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Finishing includes a wide range of processes to provide the finishing touches to a design once it has been printed. Finishing can provide a decorative element to a printed piece and provide added functionality. Finishing processes can transform an ordinary piece of design into someting dynamic and intriguing. Although the application of print-finishing signals the end of the production process, none of these techniques should not be considered as an afterthought, but as an integral part of the a design throughout it’s development.


Laminate Coating Laminate is a thin film that is heat-sealed to one or both sides of a printed stock. Lamination provides a range of benefits which include gloss or lustre, improved sheet rigidity and protection from moisture and handling. Other reasons for using laminate include; application of a colourless coating, protection from wear and smudging, protection from enhancing the visual appearance. The variations of laminate provide different finishes for the stock; Matt Helps to diffuse light and reduce glare to increase readability of text based design. Satin This finish is somewhere between matt and gloss. It provides a some highlight but it is not a flat as a matt finish. Gloss A highly reflective laminate that is used to enhance the appearence of graphic elements and photographs on covers as it increases colour saturation. Texture These laminates give the design a subtle texture but also provide the benefits of protecting the work, unlike an uncoated textured stock. Textures available include sand and leather. Commonly used on brochure and catalogue covers to give the cover stock more weight. Laminates can provide a similar finish to varnishes, but are more likely to be used to coat an entire stock, rather than a small or decorative section.


1. Laminate coating being applied to stock. 2. This brochure is finished with a high gloss laminate


Spot Varnishing A varnish is a colourless coating that is applied to a printed piece to protect the substrate from scuffing, wear or smudging. Varnishes are also applied to enhance the visual appearance of a design or elements within in. Varnish can product three finishes - gloss, dull and satin. Varnish can be applied in-line or ‘wet’; which means it is treated as an additional colour during the printing process. A wet layer of varnish is applied on to a wet layer of ink, and both are absorbed into the stock as they dry, which reduces the visual impact of the varnish. An off-line varnish is applied once printing inks have dried, and therefore less is absorbed by the stock. Varnish performs better on coated substrates because less is absorbed into the stock. UV varnish is a clear liquid that is appiled like ink and cured instantly with ultraviolet light. It can provide either a gloss or matt coating. UV is increasingly used as a spot covering to highlight particular aspects of a design because it provides a better shine than standard gloss varnish. Varnishes are most commonly used to highlight or protect areas of a design and are suitable for application to most substrates. Frequently used for high-end print jobs, invitations and publication covers.


Examples of business cards that use a spot varnish to create a subtle pattern and intricate design.


Foil Blocking Foil blocking is a process whereby a coloured foil is pressed on to a substrate via a heated die, which causes the foil to separate from its backing. The foil is a thin polyester film containing a dry pigment. The foil is not necessarily metallic, but is usually a different texture to the substrate it is applied to. Several terms are used to describe this process including foil stamp, hot stamp, block print and foil emboss. A highly cost effective way to add metallic colour to printed products. Ideal for use in conjunction with embossing and lithography and fully compatible with laser printers.


1. An example of the copper die used to apply the foiling. 2. Ultra-reflective foil blocking. Printed by VIP Print Limited, London.


DieCutting This is a process that uses a steel die to cut away a specified section of a design. It is mainly usde for decorative purposes and to enhance the visual impact of a piece. As well as altering the shape of a design for visual enhancement, a die cut can serve a funtional purpose such as creating an aperture that allows a user to see inside or through a piece. A variation of die-cutting is kiss-cutting. Used on selfadhesive substrates whereby the face of the stock is die cut, but the backing is not, this makes for easy removal of the cut stock. This process is most commonly used for manufacturing stickers. Another variation of this is laser cutting. A high powered laser beam is used to cut into the stock rather than using a metal tool A laser can produce a more intricate design, but the heat usually burns the edges of the design. Die cutting is commonly used in the production of small pieces, such as business cards and mailers. It creates a layered effect when used on larger pieces, allowing stock to show through the cut out area.


1. A die cut design that uses folding to highlight the cut out. 2. Business cards for Product Superior use a die cut shape.


Am emboss or deboss is a design that is stamped into a substrate to produce a raised or indented surface. Embossing Using a copper or brass die holding and image to stamp the stock and leave an impression. Designs are usually slightly oversized with heavier lines and extra space inserted between letters in a work, as they have to be pushed through the stock. Thinner stocks hold more detail than thicker stocks, but intricate designs do not reproduce well. Soft papers are easier to emboss and coated stocks hold detail well, but may crack. Debossing Uses a metal die containing a design which is stamped from above to leave an indentation. Debossing produces a better result on thicker stocks because a deeper indentation is achieved. In some instances embossing can replace printing altogether. The term Blind embossing refers to embossing without ink, and coloured register is when ink is used in conjunction with embossing. Embossing and debossing are most commonly used to add decoration and embellishment to brocures, book covers and bussiness cards because of the the tactile quality of the design and product.


1. A shallow etched emboss die. 2. Embossing used on a gallery brochure. Printed by VIP Print Limited, London.


An Introduction to Print Information collated by Alexandra Bucktin Design Context 2010

A short introduction to print - Finishing Techniques  

Design context publication detailing finishing techniques and their applications

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