Which Print Coating Is Right For Your Materials – Aqueous, Varnish Or UV? Part I

When you need to add an element of creativity to your printed materials or want to ensure they are protected, do you know which options are available to you? Not choosing the right coating for the paper being printed on can result in a much different look and feel than you originally intended.

There are three main print coatings: aqueous, varnish and UV. Each coating type has its own sub-set of styles. Under the aqueous coating group are matte, pencil receptive, gloss and dry erase, to name a few. Varnish coatings are available in the opaque, matte, satin, gloss and strike-through matte varieties.

What’s the difference between Aqueous and Varnish Coatings?

The aqueous coating, as its name suggests, is water-based. The application of aqueous coating involves the use of a special press unit and a rubber blanket. Varnish coatings can be tinted and are applied in the same way that ink is; on a printing press.

Aqueous Coatings in Detail

An aqueous coating is less likely to turn yellow over time than a varnish. As well, aqueous coatings are used on inkjet labels and other materials which require protection from fingerprints and similar blemishes. Because aqueous coatings dry quickly, projects which utilise them take far less time to complete on professional presses.

One interesting aspect of the aqueous coating is that when applied, it can prevent metallic inks from tarnishing. This is because the aqueous coating seals ink onto paper via air drying. Although it may not occur for a number of years, the aqueous coating has been known to cause certain spot colours to change completely. Finally, paper which is under a certain text weight may wrinkle, curl or distort because of the coating’s water-based nature.

Popular Aqueous Coating Types

There are several popular types of aqueous coating. One is used as primer, and is aptly named primer aqueous. This coating is applied prior to any lamination, or on materials that tend not to be receptive to the application of ink.

Another is called gloss aqueous coating. This particular type is usually applied all over a material. When gloss aqueous coating is applied, it dries right away. This property makes gloss aqueous ideal for small projects that need to be completed quickly.

Pencil-receptive aqueous, as its name suggests causes the material being printed to more easily accept the transfer of pencil, laser and pen inks.

Satin, matte and soft touch aqueous each have their own special properties. Satin has a soft sheen and protects materials, where matte is resistant to scuffs. Soft touch has a luxurious texture and a completely matte surface.

Dry erase aqueous coating is an alternative to lamination with an added benefit: it transforms nearly any paper into a surface that can be written on with dry-erase implements.

Varnish Coatings in Detail

In addition, to be able to be printed like ink, varnish coatings offer the ability to be incorporated with the ink itself, which allows for the visual enhancement of printed materials. Incorporation with ink can be accomplished via two methods: dry trapping and wet trapping.

The dry trapping of varnish occurs when it is printed following the drying of the ink. This is accomplished by sending materials through the system for a second time. Wet trapping is the application of varnish at the same time as other inks are applied.