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Varnish vs. Lamination: Purpose Driven Protection

The purpose of a coating is to protect the printed piece from dirt, smudges, fingerprints, scratching, etc.  Coating also provides scuff resistance.  It can also improve the visual appeal of the piece by providing a glossier and smoother finish.  The right coating can help protect the printed piece or add a creative dimension.  The results will usually look best on coated paper because the hard, nonporous surface of coated paper holds the coating on the top of the paper rather than absorb it. 

Varnishing is the process of applying a transparent layer of silicon over the top of a printed area. 

It is applied to a specific area of design - such as logos in order to highlight it or to the entire surface of a printed item.  The result is a glossy or matte luxurious appearance.

Aqueous Varnish, also known as water-based varnish, is among the most commonly used coatings available today.  Available in gloss or matte finish, this varnish does a good job protecting inks against abrasion and rub resistance.  It also resists yellowing, which is common with unprotected labels that have been in storage for a while.  Because they seal the ink from the air, aqueous varnishes can help prevent metallic inks from tarnishing.  Specially formulated aqueous coatings can be written on with a number two pencil or overprinted using a laser jet printer.  These are generally considered to be one of the most sustainable coating options available today because the formulas are nontoxic in the pressroom, and treated paper can be recycled in standard municipal systems without emitting harmful byproducts.  The cleanup process does not require toxic cleaning detergents, nor does it necessitate high temperatures (e.g. added energy) for drying.

Ultraviolet Varnish offers more protection than aqueous coatings.  UV varnishes are applied in line and then exposed to ultraviolet light to polymerize and harden the coating, with zero emissions.  When UV is used on deep, rich colors, like blues and rich blacks, the result is an almost wet appearance.  This can be highly effective with image-rich projects.  The stunning shine it creates is why it is so popular for certain designs and products.  UV varnishes can either be applied across the entire page or on a spot basis.  The coatings are available in a gloss or matte and have a wide variety of specialty finishes, including glitter, tints and even different scents.  UV coatings should be used in conjunction with UV inks to help reduce the potential for drying and surface problems.

Specialty Varnishes can enhance labels with a variety of different effects.  Soft-Touch is a tactile aqueous coating that is very pleasing to the sense of touch and exhibits an ultra-matte appearance.  The combination of these two effects is visually stunning and brings new dimensions to label appearance.  There are a wide variety of different specialty varnishes available today. Find more here.

Varnish on press

Laminating is the process of applying a film of plastic on the surface of labels. 

When plastic coating is added to any item it becomes tear-proof and waterproof, since the laminating film encapsulates the item completely by bonding it to both sides.

Polypropylene lamination is the most popular and least expensive laminate available today.  It is available in gloss, satin and matte finishes.  Polypropylene provides a softer finish than other laminates, which makes it the best choice for projects that will be prone to scratching.  It's possible to write on polypropylene films using dry erase and other types of markers.  Polypropylene is a good bet when you are looking for increased strength and good protection at a reasonable cost.

Polyester Lamination is the most durable of all laminates, polyester offers the greatest strength and abrasion resistance, at a cost that is usually higher than polypropylene.  Polyester provides a hard coating that is extremely resistant to scuffing and tearing, in gloss, satin or matte finishes.   This lamination is heat resistant and will not become brittle with age because it contains no plasticizers.

Specialty Lamination - Besides clear laminating films, there are a variety of specialty films that can be laminated.  Metallized films in gold and silver as well as other colors are available, and holographic films are now becoming more popular in many patterns.  Most often, these films are then over-printed or even foil stamped once they are applied.  There also are iridescent films that have unique color shifting abilities and are translucent, so they can be applied over printed graphics.

The key in choosing the right coating is to work closely with your printer.  Discuss the effect you're after and the level of protection you need to provide.  Then consider how to best apply your budget to reach those objectives.

Topics: Lamination UV Varnish Ultra Violet Varnish Specialty Lamination label protection Varnish