The Science of Holography

The Science of Holography

Holography is both beautiful and functional: not only does it add extra sparkle to packaging, gift wrap and labels, it’s also an effective anti-counterfeit measure that ensures consumers  are getting the real thing when they purchase a brand-name product. But how does holography actually work, and how is holographic paper manufactured? 

The origins of holography

Broadly speaking, holography refers to the creation of a light field containing several views of a 3D scene. Specular holography, which involves working on a 2D surface to control the rays it reflects or refracts, has been around in one form or another for a long time: craftsmen practicing the centuries-old art of intaglio printing, in which images are cut into metallic plates, noticed that glints appeared to “float” above the surface in a way that was only visible from certain angles. In the 1930s, researchers started to analyse this effect, which led to the development of the 3D imagery we see today.

* Lava Baby 2 Pattern 490

How does holography work?

Unlike wavefront holograms, i.e photographic recordings of a light scene, specular holograms do not require lazers, photography or wave optics. Specular holography is simply a question of geometric optics: our brains interpret the 3D cues produced by glints on a curved shiny surface as a 3D shape. This is why manipulating a piece of holographic gift wrap decorated with stars under a light source gives the impression that the stars are floating above the paper, while the same paper on a flat surface will appear one-dimensional. 

Kinetic Dots Pattern 523
Kinetic Dots Pattern 523


How we make our holographic paper

Have you ever noticed that your passport has a holographic film laminated over the photo page? It’s not there for decoration. Specular holography has some very practical applications: counterfeiting costs companies billions each year, and can pose very real health and safety risks to consumers. Our HoloSECURE security paper is printed with unique holographic images that are extremely difficult to reproduce and cannot be photocopied. 

To create our HoloSECURE products, we apply our special coating on the plain paper and emboss that coating, creating an uneven surface, and then vaporise it with a microscopically thin layer of aluminium (similarly to the way we create our standard metallized papers). When light hits the resulting surface, the indentations in the paper diffract light… And the result is a holographic image that looks fantastic and is unique to your brand. 

Our design team works with companies to create custom looks that both protect and enhance their brand identity. Get in touch to find out more!