Today is the Superfine Solstice!

[Alyson Kuhn] In honor of the longest day of the year, let’s look at the many lives of Superfine, the premium printing paper long loved by designers, artists, authors and book people of every stripe and structure. Herewith a huge handful of client projects and products — and a few memorable mill promotions on legendary, luxurious, impeccable, incomparable Superfine.

Marie Kelzer makes notebooks whose paste paper covers and blank text pages are Superfine.

Marie Kelzer (shown at top, in her studio) uses Superfine “about 98% of the time, mostly 80# text, to decorate paste papers and make hand-bound books. I was introduced to Superfine when I worked in the conservation department of the UC Berkeley Library. We used it for endpapers because of its strength, density and archival qualities.” Marie makes books that she covers with her decorated paste papers, and she comments that the painted Superfine folds nicely, with no cracking or breaking.

The Hat Book, written and designed by Leslie Smolan, is a pocket-sized coffee table book.

Photographer Rodney Smith is a big fan of Superfine. The Hat Book (Nan Talese/Doubleday, 1993) was printed on Superfine White Smooth 100# Text at Heritage Press. It is diminutive in size, deluxe in detail, and long on both charm and awards. You can read the romantic backstory here.

Balancing act: crisp little type afloat in a sea of black ink. Quite a solid performance.

In 1988, the Mohawk Graphics Collection showcased “The Graphic Art of Paul Rand.” This portfolio included the photograph below, taken by Rand, reproduced in simple CMYK on Superfine White 80# Cover. My personal favorite piece (not shown) from the portfolio is a collage with “léger” in huge white sans serifs on a lemon yellow background. The accent aigu is a long metal screw and shadow (the perfect reminder not to screw around with accent marks).

Gate Sign, Meudon, France, 1975, photograph by Paul Rand

Superfine has kept up with the times. In fact, we like to say that Superfine is the only paper that has successfully made the transition from letterpress to offset to digital. Superfine i-Tone is Mohawk’s elegant solution for digital presses. The i-Tone surface treatment is perfectly receptive to both liquid and dry toners, offering brilliant flexibility for printers with multiple digital presses.

Pinhole Press photo products. Photography: Above, Kelsey Foster; below, David Meredith, represented by Cornelia Adams (Meredith is also the graphic designer of record for Rodney Smith’s The End).

Pinhole Press also prints their personalized photo products on Superfine iTone. (Pinhole’s publishing platform is powered by software developed by the Mohawk Digital Technologies Group. Read our interview with Pinhole Press founder Stefan Peters here.) What could be finer than turning your digital photos into books, calendars, accordion-folded cards or framed artworks, printed with the newest digital interfaces and technologies, on classic, tactile paper specifically engineered to reproduce your images beautifully, affordably and consistently?

Art director Lia Tjandra of UC Press recommended Superfine Smooth Soft White 80# Text.

Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit was published in November 2010 and is already in its fifth printing. The author describes the paper the book is printed on as “creamy, luscious, uncoated” — almost as if it were a dessert. As for the nitty-gritty of print production, Lia Tjandra says, “Superfine held the color and detail beautifully.” You’ll find our interview with Lia Tjandra right here.

“Phrenological San Francisco” by artist Paz de la Calzada from Infinite City

The Cover Story, designed by Robert Valentine in 2002, is a creative homage to the many weights of Superfine Cover. The piece came in a blind-embossed slipcase of ultra-heavy Superfine Ultrawhite 160# double-thick (meaning two sheets of 80# Cover duplexed together) Cover. The book’s interior is printed on Superfine Eggshell Ultrawhite 65# Cover.

The cover of The Cover Story is blind embossed on Superfine Smooth Ultrawhite 100# Cover.

The “Challenging the Way We Think” spread features three business card-sized tip-ons.

Mies Van Der Rohe couch (Knoll/Barcelona 1929) on Superfine Eggshell Ultrawhite 100# Text

The invitation to The Architecture & Psychoanalysis Symposium at the Yale School of Architecture is from the book 40 Posters for the Yale School of Architecture, designed by Michael Bierut and Elena Fini in 2003. Don’t overlook the Rorschachy inkblot detail.

Luna Bella Luna: A Portrait of Vesale, Italy, was a bellissimo Superfine promotion, designed in 1997 by Jamie Koval at VSA Partners. (Lucky loyalists may also remember the companion notepad.) You can savor more recent photographs by Paul Elledge of Vesale at — click on “7” and then “Vesale 2005.” You can savor Jamie Koval’s observations for Felt & Wire about the evolution of VSA Partners right here.

Doris Mitsch Scanning: Doris Mitsch is the photographer’s name; scanning is her process.

Doris Mitsch Scanning presented a collection of photographs by Doris Mitsch, designed by Michael Bierut and Kerrie Powell in 2004. Above, Morning Glory; below, Nautilus. (Read more about Mitsch’s unusual process.) It almost goes without saying that the velvety smooth, saturated black backgrounds speak volumes about the print performance of Superfine — in this case, Eggshell White 100# Text and Cover.

The End is a collection of 100-plus photographs by Rodney Smith. The page measures 16 x 19.5 in, the maximum size that could be bound at the chosen bindery. The paper is Superfine Eggshell 80# Cover. (You can read more about the beginning and the middle of The End right here.)

Photographer Rodney Smith simply says, “Superfine is my favorite paper in the world.”

Printer of The End Kim Blanchette adds: “We know Superfine intimately. It’s just lovely; we have a lot of respect for it. I don’t remember who suggested we use Eggshell finish, but it was the right choice for the images — and for the feel. You can feel the paper.”

We couldn’t have said it more lyrically ourselves.



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Comments (1)

  1. Posted by lee moody on 06.24.11 at 11:36 am

    ~ so many lovely Superfine memories ~ I wish I could change my street to Superfine Street. The Hat Book ~ ahhhh ~ my favorite…I had one and it got “lost” during a presentation which means someone else is just LOVING IT , too.
    Superfine is the perfect paper and the perfect name for a perfect paper…that makes me smile.

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