The ABC’s of Print

Print Coatings & Tactile Print Processes

Use coatings to avoid fingerprinting, scuffing, smudging or cracking on glossy paper stock. Some coatings deepen the ink color they cover, yellow with age and/or may discolor white paper. You cannot glue or foil stamp over some coatings.

Aqueous Coating

Like its name suggests, aqueous coating is water-based. Aqueous coating is more environmentally-friendly than other coatings and is used for an overall coating for large areas of flat colour that might rub off.

It is inexpensive and is often applied to boxes, binders, business cards and other paper packaging that is reusable or subject to wear and tear. The transparent shell can be matt, satin or gloss, and is resistant to smudges, dirt, fingerprints and scratches. The glossy, polished finish adds a feeling of value to the product. This process can also be used to accentuate certain graphics or fonts. The “wet look” really makes the colors pop.

The coating is applied to a printed sheet immediately after the ink has set. From there, it’s sent through a heated air system for a quick drying process. The aqueous coating creates a transparent “shell” across the surface of the packaging.

Aqueous Coating – protection plus a subtle satin finish.


The ultimate in protection, film lamination forms a strong, protective layer of plastic to the printed sheet. Usually available in gloss and matte finishes.

A matte lamination offers the protection of a plastic layer, but without the telltale sheen so it look and feels like paper.  It is often used in retailing to protect displays and make them washable,  without causing glare in the bright lights of department stores.

Gloss Lamination for extra protection against water damage.


Varnish is essentially ink without pigment/color. It is applied as another ink color on the press.

Spot varnishing also called a UV coating.


Many people incorrectly use the term “emboss” when speaking about letterpress printing. “Emboss” actually refers to a raised area accomplished by use of a two part die with a form and a counter form. Embossing on one side, causes an indentation on the opposite side.

Embossing is raised


This has a heavy impression that is closer to a “deboss.” A deboss pushes down into the paper. (remember “d” for down = deboss) Letterpress plates can use ink but embossing and debossing dies do not use ink. They must be used blind, registered to pre-printed artwork or used with foil stamping / blocking. Letterpress does not necessarily cause an “outdent” on the opposite side.

Letterpress is pressed into the card. It causes an uneven surface on the back, so it cannot be used on double-sided business cards.

Die cutting

Sharp specially shaped blades are used in die cutting. The blade is bent into the desired shape and mounted to a strong backing. The result is known as a die. The material being cut is placed on a flat surface with a supportive backing, and the die is pressed onto the material to cut it.

Paper (or card) die cutting can also incorporate fold lines, by compressing the paper/card but not cutting through, this is usually done in the same process as the initial cuts and is how many free standing card or paper display stands/promotional material is produced (for example the large displays seen in a movie theater).

Die Cutting is expensive because the die must be custom-made. Some printers have pre-made dies for rounded or sliced corners


Foil stamping is a form of debossing, in which metallic foil is added to the printed document as a 5th “colour run”. Often using gold or silver foil or florescent colours, a heated die is stamped onto the foil, making it adhere to the printed surface , leaving the design of the die lined with a brilliant metallic sheen.

Foil stamping, also called hot stamping, dry stamping, foil imprinting, or leaf stamping, can be combined with dimensional embossing to make letters and images on business cards, book covers and folders. Foiling works effectively on paper, vinyl, textiles, wood, hard plastic and leather. This technique is popular with wedding businesses, photography studios and other businesses that need to brand or mark products.

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