “Oh yes. It’s a great invention and pushes the boundaries of digital print, which is great. That’s Derprosa Soft Touch in general as well as the Metalised laminate. Soft Touch has a good feel and ties in with our general wish to offer sensory print solutions, to get people to touch and feel and get a different sense to it. 

“Maybe we’ll eventually get people to smell and taste it too!” 


Material Bi-axially oriented polypropylene film, corona treated both sides

Thickness/weight (Metalised) 32microns/34gsm

Reel length 2,400m, with shorter lengths and choice of widths on request

Finishes Soft Touch Black, Blue, Red, metalised silver and gold; metalised silver gloss, metalised silver matt, metallic silver metallic red

Price range Thermal Soft Touch: 39p/m2; metallic blue, black, silver matt 38p/m2; metalised silver gloss (printable) 25p/m2. Wet Soft Touch: 31p/m2; Metallic blue, red, gold, silver matt 31p/m2; metalised silver gloss 14p/m2

Contact Graphic Image Films 01844 208308 www.graphic

Company profile 

1st Byte is a digital printing and finishing specialist in Clerkenwell, London. Set up in 1997, it quickly began to specialise in same-day turnaround of short-run digital printing and finishing, especially for creative agencies. A lot of this was trade work. It now also offers web-to-print ordering of corporate stationery, which accounts for 25% of business. In recent years it has carved an additional niche in luxury print and packaging for the agency and property markets, often developing unusual digital printing and finishing methods. The firm runs three HP Indigo presses (two 5000s and a 7600), a web-fed Xeikon press and a Scodix inkjet.

Why it was bought...

1st Byte managing director Lawrence Dalton says the company is determined to be the first place clients – and other printers – think of when they need to achieve a really special finish. Lamination films feature heavily in 1st Byte’s methods of creating spectacular effects.

How it has performed...

1st Byte has used other methods to create metallic effects but found that the Derprosa Soft Touch film worked particularly well with its Scodix UV coatings. Dalton says: “What it mainly brings to the table is lower costs and speed. You can achieve 100 metallic colours on a sheet of paper, which you can never do with traditional foil.” He adds: “Derprosa lets us laminate on whatever stock the customer wants. It works brilliantly on the Indigos, particularly using white ink.”


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