Letterhead "header" repeating down page when printing
January 22, 2021 1:57 PM   Subscribe

So, I got an amazing Brother black and white multipurpose laser printer, and as predicted, am so very happy with it! Except for one problem: I had some letterhead printed my local copy-print shop on decent quality paper, and when I run it through my printer, somehow the printer is lifting the ink of the logo and "repeating" the pattern twice more on down the page. Have you ever encountered this?

More details: The logo itself looks fine after being run through, the problem is that there is a shadowy version of my logo repeating twice in every letter I send (and though some may not realize that this is an error, I fear it makes me seem self-obsessed).

I called my local copy-print shop to ask about it, and they tried to help by Googling the issue and suggesting that I change the print settings to "thicker paper." I tried that, and tried toggling a bunch of other settings, like changing the mode from "graphics" to "text," and "regular" to "save toner mode," with no luck or apparent difference.

Would love any leads or ideas on how to deal with this.
posted by dreamphone to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the printer also do double-sided printing? sounds like the toner of your logo is being heated up and transferred again via the drum/rollers. The thicker paper advice would be to reduce the pressure, but that may not really be the problem. I haven't had to troubleshoot laser printer (big commercial types) issues in about 20 years, but I don't think the technology has changed that much. It uses heat and electrostatic magic to adhere the toner to the page. If it is doing that to BLANK pages, you have toner stuck to your drum.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:12 PM on January 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Seconding th3ph17, whatever ink is in that logo is being remelted and picked up by the fuser. The "thicker paper" option might be an attempt to lessen the heat or physically move the drum further away from the paper.

If the logo is small enough, can you try covering it up with a post-it note before running it through the printer?
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the great question - it is NOT doing it on blank pages, only when I run the letterhead through. Intrigued by the low-tech suggestion of putting removeable tape over the logo...I am a little afraid it may get stuck inside and jam the printer, but still open to the idea. I have some easily-removeable tape that may be just the thing.
posted by dreamphone at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2021

Maybe try making the paper path as straight as possible, in order to reduce the number of rollers in contact with the paper? On my printer that means using the front "manual" feed and also opening the back.
posted by meowzilla at 2:29 PM on January 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The problem can be reduced but not eliminated with your existing printer and letterhead stock. Laser printer toner is good for one print pass but the second doesn’t work due to the re-melting problem described above.

You could get a new batch of letterhead printed using a different process like offset ink or inkjet. You could ask for a sample and run it through the Brother before ordering a bunch.

If you invested a lot in the letterhead try an inkjet printer to use up the existing stock. Inkjets are sometimes sold very cheap as loss-leaders and profits are made on expensive ink refills. You could use the printer on original ink to go through this batch of letterhead and then give it away.

However if the letterhead was printed on high quality laser printer friendly paper it might be liquid resistant so, the inkjet dots may splatter or smear... so also good to do a test.

Sorry to say there are no perfect options here.
posted by sol at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I realize that this is a bunch of extra steps, but what about converting your text to PDF, rotating 180°, and then feeding the paper upside down so the logo goes through last?
posted by teremala at 4:55 PM on January 22, 2021 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks sol — though unexpressed, part of my question was definitely how to do the letterhead differently next time. So that’s super helpful. And telemara, love the solution - this is definitely an option for using the remainder of the letterhead. Your idea did not occur to me and will definitely solve the issue at hand.
posted by dreamphone at 5:17 PM on January 22, 2021

> rotating 180°, and then feeding the paper upside down so the logo goes through last?

Just a note that the logo might then appear on the next sheet to go through the printer. You could address this by sending through a blank page as the next page, so that the "copies" of the letterhead would be printed on this blank sheet instead of the second page of your letter.

The fuser is a little cylinder that rotates. I gets very, very hot in order to melt the toner into your paper. So it is melting your letterhead, some of that printing transfers to the fuser, and then every time the fuser comes around again it leaves another copy of t he letterhead there until all of that ink is depleted.

So basically, whatever comes through the printer next after the letterhead is going to get a copy of the logo printed on it.

I like the idea of just covering up the logo with a post-it note. There is a very high probability that will just go through the printer no problem at all. Put the sticky side of the post-it towards whichever end of the paper goes through the printer first, and use the straightest available paper path.
posted by flug at 6:38 PM on January 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd get some very fine sandpaper and do a few passes over the logo to take off any extra ink. Wipe it off good and see if it stops it being picked up by the fuser drum.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh the reasoning behind that is that IIRC laser printing works thusly... the paper passes through a strong electric charge thingy that gives it small bits that have a static electric charge. Then they pass under a roller that has toner stuck to it also by static electric charge but the charge on the paper is stronger and therefore pulls the toner off the drum and it sticks to the paper in the shape of letters or whatever. Then it goes under the heater drum which melts the toner into the paper.

Question: Why does the letter head toner get re-melted and stuck to the drum when the new raw toner stuck to the paper gets melted and doesn't stick to the drum.

Try printing your own letterhead like page and re-running that through your printer and see if that gets copied the same as your purchased letterhead. That will at least narrow things down.

But yeah, it's basically re-melting the letterhead except that the letter head is sticking to the fuser drum while probably the toner you're using doesn't stick to the fuser drum.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:13 PM on January 22, 2021

Former copier/printer tech and print shop operator here. It sounds like when your letterhead was produced, they printed it on a digital dry-toner (laser) machine, not an ink offset printer. Many formulations of color toners for high-speed commercial digital presses are designed to melt at a lower temperature than the toners for smaller, slower home and office printers. There are limits to heat (before paper discolors or chars) and pressure (before paper jams), so as speed in pages per minute goes up, in order to achieve reliable toner fusing, many manufacturers have turned to toners with a lower melt point.

When you run your pre-printed letterhead through your printer, the combination of a fusing temperature at or above the melt point of the toner on your pre-printed letterhead, plus a likely slower transit speed, is partially melting the image from your letterhead, which is sticking to the rollers in the fuser, and then being transferred as a "ghost" image farther down your page. You'll likely see this as progressively fainter images down the page, repeating at an interval that is equal to the circumference of the affected roller.

Choosing the "thick" or "cardstock" paper option for your printer probably makes this issue worse, as on most printers this setting will raise the fusing temperature and/or slow engine speed to achieve reliable fusing on heavier/thicker stocks, but for the reasons above this will only make your ghosting problem worse. If your printer has a setting for thin paper, onionskin, vellum, etc. that may help, as on some printers this will reduce fuser temperature somewhat, but this can only go so low and still achieve good results with your printer's own toner.

Ultimately, the way to reliably salvage your supply of letterhead is to use a printer that does not use a heated fuser. A cheap inkjet printer, or an HP Pagewide if you want something faster. As for the future, if you want to use pre-printed letterhead, make sure it is produced on an ink-based offset press, not a toner-based digital press. Even this can cause problems down the road, though, because most offset shops will add setting powder to their runs, a fine powder that aids in ink drying and helps keep printed sheets from sticking together. This powder can quickly contaminate and clog up the feed rollers in your printer, especially if the shop is heavy-handed with its application.

For customers with color laser printers (or office color copiers) doing a lot of letterhead, my usual suggestion was to create a template with their letterhead (say, in Word), and just incorporate that into their print jobs. The page is done in one shot, letterhead and contents all in one go. I suggest this for a couple reasons. One, the issue you're experiencing, and two, especially with letterhead produced in a digital press, the sheets have already gone through a hot fuser once. Depending on how they are packaged and stored between that first printing and your final use, the sheets will have a tendency to wick moisture from the atmosphere, and acquire a curl along the paper grain. This results in wavy sheets, particularly on a second run through a fuser like you are doing.

As for how to handle this letterhead digitally, most programs will allow you to set template options for first and following pages (say, if you only want the letterhead design to be on page one). Some printers also have a mode that they may call "watermark" or "image stamping" that achieves a similar result via the print driver; basically you upload an image of just your letterhead, and then the print driver combines this with your contents on the fly, and produces your letter on letterhead as it prints.
posted by xedrik at 10:02 PM on January 22, 2021 [15 favorites]

The problem is your logo's ink is sticking to your laser's "fuser" element.

I've heard the OPPOSITE advice... try THINNER paper setting so the fuser temp is LOWER and thus less likely to lift the ink off your letterhead logo.

The most low-tech solution is to cut a piece of regular letter head paper and scotch tape it to cover the logo and letter head. Make it slightly less than the page width so your tape doesn't go over the page of your letterhead. As long as they don't go near the traction rollers to pull the paper in they should not jam.

I believe the best solution in the future is to eliminate the letterhead... Digitize it, and print it from the laser itself on blank paper. Or ask your letterhead to be "offset printed with wax-free ink" so it is laser compatible. That way, the ink is fused into the paper, and can't be lifted off like that.
posted by kschang at 2:08 AM on January 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Does ironing the logo first help?
posted by flimflam at 9:21 AM on January 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Folks, you are all truly amazing. Thank you so much for the info and problem-solving. The short-term solutions are creative and brilliant, and you've given me such good leads to be sure that I get what I need for the next go-round.
posted by dreamphone at 2:11 PM on January 23, 2021

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