Kraft describes the process of turning wood into wood pulp, essentially by pressure-cooking softwood chips in a mixture of strong alkaline chemicals.
These chemicals, notably sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphide, separate the cellulose (which is useful) and lignin (not so useful) that make up the wood fibres. This cooked or ‘digested’ liquor mixture is then refined, washed and dried, forming rolls of a light-brown cellulose pulp with interlocking fibres. (Otherwise known as brown kraft paper).
Kraft's heavy-duty nature and high tear resistance make it ideal for wrapping paper and shipping materials. You’ll see kraft being used everywhere as card, envelopes, packaging products... really any stationery you could think of.
Kraft is generally more utilitarian than white and coloured papers, mainly because it’s structurally stronger. This is because it contains much less lignin and hasn’t been bleached extensively, which actually weakens the structure of whiter print stock.
Kraft tends to be cheaper and tougher than other paper types, while the production process itself is generally more sustainable than the ones used to create bleached white paper. Kraft’s natural earthy look also gives it a kind of rustic, bohemian appeal that many people actually prefer – while innovative print techniques (like digital and foil printing) can create finished stationery on brown kraft that looks every bit as good as coloured or bleached white paper.
So, what about recycled paper?
Kraft and recycled paper can often be one and the same thing. (For example, our bio-based kraft paper is also 100% recycled paper.)
Creating recycled paper, (which is often even cheaper than milling fresh kraft), essentially involves the same wet-pulp process described above, only with a few added steps.
First the waste paper being recycled is dumped and stacked in giant mounds, which is then sorted into its various grades and types (both mechanically and by hand). This waste material could range from luxury office stationery and glossy magazine papers to cheap card and newspaper stock, and every kind of printed item in between.
This waste paper material is soaked and churned in vats of soapy water, and separated from any unwanted inks, metals and adhesives it might contain. The resulting slurry (imagine nasty grey porridge) is then dried, stretched and flattened through a series of large heated rollers, reforming the pulp into useable paper.
Depending on its next use, this recycled paper may be bleached, coloured or left as-is, before finished samples are quality-tested and vast rolls of it are shipped out to be reused as office paper, cardboard, newspapers, gift wrapping, toilet paper… really any type of paper you can think of.
Getting the most out of kraft and recycled paper
As well as being more sustainable to produce, kraft and recycled papers can give you some fantastic finished stationery when they’re combined with the right printing techniques. Kraft pairs especially well with vivid black text and solid-black designs, creating extremely sharp finished effects.
While it may not create the same level of contrast as classic black ink on white paper, kraft paper printing gives you something with an altogether different personality: printed items that feel natural, and raw, and real.
High-speed digital printing, cutting-edge design techniques and digital foil sticker printing can create truly beautiful finished effects on recycled and kraft papers. Finished products can range from events booklets and swing tags right up to envelopes, invites and placeholders for boho-style weddings – and all with a striking natural effect that can only really be achieved with brown kraft paper.
So, how good could your prints look on our recycled kraft paper? You can take a look at our kraft printing range right here – or just contact us to learn more about what we could create for you.
We print high-quality kraft flyers, swing tags, orders of service, business cards and menus every day, for every kind of business and customer you can think of. If you’re looking for similar print products, just get in touch. We’d love to help you create your perfect prints!