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The Different Types of Varnishes

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Outside of coatings, there are also different types of varnishes to consider. A varnish is a thin protective layer that is applied to a printed sheet for protection or appearance. This coating has two options: UV- or aqueous-based. For packaging purposes, varnishes are essentially a clear ink that can be dull, satin, matte, or glossy. There are two main types of varnishes.

Flood varnish

A flood varnish protects your printed piece while adding polish across the whole page.


When combined with a flood coating, a spot varnish results in great visual step off that adds depth and draws the eye to specific places on your print. You can combine coatings and varnishes to create a specific look for your packaging design.


Finishing effects offer a variety of options that allows your creative to come alive.

Embossing & Debossing

Historically used to make a statement, embossing continues to be an assertion of elegance and luxury. Raising and depressing aspects of your packaging gives your customers a tactile experience. Use a contrasting material in your design to differentiate the surface of your material or bring a character to life. Here are a few embossing and debossing techniques to consider:


This form involves raising or lowering features of a design in a sharp or rounded manner. Sculptured subjects are carefully rendered to depict definition and texture in a realistic manner. Sculptured embossing is often a hand-crafted process.


Like the sculptured process, the multi-level embosses or deboss features several different levels of texture. You will notice multiple angles and three-dimensional definition in this finish.


This style of embossing or debossing uses a single-level instead of multiple layers. It is a very trendy and modern style of finish.

Foil stamping

In addition to embossing/debossing, consider foil stamping with foils that come in a wide variety of colors or specialty foil types. A foil stamp can change the entire consumer experience as foil is highly reflective and builds up perceived value of your products.

Hot Foil Stamping

This effect is accomplished with a foil stamping machine that uses a metal plate that has been engraved with an image of the desired design required for the application. As the plate strikes a roll of foil film, it causes the foil to adhere to the plate. The metal plate then strikes the substrate that is to be imprinted and transfers the foil onto the area of the document requiring the metallic effect. The result is a document that has a highly reflective image with a bright and dense metallic appearance.

Cold Foil Printing

This is a process that can be done in-line on a press. Using a standard printing plate, an image is printed onto a substrate with the use of a UV-curable cold foil adhesive. A UV dryer then activates the adhesive. The extracted foil is affixed to the printed adhesive and an image is created. Foil that does not adhere to the adhesive is removed.

Metallic Foil

Adding a metallic foil to your design provides variation in texture while starkly highlighting certain brand or graphical elements. Try combining foil with embossing or debossing to add depth to the product.

Holographic Foils

With a holographic foil or rainbow foils gives the package the ability to change color combinations when viewed at different approaches. This is a great way to add color to solid packages. Holographic foils provide a fun and urbane flair to product packaging.

Clear Foils

Having clear foils provide high reflectivity, yet allow the printed image to be seen underneath. This is particularly useful for foods, beverages, consumable products and health and beauty offerings. It can also be used to give customers a preview of a new product.

Micro-Etching on Foils

Foils used for security purposes may include geometrical shapes, patterns and even brand logos that shift as the viewer changes focus. Take advantage of the mesmerizing effect by using it in a solid block rather than a border or small stamp. For security measures, a foil with micro-etching can help prevent counterfeiting of items such as high-value coupons (shown above) that could easily be duplicated, causing retailers major losses as manufacturers will not recompense fraudulent coupons.

With so many press or off-press effects and finishes to choose from, you can create a truly unique package experience for your customer. When faced with an in-store decision, a consumer will always gravitate towards the more visually pleasing and tactilely intriguing package.

Identifying your target market, evaluating competitor packaging, and staying true to your brand identity can all help you develop a packaging solution that will be noticed. Signature textures and coating combinations can help your product pop by encouraging handling and further exploration of your brand. It’s important to remember that we use all our senses when we shop. Decorative packaging has the potential to sway us from the brands we’ve turned to for years.

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