True Watermarks | Artificial Watermarks

Watermarks can be used on documents to provide an effective form of protection against counterfeiting. The watermark images are invisible or difficult to view unless held up to the light or held at a 45° angle. They can be applied as a true watermark which is applied to the paper during the manufacturing process or as an artificial watermark which is applied by a printing process. Either type of watermark provides a security feature that is difficult, if not impossible, to copy by copiers and scanners. Shown below is a description of a true watermark and an artificial watermarks.

True Watermarks

True watermarks are made during the paper manufacturing process. An image is formed when different degrees of pressure are applied to the paper by a dandy roll, containing the image, while the paper is still wet. True watermarks are also referred to as fourdrinier watermarks. Security paper with this feature is distributed only to authorized manufactures, making it difficult for counterfeiters to obtain.


A true watermark is visible from the front and the back of the paper when viewed in regular light. The image of a true watermark cannot be copied or scanned to produce the same effect. The inability to be copied or scanned provides, to your document, a high level of security against counterfeiting.



True watermarks are most often a standard watermark applied by the paper manufacturer but can be applied as a custom application. A custom watermark will add extra security to your document by making it next to impossible for the counterfeiter to obtain your special watermarked paper. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the use of a custom watermark. A dandy roll must be special ordered with the custom image that is to be applied. The cost of the custom dandy roll can add a substantial amount to the initial cost of the paper but is usually a one time charge as long as the image does not change. The cost per hundred weight of the paper may also be affected. There are generally additional setup charges from the mill, minimum order requirements, and extended lead times on delivery of the paper. These issues need to be considered when determining the value of a custom watermark.


Artificial Watermarks

Artificial watermarks are applied after the paper manufacturing process. They can be applied by the paper manufacturer or by the printer. Many paper manufacturers offer stock security papers that have a standard artificial watermark applied to them. The cost of the security paper with an artificial watermark is generally a little less expensive than one with a true watermark.


An artificial watermark can be seen from one side only. It is generally applied to the back side but can be applied to the front side also. The watermark is achieved by printing the image in opaque white ink, transparent ink or by using varnish. They will all produce an image that is visible when viewed at an angle. An artificial watermark is sometimes also referred to as ghost printing. Artificial watermarks are nearly impossible to duplicate by copier or scanners, making this a good security feature to add to your documents.

Adding a customized artificial watermark to your document will make it even more difficult to duplicate. Customizing an artificial watermark is less expensive than customizing a true watermark. The customizing can be accomplished by the paper manufacturer or the printer. The most cost effective alternative will depend on the quantity of watermarked paper needed. Consult your supplier as to what would be the best alternative for your needs.


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