A Guide to Print Finishing Varnishes for Marketers

Print finishing is the term given to any process that takes place after a design has been printed. This includes die cutting, lamination, folding, binding, bending, gluing, varnishing and assembly. While the print finishing for small jobs can often be handled in-house (e.g. folding 50 prints or constructing a flat-pack box), larger jobs such as binding thousands of leaflets, often need to be outsourced to professional print finishing companies.

Varnishing is just one element of print finishing but there is a large range of varnishing techniques to choose from, each with their own features and benefits. As a designer or marketer, it is important that you know the benefits of each so you can choose to suit your prints and make the most professional impact.

While varnishing improves the appearance of a print, it also improves its durability. Thus, the print finishing process is particularly important for products that are handled regularly, moved around or positioned in a location where they are susceptible to damage.

Machine Sealing

Machine sealing is one of the most basic methods of print varnishing. The covering is produced by a specialist printer which seals ink onto paper and the process is most often used on matt or silk papers as these are more prone to marks and ink deterioration. Machine sealing improves the durability of prints but doesn’t enhance their appearance.


Varnishing is a step up from Machine Sealing as it can be used to highlight particular areas of a print, improve its appearance and durability. A gloss varnish can give a shiny and attractive coating which will help to attract the eye. Yet, gloss prints need to be carefully placed as they easily reflect light and can distort readability from some angles. In contrast, a matt varnish will not reflect light so will not prove a problem in brightly lit areas. For a varnish that gives a half-matte, half-gloss look, opt for silk.

UV Varnish

UV varnishes are more advanced than your regular matt, silk or gloss. As this varnish is dried using ultraviolet light, it leaves a very smooth and transparent coating over the print. These varnishes can really help to enhance the colours of a print and are also available in tints.

Spot UV

With spot UV print finishing, you can select particular items of your print for covering. This technique helps to augment specific areas such as images or text, to make these features stand out and catch the eye. A combination of an all-over varnish and spot varnishing can be used to heighten the durability and appearance of a print product.

Textured Varnish

This type of varnish adds a gloss shine and slightly rippled finish to the print. It can be used to fully cover a print or as a spot varnish, to enhance particular elements. Like spot UV, this finishing method can provide an interesting contrast which helps to catch the eye.

Creative Varnishes

The varnishes available don’t end at these mentioned. There are also much more creative varnishes that can be implemented bespoke to a design objective. For example, there are varnishes that include sparkles and metallic flakes, tinted varnishes that add colour and scratch-off varnishes like those we see used on scratch cards. These finishes can also cover a print completely or just in particular areas.

To find out more about print finishes, visit here.

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