Monday, 14 October 2013


"Print finishing encompasses a wide range of processes that can provide the final touches to a design once the substrate has been printed. These processes include die cutting, embossing, debossing, foil blocking, varnishing etc, and can transform an ordinary looking piece into something much more arresting" - Design Basics, Print and Finish, P.67.

Finishing processes are usually for aesthetic purposes opposed to having a purpose/functionality. However in some cases such as die cutting, it alters the physical product, perhaps changing its shape or providing an aperture through which other parts of the publication can be viewed. 

However, the so called 'finishing' techniques shouldn't be considered as an afterthought and should be integrated into the design process, for aesthetic or functional reasons.  

Below is a list of different finishing techniques which can be applied to a substrate within a piece of work to enhance design elements/functions.


A colourless coating that is usually applied to a printed piece to protect the substrate from damage. It can also be used to enhance the visual aesthetic of a design/elements. 

Varnish comes in 3 main finishes - gloss, dull and satin. UV Varnish is also known to be used to add extra decorative touches.

Varnish increases colour absorption and speeds up the drying time, whilst preventing the ink rubbing off when the substrate is handled.

They can be applied in-line or 'wet'.

A 'wet' varnish is when it is treated as an additional colour during the printing process. Both the ink and the varnish dry at the same time meaning a slightly less glossy finish is left.

In-line varnish is applied when the ink is dried, therefore being absorbed less by the stock. 

Varnishes work better on coated stocks because less varnish is absorbed.

Types of Varnish:

Gloss: A gloss varnish reflects light and is frequently used to enhance the appearance of photographs or graphic elements, such as type. It adds sharpness and saturation to images.

Matte: A duller finish. Typically used with text-heavy pages to diffuse light and reduce glare to increase readability. It gives a non-glossy, yet smooth finish and feel to the page.

Satin (Silk): A satin varnish is the middle option between gloss/matte. Provides some highlight, but not as flat overall as the matte varnish.

Neutral: Machine sealing is the application of a basic, almost invisible coating sealing the printing ink with affecting the appearance. Often used in fast turn-around jobs such as leaflets, on matte or satin papers (ink dries more slowly).

UV Varnish: A clear liquid applied like ink and cured instantly with UV light. Gives either a matte or gloss coating depending on the outcome desired. Gives more shine than a varnish and is normally used as a spot gloss/varnish.

Full-bleed UV: The most common type of UV coating due to it's very high gloss finish.

Spot UV: This varnish when applied it highlights areas of printed design. This is visually and by leaving a different texture on the stock. This effect is maximised when applied over matte-laminated printing.

Textured Spot UV: Textures can be added to provide tactile qualities. Examples of textured spot varnishes are, leather, sandpaper, crocodile skin and raised.

Pearlescent: A varnish that subtly reflects myriad colours to give a luxurious and 'rich' aesthetic/feeling. 


Die Cutting is a process that uses a steel die to cut away a specified section of a design. It is mainly used for decorative purposes and to enhance the visual performance of a piece. In addition to changing the shape of a design, a die cut can serve function such as creating an aperture that allows the reader to see inside or even through a publication.

Embossing and Debossing:

An emboss or deboss is a design that is stamped into a substrate with ink or foil, which leaves a 3D, raised, decorative or textured surface giving emphasis to certain elements of design, usually type or detail. 

A paper stock with a thicker calliper holds an emboss, or deboss better than thinner stocks.



Foil Blocking:

This is a process in which coloured foil is pressed on to a substrate using a heated die. This causes the foil to separate from its paper backing. The foil contains dry pigments which is how the colour remains on the stock.

Also known as; Foil Stamping, Heat Stamp, Hot Stamp, Block Print and Foil Emboss.