A Basic Guide to Carbonless Paper Forms

What is Carbonless Paper?

A lot of veteran printers do enough carbonless business that they have the product information down pat. But even those printers still call us with questions from time to time. Other businesses, especially new printers, have never dealt with carbonless before and they don’t know everything they need to know about the product. If your customers are asking about carbonless and you need to brush up, here is a quick guide. In this blog post, we’ll offer you information on the different types of carbonless paper forms, why you should be selling carbonless paper to your customers, the most common end-uses for carbonless paper, how carbonless paper forms work, and where to buy carbonless.

Carbonless Paper Basics

Carbonless paper, sometimes called “No Carbon Required” (NCR) paper, comes in many formats, depending on the number of copies you need. Carbonless paper uses standard colors and quickly indicates which papers are coated on the back (CB), coated on the front (CF), and coated both back and front (CFB). Most of the time carbonless is sold “pre-collated”, meaning the different sheets that make up a carbonless set are already sequenced in proper order.

For example:

2-Part Carbonless Paper

2-Part carbonless paper has only two sheets. The top sheet is coated only on the back (CB) and the second sheet is coated only on the front (CF). It’s perfect for forms that only need a single copy, such as a sales receipt or an invoice. 2-Part carbonless paper comes pre-collated with a white top sheet and a yellow bottom sheet. 

3-Part Carbonless Paper

The 3-Part carbonless paper has three pages. The white top sheet is coated only on the back. A canary middle sheet has both a front coat and a baThe ck coat, and the pink bottom sheet only has a front coat. You would use 3-part carbonless paper to make two copies of a form. 

4-Part and up 

You’ve probably guessed it. 4-part, 5-part, 6-part carbonless paper each has 4-6 sheets. The top white paper has a back coat only, and the two middle sheets have both a front coat and a back coat. The middle paper is usually canary or pink. You get three copies of the original form with 4-part carbonless paper. 

Single Sheet Carbonless 

Single-sheet carbonless paper is also an option for your customers. This product makes it possible for the customer to create their color schemes. For example, the standard collations always start with white on top. So, if a customer wants a blue sheet on top, you can only accomplish this by buying a blue CB single-sheet product. Single sheets are available in white, canary, pink, goldenrod, blue, and green. 

Why sell carbonless?

It’s a big market. There are a lot of industries, and it can lead to more business. It’s also a profitable product. Once the original artwork is done, it’s an easy project to load each time. Printers who run nothing but carbonless say that it’s an easy print job for them to do repeat orders. If you’ve got it on hand and can provide good customer service, you’ll likely keep your carbonless customers long-term. When your customers need to reorder, and they will, it will be from you.

Carbonless paper is also a vast improvement on the old-school carbon copy forms. In the past, you needed a sheet of carbon paper between two sheets of paper to make a copy. When you wrote on the top page, the carbon sheet transferred the writing to the page underneath it. Carbon paper was messy, and users ended up with black all over their hands. Plus, it was inaccurate, since the sheet could slide around under the top page. That’s why NCR paper is the way to go.

Uses for Carbonless Paper Forms

Businesses use carbonless paper forms all the time. But as the computer became more common, carbonless forms, like all paper, became less so. That’s been hard on custom carbonless forms printers, especially ones that have been around for a long time. Instead of dwelling on what’s lost, we can look to the future. There are still plenty of industries that need carbonless forms. Any industry that needs to make a copy of a form in the field will want a custom form. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of how these industries use custom carbonless forms:

  • Inspection reports
  • Bill of lading
  • Sales receipts
  • Invoices
  • Tickets
  • Police citations
  • Purchase orders
  • Work orders
  • Records forms
  • Medical forms
  • Job applications
  • Recording messages

There are SO many ways that businesses still use these forms, so you can focus your effort on finding new clients in industries that still use them. 

How do carbonless paper forms work?

Carbonless paper is coated with special chemicals in tiny capsules that make it able to make copies without a sheet of carbon paper. There are two coats, a back coat, and a front coat. The back coat contains microcapsules of ink that react when someone presses or writes on it. When there is pressure on the page, the ink capsules burst to mark the page below. These capsules are very small, so they create an accurate representation of the writing done on the top sheet. The front coat is made out of a reactive clay layer which reacts with the ink to create that permanent mark.

Reverse Collation vs Straight (or Forward) Collation

This is where the most vexing and common mistakes happen because finding and using the right collated sequence can be quite confusing. 

Whether your carbonless is pre-collated (sequenced in advance) or in single sheets that will need collation, you need to make sure your final collation is correct. “Reverse” pre-collation is the most common. It simply means that the sheets are pre-collated in reverse order.

For example, a 3-part Reverse comes as Pink / Canary / White. So, furthering this example, when a copier or printer pulls each sheet through, it will take the pink sheet first and lay it down after printing, then print the Canary to place on top of the Pink, then lastly print the White top sheet and place on top the Pink. The White sheet sits on top now and the White / Canary / Pink set is complete and is ready to perform the magical image transferring unique to carbonless paper. 

That’s easy, right?

Similarly, a Straight (or sometimes called Forward) pre-collation will print a 3-part carbonless set by pulling the White sheet first and setting it face down after printing, then the printer pulls the Canary next and then the Pink last. Each one is laid face down. So, when a set is printed, the collation still has the set ordered White, Canary, Pink. The image transfer will now work. 

Always test your printer to see if you need Reverse or Straight collation before ordering! Unless you want to spend hours re-collating, it is imperative that you know which collation your printer needs to make the job simple and painless. 

A word of caution: 1) be careful to keep your sheets in exact order and 2) do not flip them over. The chemical coatings (notated by CB, CFB, and CF) are specifically arranged and must stay that way for the image transfer to work. A complete set of 2 part carbonless must have a CB (coated back) top sheet that meets a CF (coated front) bottom sheet so that when pressure is applied from a pen, the coatings work together to leave an image on the CF. A 3, 4, 5, or 6-part set will need to have CFB sheets in between the CB top sheet and CF bottom sheet to fill out the set with the required number of sheets. These sheets, although they are coated on the front and back (CFB), must also not be flipped over because the coating is different on the front than on the back of these sheets.

Where to buy carbonless paper?

We’re pretty biased, but we think we’re the best in the biz. We don’t hide behind a website or leave you hanging without support. Pick up the phone and one of our Sales Reps will be happy to assist you.

More importantly, our carbonless paper is high quality, and we can get you the best deal with free freight and no minimums. It runs smoothly through ANY printer and prints in a smooth, collated fashion, so you won’t have to throw away sets from paper jams or crumpled sheets. Our wholesale carbonless paper will help you make quality custom business forms in a competitive price range.

Wherever you get your paper, you’ll want it to be quality.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • Runs smoothly through ANY printer 
  • Easy image transfer
  • Top quality feel
  • Arrives in good condition

You know what people tell us? “If the quality of the paper is good, I’m just looking at the prices.” We have top-quality paper at great prices. 


Call us today 1-800-752-2339


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