• Blog, Creative

  • By Lori Stickler

    Print Coatings – The Final Touch

    June 11, 2014 | About a 3 min read

    Blog, Creative

    Print Coatings – The Final Touch

    By Lori Stickler
    June 11, 2014
    About a 3 MIN read


    There are many considerations while designing a printed product (brochure, catalog, poster, direct self mailer, etc.). As an art director begins to build a layout, he/she also needs to envision their expectations of the finished piece. What will the finished product look like and what coating methods are available to assist in accomplishing the greater vision?

    Not only are paper stocks taken into consideration, there are a plethera of them out there, but print coatings and special effect treatments are as well. Print coatings are used to seal-in inks, prevent rub-off, protect against moisture, scuffing, finger prints and scratching. They help to protect and enhance the final printed product. They are a must for any piece being mailed and recommended for any product printed on coated paper that will be handled often. Some of these print coatings can also be used to achieve specific visual effects that can enhance the look or feel of a particular element on a designed piece.

    When should you not use a print coating? Under certain circumstances it may be difficult to write on coated paper – especially glossy coating. Examples: a notecard, greeting card, or pre-printed forms. It’s best to ask your printer for their expertise whenever you are in doubt.

    Print coatings can be applied inline by a printer as part of the printing process or offline after the project leaves the press. All printers can apply varnish, but not all can apply aqueous coating, UV coating or laminates; therefore, sometimes these treatments need to be outsourced.


    • Aqueous Coating is a clear, fast-drying water-based sealant that is used for protection. It deters fingerprints and dirt and is available in matte, dull, satin and gloss. This coating also protects mail pieces as they are handled and is considered a more substantial scuff-resistant product than varnishes and are more evironmentally friendly. Aqueous coatings are typically used to cover the entire press sheet and, although they can be, they are not recommended for spot coverage.
    • Varnish is a clear ink coating that is the most economical and flexible. It is available in matte, dull or gloss and can be applied on the entire press sheet or in select areas. On coated papers, varnish provides a difference of sheen where it is applied. For instance, gloss varnish on a dull coated stock will make the paper look glossy. If it is applied to a specific area, a photograph for example, it provides contrast.
    • UV Coating is a clear liquid spread over paper like ink and cured instantly with an ultraviolet light that hardens the coating. It gives more protection and sheen than aqueous or varnish. It’s available in matte, dull, satin and gloss, although gloss is used most often. UV can be used as a flood or for spot coverage. UV compatible inks must be used on sheets that will be UV coated or else it can crack, due to the thickness of the coating.

    • Laminate is a plastic, waterproof coating. It is slow to apply, and usually the most expensive, but offers the most protection.
    • Soft Touch is a coating that creates a velvety, luxurious texture. The paper feels ‘soft’ to the touch and gives it a tactile feel. It not only feels soft, but also creates a softer look. It is fingerprint resistant, dries fast, doesn’t yellow, and is eco-friendly. Soft touch coating method is becoming very popular.


    There are also other specialty coatings that can be used to create artistic effects.

    • Scratch-0ff
    • Glow in the Dark
    • Glitter
    • Scratch -n–Sniff
    • Raised texture
    • Metalized


    Where – Keep in mind the target audience and type of print vehicle. Does it add value?

    When – Consider and introduce the use of print coatings at concept stage.

    Why – Budget and Timing! Print coatings, especially the specialty options, add cost and longer production times.

    Print coatings are a great way to add character to a printed piece. It’s the final touch – like icing on a cake, chrome on a Harley. It’s perception can make a strong or subtle impact – more or less – distinctive.

    Lori Stickler

    As Production/Account Manager, Lori is the engineer who keeps the gears of the Pathfinders machine moving. She covers a lot of ground – managing print specifications and project costs, balancing deadlines and details, paperwork and proofs, vendor negotiations and internal communications – because she’s a, well, real stickler for details.

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