Friday, 15 November 2013



With a focus on stock, substrate and 'special' print finishes find as many variants as possible for each of the following areas of Design:

- Branding and Identity
- Packaging and Promotion
- Publishing and Editorial
- Information and Way-Finding

Consider production values, scale and functionality in relation to appropriate contexts and target audiences. Evaluate their impact on the design decisions that have been made.

Whatever possible you should aim to collect physical/actual examples of the print as this will help you to evaluate the important tactile, formal and functional elements of your source material. 

Key Words: Coated, Uncoated, Die Cut, Spot Ink, Emboss, Laminate, Duplex Print.

Coated: Coated paper is paper which has been coated by a compound to impart certain qualities to the paper, including weight, surface gloss, smoothness or reduced ink absorbency.

Uncoated: As less inks soak up on coated stocks, less ink is required to gain the same density of the ink color on the sheet compared with the uncoated stock. The images, type and photographs are much sharper on coated stocks.

Coated stocks are not always glossy, and are available in a variety of finishes such as dull, matt or silk finish. 

These finishes are easier on the eye for reading long type passages. Unfortunately the loss of glossiness on the inks is also the result when these stocks are used. 

Often designers will specify a varnish on the pictures to gloss them back up when printed of such dull finished stocks.

Die cutting: is the process of using a die to shear webs of low-strength materials, such as rubberfiberfoilclothpaper,corrugated fiberboardpaperboardplasticspressure-sensitive adhesive tapesfoam and sheet metal. In the metalworkingand leather industries, the process is known as clicking and the machine may be referred to as a clicking machine. When a dinking die or dinking machine is used, the process is known as dinking. Commonly produced items using this process include gasketslabels, corrugated boxes, and envelopes.
Die cutting started as a process of cutting leather for the shoe industry in the mid-19th century. It is now sophisticated enough to cut through just one layer of a laminate, so it is now used on labels, stamps, and other stickers; this type of die cutting is known as kiss cutting.
Die cutting can be done on either flatbed or rotary presses. Rotary die cutting is often done inline with printing. The primary difference between rotary die cutting and flatbed die cutting is that the flatbed is not as fast but the tools are cheaper. This process lends itself to smaller production runs where it is not as easy to absorb the added cost of a rotary die. Patrick O' Neill, Zenith Adhesive Components, Athlone, Ireland

Stickers, shapes and other patterns/type can be cut out of any stock or substrate using die-cutting processes.

In offset printing, a spot color is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run.
The widespread offset-printing process is composed of four spot colors: CyanMagentaYellow, and Key (black) commonly referred to as CMYK. More advanced processes involve the use of six spot colors (hexachromatic process), which add Orange and Green to the process (termed CMYKOG). The two additional spot colors are added to compensate for the ineffective reproduction of faint tints using CMYK colors only. However, offset technicians around the world use the term spot color to mean any color generated by a non-standard offset ink; such as metallicfluorescent, spot varnish, or custom hand-mixed inks.
When making a multi-color print with a spot color process, every spot color needs its own lithographic film. All the areas of the same spot color are printed using the same film, hence, using the same lithographic plate. The dot gain, hence the screen angle and line frequency, of a spot color vary according to its intended purpose. Spot lamination and UV coatings are sometimes referred to as 'spot colors', as they share the characteristics of requiring a separate lithographic film and print run.

Spot Lamination: 

Printing “finishes” such as lamination and Spot UV varnishes are used to increase both the perceived value and quality of a printed item (such as a brochure, folder or data sheet) and also provide ink-protection.
Depending on the desired result and project budget, each of the print finishes has it’s own pros and cons and in any print situation the suitability of a laminate or varnish needs to be considered carefully.
Lamination is the process of using an ultra thin plastic film which can be applied to almost any paper or board and is more commonly used in gloss, silk and matt finishes. A lamination will cover the whole side or sides of a document and cannot be used to cover a specific area alone.
Lamination Pros:

- can be used to enhance the appearance of standard paper boards at relatively low cost and is generally cheaper than a spot uv varnish in most cases
- will make a paper more durable and long lasting and can actually offer some water/grease resistance
- eliminates cracking of ink on creases
- no set up costs
Lamination Cons:

- can only be used to cover a whole side of a document
- matt lamination over a dark colour will show scratches and finger prints, more so than gloss
UV (ultra violet) Varnish is a liquid coating used to ‘mask off’ any area of a design and enhance it (ie. varnishing text, logos or images whilst leaving the remainder of the page unaffected). Unlike a lamination, UV varnishes come in an array of finishes and not only include gloss and matt but also glitter and colour-flip versions as well as many others.
UV Varnish Pros:

- can be used to enhance specific areas such as text, logos or images rather than cover a whole page
- additional substances can be added to varnish to increases its versatility such as glitter
- can be used in conjunction with a laminate and printed over the top to create a more creative and diverse result
UV Varnish Cons:

- if printed over a crease in a document it will crack in the same way ink does
- if printed over text or images will be subject to ‘make ready’ die charges which increases its cost
- due to additional set up required uv varnishing is a longer process than lamination
A neutral Varnish (which is invisible to the eye) may also be used to ‘coat’ or ‘seal’ the ink and can be applied ‘online’ (the varnish is applied directly to the product on the press after the ink has been printed) or ‘offline’ which means it is applied some time after the print process. This is not the same as a Spot UV Varnish will generally cover the whole of a document to prevent ink offset.
Many factors will determine whether a lamination or varnish is used such as budget, usage, and the creative brief and we at Design Inc. are happy to offer advice and expertise for any requirement you might have.

Embossing and debossing are the processes of creating either raised or recessed relief images and designs in paper and other materials. An embossed pattern is raised against the background, while a debossed pattern is sunken into the surface of the material (but might protrude somewhat on the reverse, back side).

Lamination is the technique of manufacturing a material in multiple layers, so that the composite material achieves improved strength, stability, sound insulation, appearance or other properties from the use of differing materials. A laminate is usually permanently assembled by heat, pressure, welding, or adhesives.

Duplex Print:

Duplex Printing is a double sided printing which is carried out using multi purpose printers.

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Branding and Identity:


Embossing can be a costly process depending on what stock or substrate is used for the process. For example, copper plate is expensive compared to mount board (mdf). However embossing leaves a luxurious, rich and expensive feel to the finished product, and adds sophistication and appeal to the design work. It is a process often used for branding and identity (business cards etc). Several more examples are shown below of this process within this field of design.

A pattern has been embossed here, whilst using inked embossing for the type.

A similar technique has been used here for the pattern and the foiled logo which is also embossed.

Branding on coasters for a NYC based bar showing their branding at a personal level interacting with the customer. This has then been embossed and foiled adding a deeper luxury aesthetic.

Uncoated Stock:

Uncoated stock, shown above has been used to create branding and identity for a design studio. I feel a matte finish on stocks can work well and be printed over with different methods for contrast, such as foiling, spot varnish, screen print, metallic inks etc. It is also better for the ink as it doesn't sit on top of the surface of the substrate.

Another example of uncoated stock being used for the branding and identity of a restaurant. Often the type of brief, outcome and print finishes and processes as well as cost all vary on the stock chosen and used.

Coated Stock:

Here shows swatches from the pantone colour books. Above shows the same pantone colour in coated and uncoated format. Coated has a shiny surface often used for magazines, photos etc, whilst uncoated is used more on a daily basis for home printing an digital printing processes such as ink jet or laser print.

Spot Varnishes:

Spot varnishes vary on the type of process being used and the desired outcome. 

Below are various examples of different types of print finishes and varnishes used commonly within branding and identity.

Screen Printing with metallic inks. A gold powder is added to the binder to achieve this finish.

Here, a more home made print finish has been created using red wine and a wine glass. A very unusual yet interesting finish when dry. This works especially well on uncoated stocks, so the wine doesn't sit on top and not dry well.

A UV spot vanish has been used here, to add a shininess to the finish of the coated stock. A UV varnish is hardened when placed under UV light and leaves a very shiny, polished and crisp finish. This is also shown above on red stock opposed to white to show another different print finish and aesthetic. Ideal for detail, patterns, type and tonal elements.

The same process has been used above also to produce full effect spot varnish finishes or with certain elements being highlighted in this way. 

A black spot varnish has been used here to add a high quality intense finish on the type contrasting with the uncoated, matte, black stock chosen for the business cards.

The same process has always been used below for a promotional piece of work for Jamie Cullum. 

Die Cutting:

Die cutting is a similar process to laser cutting, and removes a certain part of a stock or substrate to either show something else, or simply be a cut out feature to add extra detail and design aesthetics.

Die cutting can be used to increase functionality or to purely add aesthetics.

The above die-cuts have been cut to add detail aesthetically and serves no function or additional purpose to the design.

Where as above shows die-cuts showing a colour or pattern behind. This adds aesthetic value but also adds functionality to the design outcome. I really like this process as it can be achieved in different ways, by hand or by laser (cad).


Lamination can be either finished glossy or matte. This depends on the design and purpose. Usually lamination is used to preserve a piece of design or to add aesthetic value. 

Below matte lamination has been used to add aesthetic but not detract from the cleanness of the design. 

Whilst with items such as driving licenses and passports, lamination serves a purpose and has a function to keep the document in tact.

Restaurants and bars often use matte lamination to avoid ruining menus with food, drinks, finger prints etc. This also allows them to be wiped clean without interfering with the stock or inks.

Duplex Print:

Duplex printing is essentially for doubled sided design or documents such as books. This saves paper, time and cost as well as reducing the leaves in a book/other publication and enhances design and layout possibilities.

Packaging and Promotion:


The packaging above has been vacuum sealed, showing the embossed book inside with a title and subtitle. A very interesting and unusual way to show embossing through packaging, without actually embossing the packaging itself. This would be due to printing restrictions  time, cost and overall design aesthetic and finish. 

Inked embossing has been applied to the packaging shown above.

Uncoated, matte stock has been used above to create aged, vintage style packaging.

An uncoated stock, giving a slight shine and a smoother feel has been printed on heavily with black ink to produce a bold envelope design.

Coated Stock:

A coated stock has been used here to wrap up a package, and rather than printing a sticker has been printed using uncoated stock.

Pearlescent, slightly metallic stock has been us for this chocolate wrapping.

A highly metallic stock or plastic substrate has been printed on, mostly likely using screen printing.

Thick, coated stock has been used to hold the liquid contents serving a purpose as well as being ideal to print on.

Print Finishes:

Foiling has been used above and below on the packaging elements.

Foiled and embossed bows on a gift card holder.

A black spot varnish has been added to the geometric shapes to create a different tone and texture to the uncoated stock which has been used primarily.

Die Cutting:

Die cuts for functionality and purpose - to see the food contents.

Die cutting for aesthetics.

Foiling has been applied here to both paper stock, glass and plastic as well as being die-cut to shown the nail varnish colour inside. A similar aesthetic with die-cuts and foil are also shown below.

Publishing and Editorial:


Debossing on a wooden cover. Perhaps laser cut if not debossed.

Embossed and debossed book covers, all using white stock. A very smart and clean finish to a book cover adding elegance.

Die Cut:

Die-cut square showing the title through the cover.

Die cut belly band, adding a title and additional design aesthetics.

Die cuts used again for aesthetic purposes.

Uncoated Stock:

Matte, uncoated stock. Often chosen in publishing due to its cheapness and its qualities and properties for printing. For example a newspaper can be produced to a high quality, very quickly and cheaply, and sold for little profit. Whilst the example of Vogue shown below, shows a high gloss finish stock, which leaves a better quality finish but it very expensive to produce and therefor more expensive to sell.

Coated Stock:

Vogue - comment shown above.

Print Finishes:

Spot varnish has been applied to the title, whilst a stencil has been produced and spray painted to produce the printed pattern on top with a rougher aesthetic. Cheap and easy to produce.

Clear spot varnish to add detail.

Black spot varnish. A good contrast to the thick grey stock used.

Information and Way Finding:

Print Finishes:

Black spot varnish on uncoated stock. The type really stands out and pops off the page.


Die-cutting to show additional aesthetics.

Die cuts to show rooms/buildings on way finding street signs.

Adds 'tear off' functionality, similar to perforating.

Die-cut signs to shown buildings.