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Printing of cigar bands. Recently we published an article about Vrijdag Premium Printing from Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Vrijdag Premium Printing is one of the most renowned and praised printers of cigar art in the world. For over 115 years, the company has quality as the main motto. And for almost as long, Vrijdag Premium Printing is printing cigar bands.

Offset printing

Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. Worldwide, about two-thirds of all printing is done in offset. There are two types of offset printing machines. Rotation offset machines, where the supply of paper comes from a roll, and sheet-fed offset machines. With sheet-fed offset, the printing press feeds the paper sheet by sheet. In this way, it’s possible to process large quantities of paper per hour. Another benefit of working with paper sheets is that after offset printing, sheets can be exchanged to other special finishing machines. Vrijdag Premium Printing has state of the art Sheet-fed offset machines in its printing facility in Eindhoven that can run at 18.000 sheets an hour. The company chooses sheet-fed machines so it’s possible to put the sheets through special processes in other dedicated, specialized machines. Sheetfed furthermore offers quick job change-overs and is economically a very interesting printing technique.

Ministry of Cigars - Heidelberg press at Vrijdag Premium Printing
a Heidelberg offset machine

Gravure printing

Gravure printing is one of the oldest printing techniques that exist. It is a graphic technique in which the image to be printed is immersed in the printing form. The printing image is immersed from a cylinder which rotates in the ink. The surplus ink is cut off by a doctor blade. The remaining ink stays in the recessed part of the cylinder. The paper or board to be printed is transported between the printing cylinder and a counter-printing cylinder under printing pressure. The ink is transferred directly to the paper or cardboard. 

This is the best method for high gloss metallic effects, including gold and silver. Gravure printing can also be done with UV ink. Due to the quick-drying ink used in the process, the printing process is remarkably fast, while being consistent in quality. The sheedfed gravure printing press at Vrijdag is also a great technique for small batches. Gravure printing is frequently used for tobacco and other luxury packaging and nd often also in commercial print such as magazines.

example of gravure printing

Embossing

Embossing is a process of creating raised images and designs in paper and other materials. An embossed pattern is raised against the background. The procedure requires the use of two dies: one that is raised and one that is recessed. The dies fit into each other so that when the paper is pressed between them, the raised die forces the stock into the recessed die and creates the embossed impression. 

Many of the high-end cigar bands and artwork on boxes use embossing. Mostly in a combination with offset printing to create a band or artwork that is not only colorful but also has 3D effects due to the embossing. Cigar enthusiasts can feel the logo instead of just seeing it.

Hot Foil Stamping

Sometimes you see beautiful shiny bands, even with embossing, that feels smooth like there is a thin plastic layer on top of the ring. That is done with a process called hot foil stamping. With this printing technique, an extremely thin layer or metal foil is applied to the printed matter. The metal is transferred to the underlying paper or cardboard by means of a cliché (metal plate). Heat and pressure equalize irregularities and roughness of the paper or cardboard used. The metal gives glamor and exclusivity to a print and packaging.

There are many types of metal that can be used for foil stamping. Think of gold and silver foil, metallic colors in high gloss, satin or matte versions. What many people do not know is that it is also possible to use holographic designs in different patterns or high security/security foil.

Ministry of Cigars - Printing of cigar rings

Bronze dusting

Now, this is where cigar bands and artwork are brought to the next level. The specialty of Vrijdag Premium Printing is bronze dusting. But don’t be fooled by the name, the dust can be any metallic color, not just bronze. And the latest innovation is a powder made of minerals. Still creating the metal look but no use of metals. This makes the bronze dusting safer and more sustainable. Think gold, think silver, think of metallic red or any other color in metallic. In the process of dust-bronzing, the metallic powder is attached to a wet ink coating. The powder has a deep authentic metallic color, which cannot be achieved by printing with foil or ink. The dust-bronzing finishing technique gives a luxurious and exclusive appearance, often used with high-quality packaging and products. In combination with detailed embossing, very appealing eye catching packaging and labels are created.

Bronze dusting gives authentic high-quality printing effects and works well with other finishing techniques such as embossing, lacquering, and hot foil stamping. But Vrijdag Premium Printing can bronze dust without using actual metal. The company uses mineral-based powders to create the effect. This makes the bronze dusting safer and more sustainable.

Lacquering 

The use of lacquer as a finishing technique on prints is becoming more and more popular. A lacquer can provides a significant added value, can let your packaging stands out on a shelf, and can protect product packaging. Lacquers on print can give a design that distinctive effect. The cool thing is that Vrijdag Premium Printing can print partial lacquering, with certain spots or designs lacquered and the rest of the artwork unlacquered. 

Lacquer can be applied to many different options. High gloss or semi-matte. Glitter or velvet. Even a two-tone lacquer is possible, or a soft lacquer that gives the artwork a rubbery feel. Lacquer with a sandpaper feel, aka gravel lacquer is another option. And it can be incorporated with security features such as a spot UV lacquer. These are just a few of the different lacquers that customers of Vrijdag Premium Printing can choose from.

Die-cutting

Cigar bands and labels often have odd shapes, usually, they aren’t straight forward rectangle labels. Either the logo is in a circle, or other shapes are used to make the cigar packaging stand out. The process to cut cigar bands in their specific way is called die-cutting. Die-cutting is a process that cuts slits or shapes out of a print project. This is done after the project is printed but before it is folded, collated, or glued. With a die-cut, you can create the same shape, with the exact same dimensions, over and over without using scissors, stencils, or a craft knife. It saves time and makes your cut-out shapes look professional and consistent every time.

Vrijdag Premium Printing has various die-cutting machines that are able to process large volumes with high quality. Die-cutting is done after a print job has run through the printing press and is ready to be trimmed and finished in whatever manner the piece requires. A die is a razor-sharp metal blade that is shaped, mounted on a base, and attached to a printing press. The printed sheets are then run through the press, and the die stamps each sheet individually to cut out the desired shape. The printer has many dies for common cuts, but special wishes for unique die-cuts are optional. Die-cutting is used for many of the cigar bands, alcohol labels, and bottleneck labels that Vrijdag Premium Printing is producing.

Printing Process

We hope that this article has given you some more insight into the process of creating cigar bands and the artwork that goes onto the boxes. The cigar industry would look very different without the high-quality prints of Vrijdag Premium Printing and a few other cigar art/band printers that are active in our little industry. But it is a vital part. Imagine a world without cigar bands. Humidors would be plain and boring, and you would never know for sure what you are smoking. So next time you pick up a cigar, take some time to look at the cigar band, admire it, and see if you can spot what techniques were used. And maybe that band you’re looking at comes from Vrijdag Premium Printing.

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