The power of print finishing
July 28, 2016 WKP Admin

Choosing the paper stock of your print is important.  With a wide range of colours, weights and textures, it can be an exciting task for a designer, but it’s nothing in comparison to the excitement of specialist print finishes.  Print finishing in general refers to what happens to the paper once it is printed to get to the end result of your print product – trimming them to size, scoring down the middle for folding and binding to turn the paper into a booklet. But what are specialist print finishes?

Also known as decorative finishing, it adds an extra level to the design and enhances the end-user experience.  We now have the ability to use cutting-edge technology to create that ‘wow-factor’ that compliments and enhances the design and print.  Plus, adding a decorative finish will make a lasting impression on clients both old and new – especially on business cards!

FOILBLOCKING

Foil-blocking delivers a high-profile premium finish to your printed product.  For best results, we like to foilblock onto an unprinted surface, as the heat used during the process can affect the printed ink.

It’s a great replacement as an ink colour, or to add highlights to a specific area of an image.  A variety of colours are available, with gold and silver being the most popular choices.  Our current favourite is a copper foil on a navy blue paper stock!

Design tips…

To prepare a file for print, a second page must be added, with the design in the position you’d like to foilblock.  It works best with crisp, clean shapes – pixels are too small to replicate so the design ideally must be in a vector format.  Intricate patterns and small text (over 6pt)  can be achieved with foilblocking, however fine detail may not replicate as well.

How does it work?

The process involves a die template made from metal, and a very thin film that contains a metallic pigment.  This is fed through the press and the metal die that has been created with the design on it is pressed against the paper stock, with the metallic film inbetween.  Heat and pressure is applied to release the foil pigment and transfer it to the paper.

SPOT UV VARNISH

Once the design has been printed, a UV gloss varnish can be applied to specific areas of the print to make it stand out.  We matt laminate all printing before we apply the Spot UV varnish as the contrast between the matt background and the gloss improves the overall effect.  It is usually applied to areas to highlight and accentuate them, for example – a company logo on a business card – a popular choice!  The Spot UV works best on darker backgrounds as it deepens the colour – we can Spot UV on light and white backgrounds, but the shine isn’t as effective.

Design tips…

To prepare a file for print, a second page must be added, with the design in the position you’d like to Spot UV.  It works best with crisp, clean shapes – pixels are too small to replicate so the design ideally must be in a vector format.  Intricate patterns and small text ( 6pt)  are difficult to achieve with Spot UV so we recommend keeping it for larger solid areas.  Glitter Spot UV is also a popular choice – best used on festive greetings cards.  It involves the same process, only the varnish contains small particles of glitter.

How does it work?

Spot UV sounds like a complex process, but it is actually quite simple.  The varnish is applied to the areas specified on the Spot UV template, directly on top of the card.  The coating process does not contribute to any environmental pollution as other processes might – very little, if any of the varnish can escape, but the particles that do, escape as a gas into the atmosphere.  The varnished paper is then fed through the machine and dried by being exposed to UV light.

THERMOGRAPHIC PRINTING

Thermographic printing delivers a high profile and tactile finish to your design, similar to embossing.  Instead of raising the surface of the paper, the thermographic process produces a raised effect on the ink itself.  Either a clear matt or a high gloss effect can be achieved, and the beauty of thermographic printing is that the artwork can contain multiple colours, all of which can be coated in the resin.  It is great for special occasion pieces and can even be used on corporate stationery such as business cards and letterheads.

Design tips…

To prepare a file for print, it works in the same way as the Spot UV process – the computer and machinery needs to be told which parts are to be thermographed.  It’s best to avoid thin strokes on the artwork, including any thin fonts you may wish to use.  You must also consider what you would like to be raised – different resins are used for large areas and small text areas and only one type of resin can be used on the print at one time.  Very large areas must also be avoided as the raised effect can distort the paper.  Only one side can be put through this process (unless you opt for a secondary duplexing finish) so choose carefully where you would like the resin.

How does it work?

A regular offset press is used to print but a different type of ink is used.  This ink does not dry immediately, giving time for the next step to be completed.  The printed sheets are then dipped into a powdered resin, with the excess powder vacuumed off.  This sticks to the wet ink, which is then fed into an oven for a few seconds, which melts the resin and fuses it to the ink.

EMBOSSING & DEBOSSING

Embossing and debossing both follow the same process, where embossing raises the surface of the paper, and debossing leaves an impression – both in the paper, and your client!  It can be combined with other forms of finishing, such as foilblocking – where the surface of the paper and the foil can be raised at the same time.  A popular method is blind embossing – where the paper is embossed without any ink laid over the top of it.  The design (or text) is not printed, but outlined in  (or on top of) the paper.

Design tips…

With both embossing and debossing, we advise avoiding any fine details, especially small crossed lines.  Ideally, the design needs to be as uncluttered as possible, giving space for the paper to raise slightly.  Lettering should ideally be well spaced and in a clear, readable font – and large enough to be embossed/debossed.  If text is to be embossed, it may be best to use a bold font, to give the letters room to grow.  Only one side of the printed product can be embossed/debossed as the design will show through on the other side of the sheet.  A way to get around this and have this finishing option on both sides (or to have one of the sides just as flat paper) we can duplex the cards, a secondary finishing option.

How does it work?

Just like the foilblocking process, a die is created out of metal (either copper, brass or magnesium) with the design on it.  The chosen paper stock is laid underneath and pressure and heat is applied to imprint the design onto the paper.

DUPLEXING

We’ve mentioned duplexing a couple of times throughout this blog post, as it’s a handy way to get around putting certain specialist print finishes on both sides of the stock.  It’s simply glueing two sheets together to create a more robust business card.  Printing onto a card stock thicker than 400gsm is certainly achievable, but with duplexing, it’s a great way to add a slice of colour between papers, creating side detail to your print.  Triplexing is also an option, using three sheets, quadplexing with four sheets… You get the idea.

How does it work?

The process is as simple as gluing the sheets together! The glue used is also the same kind used in the book binding industry and therefore guaranteed to not fall apart.

LAMINATION

Last, but not least – something everyone will have heard of.  Instead of encapsulation (the thick plastic laminate) there is a sleeker option available.  Available in both matt and gloss, this finishing option delivers a subtle, yet protective coating to the work.  Soft touch is also available and is well known for being velvet-smooth to the touch.

Design tips…

There’s no special set-up on the artwork for lamination – as long as the paper stock is a smooth, satin paper (textured board and uncoated paper does not benefit from this option) it can be put through the machine, no problem.

How does it work?

It’s as simple as pushing the paper between the two rollers, both of which carry the thin plastic covering.  Heat and pressure are both applied and the paper arrives at the other end laminated.

Whatever finishing option you decide to go for, we’re on hand to help you decide and advise on the best way to showcase your designs.  We can do all finishing options, and get really excited about the end result, too.  Get in touch with us at print@weknowprint.co.uk for more information, and a quote!

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