James Cropper has an enviable pedigree and depth of knowledge when it comes to coloured papers. Print Solutions finds out more.

James Cropper has an enviable pedigree and depth of knowledge when it comes to coloured papers. Print Solutions finds out more.

If you want to know how to get the best results, the easiest way is to talk to the experts.  James Cropper has been making paper for hundreds of years. The company was established in 1845 and in July last year celebrated 170 years of paper production at its base in Burneside, and is still run by the Cropper family.

Although with a great tradition and heritage, the company is a pioneer and innovator, and designs and develops a portfolio of papers which are ideal for high quality applications. From iconic papers to those with unusual inclusions, James Cropper offers all that is best in British papermaking.

Mark Starrs is colour co-ordinator in the paper laboratories at James Cropper and as such is not only an expert in colour, but also in ensuring that customers get the best papers for their needs.

‘We are able to produce a vast array of colours,’ Mark told Print Solutions. ‘But it is usually customer driven with designers coming to us with an idea which we help to turn into a reality.’

The journey of producing a new shade is one in which you need a guiding hand, and James Cropper can do this. Mark said, ‘Often, the colour that is a concept – in the mind of the designer – is not necessarily what is exactly needed. So it is very important that we know as much information about the end use of that paper from the very beginning of the process. For instance, what the paper will be required to do. Where it will be placed. What print and finishing process will be used. The complexities of the variables can all have an impact on the actual shade.’

He continued, ‘Colour is in  everything.  It is a powerful marketing tool. If you get it wrong, then the implications for a brand can be huge. That is why designers and creatives need to work with an expert to make sure they get it right.’

Mark added, ‘We encourage our customers to work with us, and come and see what we do, so that they understand the process and how we achieve the right colours.’


The laboratories at James Cropper hold around 4000 live shades that can be produced with some 200,000 colours stored electronically in our database.  But, almost any shade can be made.   Mark said, ‘We of ten receive samples of colours, and they can be in any form. We have had jewellery, wedding dresses, other fabrics, leaves, even a skirting board, that we have been asked to match.’

He continued, ‘It is essential that we understand the end use of the product, so we can look at things such as light fastness and know how this well be affected.’

‘Also, if you are producing a black paper carrier bag for instance, we will make sure that there is no rub off on light  coloured clothes. Will it bleed if it gets wet? Things like that. This helps us take into account what dyes or pigments to use.’

‘We start by measuring the sample colour and using that as a basis. We do use some software to help us combine the ingredients for the colour recipe, but it also comes down to  knowledge and experience of what will work. There can be up to five dyes or pigments mixed to replicate a colour. We will make a number of recipes and pick those that are closest.’

‘We then produce a hand sheet – a physical sample of what that shade will look like as a paper. It can take between five and 10 attempts to get the exact shade, tweaking the mix as we go.’

‘We actually go through the papermaking process as it would happen on-machine in a production environment, but by hand.’

‘We view the paper under various lighting conditions  to ensure  that the colour will be correct. The primary being D65, as well as D50 ,TL84, CWF and other fluorescent lighting  typical in retail environments.’

After mimicking the perfect match between sample and paper test, Mark sends the example to the customer for approval. If they are happy, then the paper goes into full production on the papermachine.

Mark said, ‘We use dyes and pigments from a multitude of multi-national suppliers. We generally have between 40 and 50 different dyes and pigments on-site, so we are able to match an array of colours.’


So, are there any colours that are impossible to match? Has Mark ever come up against a colour that he couldn’t replicate?

‘Not really,’ said Mark. ‘Although there is obviously a saturation point with colour, so some deeper or darker shades can be harder to match. Also pale greys are notoriously hard.’

‘However, it is not just about ‘matching’ the colour, but ensuring consistency from making to making where other ingredients may be variable. It is very important that this is right – and again that is where our expertise comes in.’

He continued, ‘The other problem can be when producing recycled papers, because the base ingredients can be so variable. To get a colour match from batch to batch can be challenging, but we can rely on our knowledge of the whole papermaking process to help.’


Mark doesn’t just spend his time matching colours for individual customers. He also works with the James Cropper sales and marketing teams to develop existing ranges to ensure that they remain relevant to the trends of today’s markets.

He said, ‘The marketing department looks a long way ahead to trends that are coming up to decide where we need to take our paper colours.’

This can mean that when it comes to expanding a range, the lab produces paper colours that do not make the cut.  ‘When we upgraded Vanguard, we actually produced six or seven new shades,’ said Mark. ‘In the end only four colours were chosen, as seen to be most relevant to market trends.’

Mark concluded, ‘Increasingly customers are looking to differentiate. They are looking for unique colours – and that is what James Cropper can offer them.’


Vanguard is a well known and trusted portfolio of coloured papers typically used in the education and print sectors. Now, it is available in an assortment of 32 vivid and vibrant shades including pastels, deeps and mid tones. The range comes in some beautiful colours including Aqua, Daffodil, Emerald Green, Marine Blue, Raspberry and Sunlight Yellow, which are now complemented by the new colours – Blueberry, Bordeaux, Cherry and Purple.

This smooth uncoated paper range is ideal for brochures, business stationery, certificates and more, whilst matching paper and board weights allow co-ordinated documents.

Author : Susan Wright, Editor


Pages 66-68:

Make an Enquiry

If you’d like to discuss a project or have a paper related query, please provide some details so that our sales team can help you.

See our privacy policy notice for more information on how we take care of your information.

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter a contact number

Get the latest from James Cropper Paper. Register now for company news, special updates and events:

Please indicate your preferred communication choice: