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What is varnishing in printing? Everything you need to know

Varnishing refers to the coating with varnish that is applied to certain printed products during or after printing. A varnish is usually added to a piece to improve its appearance or to protect it from scuffs or scratches due to handling or contact with moisture or chemicals. There is a difference between a varnish and an aqueous coating.

Types of varnishes

Gloss varnished.
Lustre varnished

Gloss: Produces a smooth surface; the process usually applies gloss to the entire surface or to specific areas. It creates a contrasting effect while increasing colour depth and detail. But it also results in a reflective surface that can interfere with the readability of text.

Matte varnish on business card.
Matte varnish

Matt: Matt varnish creates a smooth surface and a soft, subtle appearance. As a non-reflective surface, it makes text easier to read. If you are looking for a dynamic effect, it is better to go for gloss. However, various effects are possible with this type of lacquer. And just like UV spot varnish, matt varnish can be applied spot-on with a high level of precision.

Satin coating: Satin varnish, a combination of matt and gloss varnishes, achieves a balance between medium gloss and high wear resistance. The effect of satin varnish allows for a subtle aesthetic. It almost looks as if there is no protective layer on the substrate.

Matte with a knock-out effect: Matt varnishing is a technique in which a matt and a glossy varnish are applied to the same printed surface. A matt varnish is applied first to all areas of a coated sheet, except those where a glossy effect is required.

Selective UV varnishing on business card.
Selective Varnishing

Selective varnishing: In selective varnishing the varnish is applied only on one part of the print. It can be glossy or matt and is used to highlight or emphasise a photo or text, or it can be used as a subtle design element. A spot varnish requires the creation of a special plate for the printer.

It is treated as if it were an additional colour. Spot varnishes can be solid or screen printed; you can have almost as much control over a spot varnish as a spot colour. Some spot varnishes can also be tinted to create an effect.

Aqueous varnish: The most popular varnish for printed material is the one that uses aqueous varnish. Aqueous varnish is a water-based clear coating that is environmentally friendly. Aqueous coating dries faster than varnishes, making it ideal for inline application on press.

Aqueous spot varnish cannot be created, but in certain cases, it can be removed for a mail panel or a square area for writing. Unlike spot varnishes, aqueous varnishes are applied with a blanket and do not use a plate. Aqueous varnish protects the print from scratches, scuffs, fingerprints and dirt, which is useful for mailings and other projects that are handled a lot or need to be run through other machines.

UV varnish on business card.
UV varnish

UV varnish: This type of varnish is cured by passing it under an ultraviolet light which quickly dries and hardens the varnish, creating a super high gloss varnish and offers the highest protection between varnish, aqueous and UV. Varnishing a product with UV will make it look much more professional, as well as making it much more attractive.

Advantages and disadvantages of varnishing

Varnishing increases the perceived quality of the product. In addition, it is an economical and user-friendly process that can be easily applied by adding spot finishes or additional processes to the entire sheet. It can be manipulated to achieve the desired result.

However, it offers a lower degree of protection compared to water-based and UV coating. They are also susceptible to yellowing over time. Varnishes are also not particularly environmentally friendly and need careful application to avoid the emission of toxic compounds into the atmosphere.

When to use varnish on your projects and when not to

Whenever a print project is mailed, it is useful to varnish or coat the piece. Bookmarks, pocket folders, business cards, etc., are examples of products where varnishing is useful.

Depending on the printing project, it may be best to use a selective gloss varnish or a matt varnish.

If our printing project requires someone to write on it with a pencil, pen or marker pen, varnish or coating will not be a good option. Varnishes and coatings cannot be written on.

For this reason, greeting cards, postcards and other projects that need to be handwritten or inkjet printed should not be varnished or coated.

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