HELP!! My Hidden Message Didn't Appear!

Is the hidden message technology called a pantograph still reliable?

You know we are passionate about security features that protect the authenticity of documents here at SecureGuard. Industries ranging from universities to health care to law enforcement rely on these features to protect their documents and their reputations. But what happens when a security feature fails? A common question our customer service pros hear is, “I made a copy on my photocopier and the hidden message did not appear. What happened?”

That hidden message technology is called a pantograph and it is one of the oldest and most popular security features in our industry. It refers to the method of marking copy-evident and tamper-resistant patterns in the background of a document. Usually invisible to the naked eye, they often spell out an indicator message like “VOID” or “COPY”. When the original document is photocopied, the pantograph or hidden message becomes visible. (See below)

But what if the hidden message doesn’t appear? The pantograph has been around for a long time, giving security experts cause for concern about its reliability. At SecureGuard, we feel it’s one of the least dependable features. Just recently, Micro Format owner and security expert, Aaron Singer, shared his thoughts on the subject of pantographs. He stresses that with new technology comes new risks. Documents may be duplicated on some photocopiers without the hidden message showing up due to new photocopier technology. But this isn’t just an issue we deal with at SecureGuard. Every manufacturer of document security paper has experienced this problem. And with technology continuing to evolve, security paper manufacturers must continue to address the challenges of unreliable hidden message technology.

Even governments around the world know how important layer-upon-layer security is. This is evident in the development of currency. Because of its unreliability, a pantograph is never incorporated into it. While it is one feature that could be used, the only way to truly secure a document is to incorporate tamper-resistant security features from all three of the following categories:

Category One

One or more industry-recognized feature designed to prevent unauthorized copying.

Category Two

One or more industry-recognized feature designed to prevent the erasure or modification of information.

Category Three

One or more industry-recognized feature design to prevent the use of counterfeit forms.

This is why our layer-upon-layer approach to document security is so important. It makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately duplicate a document that contains multiple security features. Layering security features such as color change ink, artificial watermarks and coin-activated inks makes it virtually impossible to accurately duplicate using a standard or color copier, scanner, or digital camera.

If a hidden message doesn’t appear, don’t immediately assume a document is counterfeit. Instead check for additional security features that should have been added to provide another layer of protection to a document. If you have a question about a security feature, need to order security paper or want to learn more about SecureGuard, visit our website at