Top 20 Security Printing Methods Explored

Billions of dollars are spent annually to combat the crime of counterfeiting. With the advent of color laser printing creating counterfeit documents became a major security concern. The printing industry has the challenging task of creating counterfeit proof methods for checks, passports, currency, and other financial documents.  An entire print market segment is dedicated to the science of security printing has developed various methods. As new methods are developed to protect currency and other important financial and federal documents the counterfeit market continues to crack the code. Over the years several methods have been employed with increasing success to make counterfeit documents more difficult to create. These methods have tested the boundaries of printing and finishing equipment.  Determining which method to use to secure a document comes down to the determining the likelihood of the item being counterfeit as well as the exposure to loss if the document is falsely created.  In addition to developing complex printing methods and engineered substrates employees working for companies developing these methods are subject to strict background checks and confidentiality agreements. With new methods being developed daily it is impossible to list all of them, however here is a brief summary of the 20 most common methods utilized in document security.
  1. Special Papers – Heavier stock papers utilized for check printing
  2. Watermarks – A watermark is an identifying image or pattern in paper that appears as various shades of lightness/darkness. Watermarks have been used on currency, and other important documents to discourage counterfeiting.
  3. Intaglio Printing –  It is techniques in which the image is incised into a surface and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink.
  4. Geometric Lathe Work -A geometric lathe was used for making ornamental patterns on the plates used in printing bank notes.
  5. Micro-printing – The usage of micro-printing in currency commonly exhibits the highest quality because it demands the highest level of counterfeiting deterrence.
  6. Optical Variable Ink – This ink displays two distinct colors depending on the angle the bill is viewed at. It is an anti-counterfeiting measure used on many major modern banknotes
  7. Holograms – Hologram is an image made from Holography. Holography is a photographic technique that records the light scattered from an object, and then presents it in a way that appears three-dimensional.
  8. Security Thread – It consisting of a thin ribbon that is threaded through the note’s paper. A security thread is a security feature of many banknotes to protect against counterfeiting.
  9. Magnetic Ink – MICR code is a character-recognition technology used mainly by the banking industry to ease the processing and clearance of cheques and other documents.
  10. Serial Numbers – Serial numbers help make legitimate documents easier to track and audit.
  11. Anti Copy Marks – Anti copying marks are the marks or design on the piece of paper which is used to create cheques and bank notes.
  12. Copy Evident  – Copy-evident technologies provide security to hard copy documents by helping distinguish between the original document and the copy.
  13. Prismatic Coloration – By using two or more colors in the background and blending them together a prismatic effect can be created
  14. Halo – By using two or more colors in the background and blending them together a prismatic effect can be created
  15. False Positive Testing -The most common instance is the widely available counterfeit detector marker seen in many banks and stores. Banknotes, being a specially treated substrate, usually behave differently than standard newsprint or other paper and this difference is how counterfeits are detected by the markers.
  16. Fluorescent Dyes – These show up as words, patterns or pictures and may be visible or invisible under normal lighting. This feature is also incorporated into many banknotes and other documents.
  17. Registration Features – This allows the note to be examined for this feature, and provides opportunities to unambiguously align other features of the note to the printing. Again, this is difficult to imitate accurately enough in most print shops.
  18. Electronic Devices – With the advent of RFID, it is possible to insert extremely small RF-active devices into the printed product to enhance document security. This is most apparent in modern biometric passports, where an RFID chip mirrors the printed information.
  19. Thermochromatic Ink – Security ink with a normal “trigger” temperature of 88 °F (31 °C), which will either disappear or change colors when the ink is rubbed, usually by the fingertips.
  20. Latent Images – Pressure-sensitive or hot stamped labels characterized with a normal (gray or colored) appearance. When viewed via a special filter (such as a polarizer) an additional, normally latent, image appears.


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