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Specialty Printing Guide: Varnish, Aqueous, and UV Coatings

Have you ever flipped over a business card and seen smudges of ink on the back? How about having fingerprints all over your glossy pages before the annual report even reaches the board of directors? There's a simple solution for both of these scenarios: using a varnish or a coating.

Varnishes and coatings are not only useful technical additions, though. They also have unique applications that can elevate a project and add a special "something" to an otherwise simple design.


What is Varnish?

Varnish is a coating that creates a protective layer on your print job. It is basically a clear ink that is printed over the color impressions. There are two basic types of varnishes that can be used—either by themselves or in combination—to enhance your final product. Either of these would be a good choice to help increase the strength of your paper stock.

Gloss varnish is smooth and can increase the depth of color and highlight details in your job. On the other hand, the resulting reflectivity could interfere when someone is trying to read text. Matte (or Satin) varnish also creates a smooth surface but is more subtle in appearance. It's easier to read text with a matte varnish.

One of the benefits of using varnish comes from its technical application. Since varnish is applied with a printing plate (just like an ink), you can varnish some parts of your project and not others. This can lead to some interesting effects, like printing matte varnish everywhere except key areas you'd like to highlight. You can then overprint with gloss varnish or aqueous coating to make those key areas pop!

Varnish is a cost-effective choice of coating and there are many possibilities with its application. You can even use reticulating varnish to create a textured finish to your job. It should be noted, however, that varnish is the least protective of your coating options. It is also prone to yellowing over a long period of time, so if you're looking for a project to hold up year over year, another option would serve you better.


What is Aqueous Coating?

Aqueous coating is a clear, fast-drying, water-based coating that is used to protect printed pieces. Because it is water-based, aqueous coating is more environmentally friendly than varnish or UV coatings. Unlike varnishes, however, they are "flood coatings," called that because they are not printed with a plate. Instead, they are applied to the entire surface of the sheet.

The business card problem mentioned earlier is called marking, and it looks sloppy. This happens when a job is compressed (by a cutter or other piece of machinery) when the ink is still wet. Most jobs take a couple of days to dry naturally, but some ink formulations can take a week or more if they’re just sitting. The issue of fingerprints can be solved with a coating, too. Soft Touch is a coating that gives a luxurious, soft feel and is highly fingerprint-resistant. Aside from the fingerprints, aqueous coating protects pieces that will be run through postal machines or other processes where scuffing could be an issue.


What is UV Coating?

UV (ultraviolet) coating is another flood coating that creates a very glossy finish (although a satin or dull UV finish is also available). It's named for the curing process, which uses ultraviolet light to harden the liquid. UV coating is dramatic and quickly recognizable once you know what you're looking for!

Besides its very high-shine finish, UV coating enhances deep colors like deep blues and black, making it almost appear wet. It is also the most protective option of the coatings and is therefore often used for postcards and other direct mail jobs. It's an environmentally-friendly option since there are no VOCs and it cures instantly, so there's no wait time for your project to finish drying.

UV coating does have its drawbacks though. It's not a good option for use with metallic inks because the metal can flake away. You should also be careful when using a flood UV coating on thinner paper stocks. It's difficult to write, glue, print, or stamp over a traditional UV coating, but we offer a writeable/stampable UV coating option. Keep these things in mind during the design stage and let your printer know.


 Interested in more specialty printing techniques or need help with your next project? Contact your Vomela rep to get started.

Aug 31, 2022 |

Topics: News, Events & Exhibits, Retail, dye sublimation

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