Print Coatings and Varnishes: What You Need to Know

There are several reasons why print coatings and varnishes are added to packaging. They are used to trap the ink onto the carton to be sure the copy does not get tarnished or rubbed away. Also, they give the packaging a glossy or matte appearance do differentiate the product and create additional marketing value. Adding print coatings to your box is a great way to emphasize specific areas on your packaging that you want to stand out, or to give your packaging an overall smoother feel. They also provide protection for the ink underneath through the harsh handling processes a package can go through. Applying a coating during the printing process also speeds up the drying time of the ink, and therefore, can create a quicker production process. There are four main coatings you can add to your packaging: Varnish, UV Coating, Soft Touch® Coating, and Aqueous Coating.

In simple terms, varnish is a translucent ink that is applied in a thin layer to a surface to give it a shiny or “slick” appearance. Varnish is typically the least costly of all the print coatings. You can either flood or spot coat the varnish to achieve your desired look and feel. Flood coating adds varnish to the entire printed surface, whereas spot coating only applies varnish to the intended areas of your choosing. There are three main finishes of varnish you can apply: Matte, Satin, and Gloss.

Types of Varnish:

  • Matte: Matte varnish is one of the most, if not the most, popular choices when it comes to varnishes. This trend has continued to grow as more brands aim for a natural or “green” look for their packaging. It creates a surface on the package that is soft and smooth, but non-reflective.  Matte varnishes give the overall package design a luxurious organic feel, which is why it is a popular choice for many consumer products.Rigid Slipcase Box with Ribbon
  • Satin: A satin varnish is the middle ground between matte and gloss. It still gives the surface of the package a smooth feel, but with a little bit of added reflectiveness to it. It can be so subtle that you may not even notice it. This is a great option if you don’t want the carton to be particularly matte or gloss. Tuck Top Auto Bottom Folding Carton
  • Gloss: Gloss varnish adds a gleaming and reflective finish to the package surface, especially when it comes into contact with the sun or light. Depending on the lighting, it can be more or less noticeable. It is a great option if you want to highlight a portion of your package and make it stand out due to its reflective nature. Beauty Supply POP Display from PAX Solutions

UV Coating

UV coating uses exposure with ultraviolet light to cure it, which makes it dry instantaneously. It is a thicker consistency and gives a glossier finish than most of the other coatings. UV coatings can be flood coated or spot coated like varnish can, and it can create a unique and artistic design. There is also special equipment that can apply a raised UV coating to give the packaging a cool unique feel and additional marketing value. 

Soft Touch® Coating

Soft Touch® Coating is quickly becoming the most popular of the coatings due to its luxurious nature. The coating is typically flood coated onto the entire design to give it a velvety texture. The result is a silky and smooth feel that is not only fingerprint resistant, but eco-friendly as well. The soft touch coating is very matte in appearance. The soft touch coating and UV coating are often used together because of the contrasting appearance they offer.

Aqueous Coating

Aqueous Coatings, much like its name, are water-based. The coating is typically applied after the ink in a clear protective layer. It is usually flood coated and dries quickly. Aqueous coating is a popular choice as well because of its durability and protection it gives the ink. It is also very environmentally friendly due to the fact that the coating is made up of about 60 – 70% water. 

Your Next Project

Coatings are a great way to add design and protection to your packaging at a relatively inexpensive cost. It is a popular choice by companies who are looking to add a design element or protection to their packaging. You can add just one print coating or create a look with multiple finishes to truly have your packaging stand out. If you would like to add print coatings to your packaging, please contact PAX Solutions to get started.

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