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Everything you need to know about NCRs

Office desk, forms, calculator, laptop, ncr forms

What is an NCR?

NCR stands for No Carbon Required. An NCR is a more recent, and much cleaner version of the old carbon copy sheets used to make duplicates of hand written forms as they do not require the loose carbon sheets in order to create the duplicate.

How do they work?

The front of each of the duplicate sheets is coated in a chemical which contains a very fine layer of clay particles, and the back of all the sheets is coated with a very fine layer of ink particles. When the top copy is written on, the duplicate sheets are compressed, and the layer of clay chemical reacts to attract the ink from the surface above, becoming darker where the pen indents the paper.

What is an NCR comprised of?

Each “NCR set” is made of a printed top sheet (usually white), and then a specified number of printed copy sheets (usually yellow, pink, blue and green) which are used to make the copies. Sets may be duplicate (top+1), triplicate (top+2) or quadruplicate (top+3). The sheets within each set are printed identically on the front thoughout; usually some sort of form which will be populated with hand written information. The backs of each sheet may also be printed. This is a usual place for terms and conditions or general information which needs to be shared.

How are NCR sets presented?

NCRs can be compiled in a number of different ways, depending on how they are to be used.


A top sheet and duplicate sheets glued together along one edge.

This is usually the cheapest production option. Because each of the sets is loose, they are potentially more fragile. However, the advantage is that the sets can be shared out more easily between users. Loose sets are good in an office setting where there is a desk to lean against when writing, and the duplicate sheet can be safely stored in a client folder or filing cabinet shortly after the form has been filled in.


Many sets are glued together along one edge to form a pad with a sturdy cardboard back. Pads are usually made up of 50 sets, but this can vary. Pads are less fragile than individual sets, and do provide some writing support, however they must be used with a writing shield (usually a piece of thick cardboard) in order to protect subsequent copies from becoming marked.


Many sets stitched and bound along one edge to form a book with a sturdy cardboard back. Books are usually made of 50 sets, but this can vary. Books are the most robust presentation of NCR sets and are best when they are required away from an office setting. The remaining copy is kept within the book, and if the pages are perforated a stub can be kept as a further receipt once the copy has been handed over to whomever requires it. Subequent copies should be protected using a writing shield.

What options are available to make NCRs easier to use?


Sequential numbering can be done in one or more places on the form. This makes life much easier when there is more than one user. The numbering is stamped in a separate process to the main printing and will appear on the top sheet and all copy sheets. Figures can start at any number and can also be preceeded by letters if required.

Drilling (hole punching)

This is especially useful for sheets which are to be kept in ring binders. It also means that you can store the current pad or unused sets in a ring binder too.


Great for tear-off strips, and in books where stubs are required. Remember if you have sequential numbering in place, it is best to make sure that the numbering is placed on both sides of the perforation. This will avoid any confustion resulting from mis-copying a sequential number.

Double sided printing

Useful when your form is used as a contract or purchase order, so you can include all terms and conditions.

Coloured printing

NCRs are printed in black as standard, however it is not uncommon to print using a pantone colour. This usually costs extra (although some colours, such as reflex blue are pretty much standard too). It is sometimes possible to offer full colour process print on the top NCR sheet, however this is very costly and it is doubtful if it would bring any added value.


NCRs are available in a selection of standard sizes, and for a cost, can be made to a bespoke size if required. A6, A5 and A4 are the most common sizes. The size you choose will depend on the function of the document, the amount of information which needs to be gathered, and the size of the copy storage receptacle.

What to include on your NCR


NCRs are most commonly used for forms – this might be an order form, a contract, a delivery docket, a collection docket or a receipt of payment. There are standard form layouts for these types of document, however you may require certain specific pieces of information to be collected, in which case it will be necessary to create your own layout.

When doing this, it is important to give thought to the amount of information which will be collected. Make sure there is sufficient space for all sorts of handwriting styles (sufficient line height). Where possible, make sure your form is preprinted to guide the user when completing it. Price fields can include £ and a decimal point. Character boxes can help keep figures tidy and aligned. Prompts and example text can be printed faintly within the form fields to help with form completion, however, care should be taken to not make the sample text too bold/visible when printed so it does not compete with any hand-written information.


Including your logo will give a professional look to your document, and will help to reassure new and potential clients.  You should remember that logos will be printed in a single colour. Shades will be created using a “halftone” method. That is to say, dot density. Darker colours will be represented using a more dense distribution of larger dots, while lighter colours will be represented by more sparse small dots. Smaller details and text in lighter colours will be harder to see/read. If you are in any doubt you should use a version of your logo in black and white only.

Official information

Add all relevant contact information. If your document is pertinent to a specific branch or department within your organisation, make sure that the contact details for that department is included too. If your document is to be used as a contract, you should also include your registered company number and registered address, along with any VAT info.

Terms and conditions

Include all terms which may be relevant to the transaction which is being recorded.

What format to provide for a printed NCR form?

You can create simple and effective NCR layouts using most readily available desktop publishing software, such as Word, Excel or publisher. Prior to adding your information, you should set your document page size to the desired printed page size. This will give you a realistic impression of font sizes and text field size and avoid any mishaps. You should save your document as a print ready pdf file, with crop marks.

We have many years’ experience of designing NCR layouts and will be happy to advise, or to create your bespoke layout if required. Contact us for more information.



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am:pm graphics is a graphic design partnership based in Buxton, Derbyshire. We offer a range of quality, affordable graphic design solutions for print and web, helping our customers achieve a consistent professional identity across a variety of media.

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