A Brief Guide to Printing Finishing Options

A man smiling at his printed work

When it comes to print finishing, there are countless options to choose from laminate to varnish to glow-in-the-dark! Print finishes, which are also known as post-print effects, are often used to add the final touches to your prints to make them more aesthetically-pleasing. Whether you’re printing business cards, flyers, or invitations, these effects are sure to make them stand out.

Choosing a printing finish is one of the best ways to make an impression with your print products. The world of print marketing is competitive, but printing finishes will help you expand your reach and catch the eye of your audience. With the amount of printing finishes available, picking the right one can be tricky. That’s why we created this brief guide of the most widely-used printing finishes to help you choose what best suits your brand and product.

1. Lamination

One of the best ways to protect and preserve your prints is through lamination. This process adds a very thin protective layer to your prints, making them water and tear resistant. Laminate can come in either a glossy or matte finish. This method also makes the images on your prints look sharper, therefore this technique is popularly-used for business cards. You could also laminate any photos or posters that you might want to hang on the walls without the worry of them fading from sun exposure.

2. Embossing

Opt for an embossing finish to add a three-dimensional effect to your printing finishes. Embossing creates a raised impression on your paper material. This is created with the use of a metal plate and counter. Whether you decide to emboss text or images on paper, this type of finish adds emphasis to the details that you would most like to stand out. This small textured detail also adds a touch of elegance to your prints. Try this technique out on your business’ logo or even on the next greeting card you send out. Being able to feel the letters or images on a print adds more sensory depth for the client or customer.

A letterpress for debossing prints

3. Debossing

This type of finish is the opposite of embossing. Instead of giving text or images a raised appearance, debossing creates a depressed effect. This technique is also referred to as “letterpress” and is one of the oldest known printing finish techniques. Letterpress has been around since the 1400s. For hundreds of years, this was used as the main method of publishing books. Today, it is commonly used for company logos, however, if you’re going for a vintage look and feel, choose to deboss your business cards or invitations.

4. Die Cutting

If you like the look of rounded corners, this is the type of printing finish you need. Die cutting comes in many shapes and forms and is generally used to create custom shapes and designs for labels. This method works much like a pastry-cutter does by cutting out shapes from paper. Die cutting can be relatively costly especially if you want a custom design instead of standard, however, the pleasing visuals that this technique can provide is worth having your own unique print.

5. Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is a printing finish process that uses laser beam technology to cut out shapes on paper. With the accuracy that the precision beam provides, you can use this technique to add any shape possible to your material. This method is popularly used for that “pop-up” or ”lace” card effect. This is one of the more creative options (aside from die cutting) because of the intricate cuts that it can do. This is one of the best options if you are creating personalized cake toppers or even fancy birthday banners. Use this to give your print products that razor-sharp look.

6. Foiling

To make text or images look extra luxurious, use the foiling method for your print finishes. Applying metallics or a coloured foil to your material is one of the easiest ways to highlight important details. This technique can be done in two ways: foil stamping or foil fusing. Foil stamping requires a die and is usually used for more complex projects. Foil fusing is a digital process that’s used for simpler projects. Some great ways to incorporate foiling to your printing finishes are creating intricate backgrounds on invitation cards, lettering and graphic elements.

Foiling on a Canadian passport

7. Pearlescent and Iridescent Inks

All the colours of the rainbow can be replicated using pearlescent and iridescent inks in the printing process. When you add this type of effect to your print finishes, you’ll see an array of colours when you view the finished product from different angles and lighting conditions. It’s a great option if you want to add an artistic pop of colour to your prints.

8. Holographic Foils

Another popular technique for your printing finishes is holographic foiling. Glam up your greeting cards with this fun look or create futuristic-themed birthday cards with holographic art. The ways you can use this style are endless, who doesn’t love a little shine?

9. Spot UV

Spot UV is also one of the best ways out there to emphasize specific features on your prints. UV coating is a tough, clear coat that’s applied to printed pieces after the printing process. It’s applied as a liquid and then hardens when exposed to UV light. Choose from glossy, matte, and even glitter varnish overlays for some extra depth and contrast. This printing finish works especially well for business logos and brochures.

10. Varnishes

Varnishes are most commonly used for brochures and magazines. Just like how wood is often treated with varnish for a modern, sleek look, this method also gives paper a smooth finish. What’s great about this technique is that it doesn’t add extra weight to your material and keeps smudges, fingerprints, and scratches off your finished product. There are multiple types of varnish finishes to choose from including:

  • Gloss varnish: This is a type of varnish that reflects light. Because of its ability to make photos more bright and vivid, it is most commonly used in brochures and flyers.
  • Matte varnish: This is a smooth and non-glossy type of finish. This is commonly used to soften the appearance of images.
  • Silk varnish: Silk varnish is in between matte and gloss.
  • Machine sealing: Machine sealing does not make any visible difference to print products. Its main use is to seal the ink with a protective layer.

11. Folding

The folding technique allows you to make better use of just one piece of paper. Businesses can use this printing finish to create brochures that tell a consumer about their brand, products/services, contact information, and more. These printing finishes are marketing tactics you should consider to tell your brand’s story. There are multiple types of folds that you can choose from like half-fold, tri-fold, and gate folds.

Edge painting with red splatters on a dictionary

12. dge Painting

Don’t forget that the edges of your prints are an opportunity for beautiful print finishes! With this style, you can literally make your prints have an ‘edge’ over the others. This involves adding a layer of paint or ink to the edge of your materials. An effect like this requires the use of a sprayer or brayer and is done as the last step after the product has been printed. Any Pantone colour can be achieved with this process, even metallics and foils. You’ve likely seen this technique on books or journals, but this can be used on business or invitation cards as well. It’s a great way to add a bold pop of colour to your design!

13. Glow-In-The-Dark

For a fun element of surprise on themed invitations, use a glow-in-the-dark printing finish. Also known as phosphorescent or fluorescence, this method uses light sensitive elements that absorb light energy and then re-emit it as its own light source. This gives the appearance of glowing in a dark room.

14. Fragranced Ink

If you are in the beauty industry (or just like things that smell good), fragranced ink is one of the most personalized printing finishes to use in your brochures, business cards, or magazines. This extra touch is how you make a fragrant first impression. Nothing attracts consumers more than something that evokes emotion and tingles their senses.

Best in Class Printers

Before you can apply any type of print finishes, you’ll first need to equip yourself with a printer that can keep up with your every day business demands and workflow. At Busys.ca, this is our specialty. Give us a call today for a consultation to help us better understand your business needs.

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