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.

Paper Finishes: Dispersion Coating

One very common surface enhancement of paper is called dispersion coating. Dispersion coating represents the most watery of available print coatings. Dispersion is defined as a mixture of two or more substances which are present in differing amounts. Several substances are present in dispersion coating. These include wax, defoamers, hydrosols, film formation aids, wetting agents and synthetic, water-soluble resins. As dispersion coating dries, its smooth surface is produced via the sticking together of water-soluble resins during the evaporation drying process.

The Dispersion Coating Process

Dispersion coating is usually applied after four colour or CYMK printing, where paper first passes through each of the four colours and then through a 5th coating unit. However, this coating can also be applied to paper via a system located inside the printing press itself, or via a dampening unit.

The drying of materials coated via the dispersion process occurs naturally. Due to the evaporation of hydrosols and the absorption of the coating itself, drying occurs very quickly. However, in instances where even quicker drying is required, heat can be applied. The inherent matte or glossy properties of paper will be enhanced by the dispersion coating process.

Why Is Dispersion Coating Ideal?

There are many advantages to dispersion coating beyond the facts that it is a very simple form of print finishing, is easy to apply and dries in a very short amount of time.

Any printed material, whether a series of inkjet labels, books or flyers can benefit from added protection when dispersion coating is applied. This protection shields printed materials from most forms of abrasion, as well as makes them slightly water-resistant. In addition, dispersion coating helps to preserve the colour of paper, preventing yellowing due to age. This is possible because the ink becomes bound with the coating once it’s been applied.

Dispersion coating also contains elements which give it an elastic quality. This quality is beneficial for printed documents which require further processing in the form of grooving, film embossing or creasing.

Which Products Are Best Suited To Dispersion Coating?

Dispersion coating can be used on virtually any product that will be printed and distributed. This includes brochures and inkjet labels. However, any items which may require anything to be written on them following printing such as business cards, postcards or flyers may benefit more from other coatings, as dispersion coating makes writing with a ballpoint pen or marker more difficult.

Paper which has gone through the dispersion coating process is also less likely to react well to printing or stamping. This is because the coating slows the absorption rate of ink. As a result, smudging can occur.

Two Potential Solutions

Where having materials coated with the dispersion print finish has been deemed a necessity and writing, printing or stamping will also need to occur, there are two potential solutions.

1) Depending on the intended use of the material being coated, it may be possible to alter both the combination and concentration of the coating so that it is spread onto the paper in a finer and thinner layer.

2) Another solution is to apply dispersion coating not over an entire product, but only in spots. This will allow for some areas of printed material to be stamped, written and printed on.

When considering dispersion coating, it’s a good idea to remember that different printing companies will have different set ups as far as dispersion coating units are concerned. Some coating units will be smaller in size than ink printing units, where others may be larger. However, the size of the coating unity should not affect coating quality or coverage.

Dispersion coating is both a very common and very popular form of print finishing. However, it isn’t the only kind. If there is some doubt as to whether dispersion coating is the ideal choice, an experienced printing professional can certainly provide further insight.

The Softer Side of Print Finishing Methods

Where you wish to give printed materials a quality look and feel, the soft touch print finish is usually the best way to do so. The terms ‘soft touch’, ‘soft feel’ and ‘velvet finish’ are usually used to describe any method of print finishing which produces a soft feel to materials. This kind of finish can be applied to virtually any material and used for any purpose, including brochures, book covers, and even product inkjet labels.

The feel of soft touch finish is a distinctive one, and its descriptions are as large in number as the many individuals who have touched it. To some, the soft touch finish is similar to suede. Others describe it as having a similar feel to velvet. Whatever the description used, a common opinion among most is that the soft touch finish is very noticeable on both the visual and tactile levels.

Soft Touch Application Methods

The soft touch finish can be applied as a film or as a coating.

Soft touch film is matte plastic which has been specially textured to provide a soft feel. The film is applied in such a way as to bond it to the material being printed. Soft touch film can be applied wet, or via thermo-lamination. Wet lamination sees the film being stretched over the material being printed using transparent glue. Heat and pressure are then applied to bond the film to the surface.

The process by which the material being printed is applied as a coating is called thermo-lamination. Using heat-activated glue, this kind of lamination bonds the coating to the surface of the material via the combination of the melting of the glue and pressure.

The soft touch print finish has no glare due to its low amount of light reflection. Because of this non-glare surface, any images which exist on inkjet labels or other printed material take on a harmonious appearance. This type of finish also tends to provide materials with a simple, yet elegant look.

Does One Cost more than the Other?

Most commonly, the soft touch laminate option tends to cost more than the coating. However, if the product being printed requires additional durability, soft touch laminate can provide it.

Reconciling cost with Usage

A soft touch finish can certainly impress. However, when the product being printed will have temporary use, such as a brochure advertising a special event, there may be more ideal choices available. Before deciding on a print finish, it can help to look at what needs to be printed and decide how much of its existing information is permanent.

For example, even if a brochure is advertising an upcoming event hosted by a business, it may contain information such as hours of operation, menus or a calendar containing more than one upcoming event. Where any of these are the case, it can be beneficial to use the soft touch coating so that printed information can withstand the test of time and wear due to travelling from pocket to home.

A More Durable Alternative

Where it’s suspected that materials will endure a lot of impact, another finish called anti-scuff may be the more practical choice. This type of finish offers the same matte quality as a soft touch, but with added durability to protect against damage. Another benefit of the anti-scuff finish is that it prevents documents and labels from curling at their corners, which can lead to creasing.

When advice is needed about which print finish is best for your materials, the best person to speak to is one well-versed in the world of print finishes: your professional printer. Not only are they likely to have several kinds of print finishes available, but they will also be able to communicate the benefits of each one.