Should You Laminate Or Varnish Your Labels?

In the world of print finishing, two popular methods are laminate and varnish. Both of these enhance the look of everything from brochures to inkjet labels, adding shine and professionalism. They also work to protect the ink to ensure that printed information remains legible for long periods of time. But which is the better choice? Where a decision is elusive, it can help to understand the differences between lamination and varnish, as well as the benefits of each.

Lamination and Varnish

Lamination is the process by which a very thin layer of film is applied to labels. This process occurs after printing has been completed. Varnish, also known as coating, is also applied after printing has been completed. Lamination is available in high gloss, which gives contrast and sharpness to images and photos. Matte laminate is more subtle, but is an elegant option.

In the case of varnish, there are several types available. Gloss varnish tends to have a high shine, which can be beneficial where an increase in image depth is desired. Spot coating covers only certain places of a label or document. Matte varnish is non-reflective, and best used where the softening and flattening of a printed product is desired. Satin varnish combines matte and gloss for a shiny yet durable finish. Opaque varnish is often used to improve the appearance of dark colours, where an aqueous coating will render printed materials resistant to certain liquids when applied.

Where additional sturdiness is required for printed products like business cards, lamination can provide it. However, where a product needs added impact – for example a contrast between gloss and matte on a business card, varnish can be the best choice.

Reasons for Laminating Your Labels

Labels are one of many ways that a product interacts with the customer. But when a label passes through so many hands, it can become worn and faded. Lamination not only keeps your labels readable, but it also enhances their look and feel, thereby enhancing their quality.

Again, lamination is ideal in situations where added strength is required. For example, if a label will travel through many hands before reaching its destination, it must be able to stand up to wear and tear as well as any potential damage. Using lamination on your labels will also ensure they look newer for a longer period of time.

The promotion of a product can also have more impact with laminated labels. This is especially important for new products needing to make that successful first impression.

Lamination will also prevent ink from cracking. And so if your labels become bent, their printed information will not be compromised. As well, laminate provides inkjet labels with a degree of protection against damage due to grease or water.

Those looking to laminate lightweight paper of 135gsm and under may benefit more from varnish. Where budgetary constraints exists, varnish may be the less costly option. As well, laminate should only be considered where an entire surface needs to be covered. Finally, marking of the laminate can occur where it has been applied over dark areas.

Reasons for Varnishing your Labels

The wide range of finishes available with varnish offer lots of choice. As well, this option is less expensive than laminate, but offers virtually the same appearance as laminate. There are no limits to the weights of paper that varnish can be applied to; even the thinnest and lightest weight paper can be finished with varnish. Another benefit of varnish is that it can be placed in particular areas.

Although varnish does look similar to laminate, it does not afford the same durability. Therefore, any labels that are varnished can be torn easily. As well, varnish cannot protect against ink cracking when a label is bent or folded. Finally, varnish does not offer the same resistance to liquid as laminate does.

Both laminate and varnish have many benefits. And in understanding the differences between them, you can make an informed decision.

Get Top Quality Security Labels with these Tips

Although you may have a picture in your head of the perfect labels, you may encounter many things throughout the process that can threaten their quality. This is especially something to avoid when you need security labels for your business.

Whether you are printing your labels yourself or hiring a company to do it for you, there are several things to watch out for, as they can all contribute to reduced label security.

Ensure that Label Type Matches the Purpose

Often, the material on which labels are printed is not the right type for the way in which the label will be used. For example, a lot of damage is possible for labels that will be affixed to products that are being shipped on pallets. This scenario can see the shifting, moving and rubbing of one stack onto another, which can cause scraping to occur, rendering important security information being completely unreadable. Any security label affixed to any product or piece of equipment must be able to be readable and identifiable for the life of the product on which it is placed.

Use the Correct Printing Products

All too often, the quality of the finished product can be compromised. This is usually due to errors on the operator’s side in the form of incorrect setup of the printer. However, if the setup is sound, the problem could very well lie in the fact that the incorrect ink or printer ribbon is being used for the material being printed on.

When choosing the right ink or ribbon, you must keep in mind that the required print quality is what will determine which ribbon grade you need. By not considering this, you may be putting your print job at risk for several quality problems that can include anything from missing characters, unwanted diagonal lines, smudges and fading to disintegration of material, too-thick barcode bars, poor edge definition and bars that are not dark enough.

Consider the Industry

Different industries will have different label requirements. For example, a different label will be required for use in the automotive industry than one being used in the medical industry. Every industry will have to meet its own set of labelling regulations. Again, not doing so can result in labels that deteriorate over time and lose their information.

Non-Compliance is a Real Risk

In not using the correct materials in your label printing process, you can put your business at risk of non-compliance of federal and industry regulations. Non-compliance can ultimately result in your products being seized or recalled, not to mention causing your business a significant loss of profit. Of course, the end result of all this is that your business’s reputation can take a very real hit from which full recovery may not be possible.

Quality Assurance can save the Day

Regardless of the types of labels your business prints or needs to be printed, you can improve the quality of anything you print by having some sort of quality assurance programme in place. This involves training all staff who will be directly involved with your label printing. Training should cover showing employees how to identify any issues before printing begins so that they can be eliminated before money and time are lost.

Any company, whether they are planning to print their own labels or hire a company to complete the job should ensure that all ribbon, paper and label suppliers have been consulted with to ensure that the proper materials are being used. This will allow for poor quality to be avoided, as well as compliance and damage issues. Each supplier should be able to provide a list of options for everything they sell.

Print Finishing for added Effect

Print finishing is a popular choice today. This is because it provides printed items with high quality enhancement. There is more than one way to add print finishing to advertising materials or product labels.


Lamination occurs when a thin plastic film is applied to printed items. Available in several finishes including matte, gloss and silk, lamination covers one or more sides of a document.

Lamination enhances the appearance of whatever it’s placed over, and at low cost. This treatment also increases the durability of the material it is placed over, as well as offering some protection from damage via water or grease. Lamination also incurs no set up fees and prevents ink located on creases from cracking.

Due to the way in which it’s applied, lamination cannot be placed on just one spot; it must cover the entire document. As well, care should be taken about which finish is used on dark-coloured paper or board. For example, fingerprints may show more readily on dark paper covered by laminate in a matte finish.


Cellophane is similar to laminate in that a very thin layer is applied to board or paper. This type is available in two finishes, which are matte and glossy. Cellophane finishing can be applied to either one or both sides. Cellophane or film lamination involves stretching the material over the paper or board using heat, pressure and transparent glue.

Cellophane is great for print products as it provides a soft appearance and feel. As well, cellophane offers low glare, which can soften images and text. Cellophane lamination with a glossy finish results in stronger and deeper colours. This type of lamination offers resistance to scratching and abrasion, as well as repellence to water.

UV Varnish

This type of lamination is a liquid coating which can be applied to specific areas of an advertisement or poster design. This is done with the purpose of drawing attention to one or more features. UV varnish is available in several versions including matte and glossy.

UV varnish can include different substances such as glitter and various colours for virtually endless options. It can also be used along with a different laminate type and be printed on top of cellophane or another substance for a unique effect.

Care should be taken to ensure that additional set up is required for this lamination type, as well as additional cost for die charges if it is used over images or text. As well, UV varnish will crack if placed over a document crease.


Dispersion coating is often visible on folders, brochures and flyers. Applied after printing, this lamination type is available in matte or glossy finish and once applied, is left to air dry. As it dries, the material it’s been applied to will gradually take on the look of the chosen finish. The result is a surface that’s slightly water-repellent that provides some protection against abrasion. Any paper or board treated with dispersion coating will make it nearly impossible to write on using conventional pens, especially following laser or inkjet printing.

Regardless of the finish chosen, each has the potential to not only increase the quality of printed items, but also protect the ink used to print on the items. Lamination also protects the ink itself from cracking and fading. Careful consideration of each available lamination type for suitability will need to occur in order to choose the correct one for your application.

However, it’s important also to consider the life span of the item being laminated. A temporary product may not require as costly a lamination type as one that’s expected to have a longer life, such as inkjet labels on food products.

The Label Converter

When attached to items, labels can provide information about an item or allow an item to be identified in some way. And in a few cases, an existing label type can be changed by converting it to another label type. This is known as conversion and is done with a label converter.

A label converter modifies labels in many ways. This machine can change the shape and colour of a label, as well as cut and produce ready-to-use labels. Converter machines of a small size can produce labels of simpler design and construction in low volumes. The labels that this kind of converter produces can be used for pricing, coding and addressing as well as for other purposes. The larger version of label converter machinery can produce labels in many different shapes and sizes, and is able to die-cut labels as well as perforate them.

How Label Converters are Categorised

Label converters are usually categorised according to the types of labels they produce. For example, a label converter can be categorised according to how its labels will be used. So it might be a mail label, caution label, pricing, container or pricing label machine.

It can also be categorised according to the characteristics of the labels it produces. So for example, a label machine may be called a blank, permanent, self-adhesive or warehouse label converter.

Label converters are also named according to the technology they use. For instance, if you want a converter that creates security labels, one type is the RFID label converter.

Technology and Caveats

Label converting machines continue their technological evolution. Today’s machines can print labels accurately and efficiently, and can reach production levels of millions of labels in any given month. However, machines with older technology are just as able to do the job, albeit for simpler labels.

One major technological advancement in label converting machinery has been in the reduction of noise. These sometimes-gargantuan machines used to produce noise at high decibels just a decade ago. Today however, they are practically noiseless.

Thermal Converters

Thermal label converting machines make use of heat to create labels, producing them on special thermal paper. Although this process is efficient and accurate, it may only be a short time before these labels may need to be replaced due to the susceptibility of the thermal paper to sunlight and heat and the fading that this can cause.

Thermal labels are ideal for situations where temporary tags are necessary, such as for bi-annual inventory or short-term product shipments, where tags will remain out of sunlight and away from variable temperatures for that period of time. However, they are less than ideal for situations requiring labels to last a year or longer.

Thermal Transfer

The thermal transfer process utilised by some label converters does allow for more durable labels to be printed. This process allows printed items like ID numbers or bar codes to retain their clarity and ease-of-reading for far longer than their thermal counterparts.

The Market

The furthest advancements in label creation technology, whether for security labels or otherwise is currently occurring in several countries around the world. India continues to innovate and is considered to be one of the most important developers of label conversion technology. China, on the other hand, possesses its own skill set as far as technological innovation ability and advanced communications infrastructure.

In choosing the right label converter, you can get the ideal solution in terms of the labelling system you need, as well as the ability to have professional labels when you need them. However, label converters are just one kind of solution; where there is doubt as to which system may work better, it can help to speak with a professional who understand each type of machinery and the labels it is capable of producing.

Considerations For RFID Label Selection & Management

When thinking about implementing an RFID system, it’s important that the one you choose is right for your application. But even if the system you choose is the ideal one for your needs, there are still some considerations which, if not made can compromise your system’s success.

For any RFID system to work properly, it must be able to transfer data reliably, and in such a way as to be predictable and dependable. And this means ensuring that the right conditions exist for this to occur. Of course, when considering the right conditions for an RFID system, these must exist for both the receiver and the security labels themselves.


Before purchase of any system which allows you to print your own labels, it should be tested to ensure that the media being used is right for the encoder you plan to utilise. Some RFID printing systems may require additional signal shielding or mechanical changes in order to ensure their efficiency over the long term.

Similarly, the printer should be matched to the position on the label where the chip will be located. All too often, the media is ordered before it’s been confirmed that it will suit the printer. Matching the RFID protocol between printer and label is crucial. Otherwise, calibration may be necessary to ensure the correct encoding and alignment.


Fortunately, in most cases, temperature does not represent a concern for RFID systems. But it can still help to know which temperatures ensure optimal performance. Typically, as long as a storage area’s temperature is kept between -51 and +95°C, a system should be able to perform reliably, properly and consistently.


Smart labels do not perform properly when they are metal or foil-based. This is because metal is an RF signal reflector. As well, metal continues to be a top source of interference for RFID tags. Should an RFID inlay be embedded in some kind of foil or metal label, range can be severely limited. As well, it would not allow for easy or successful reading or encoding. Finally, RFID labels do not rely on optical technology as do their bar code counterparts. Therefore, they will not benefit from the inclusion of metals for the purpose of enhancing light reflection and performance as is so often done with bar codes.


ESD, or electrostatic discharge can cause the complete failure of RFID tags. Therefore, the dangers of ESD should be a definite consideration, especially in areas of high altitude and low humidity. One way to control for the amount of ESD which occurs near RFID tags is to store media in materials which are non-conductive, such as cardboard containers. This will protect the tags from existing ESD.  Where electrostatic discharge is significant, other measures may need to be taken, such as outfitting equipment and workers with grounding straps and anti-static clothing.


Besides metal, liquids are another enemy of the RFID system. This is because they actually absorb the RFID signal. This can render a tag completely unreadable and unable to be encoded or severely limit its range. When placing RFID tags on liquid items, it’s important to do so in such a way that allows for the longest range and most reliable readings possible.

In addition to ensuring the right temperature levels, amounts of ESD and presence of liquids and metals, the successful operation of any RFID system will also depend on having the right training and procedures in place, as well as ensuring that the tags are placed in the most readable locations. With all of these considerations made, your RFID system can not only increase the efficiency of your operations, but may also mean that less operator intervention is required should something go amiss.