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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

Packaging and Flexo Labels: We have an Application for that!

Packaging and Flexo labels going on packaging are a very common subject at Label Tech Inc. The application of the label on a package can make all the difference when it comes to the printer's choice of materials such as face stocks, adhesives, laminates, and even varnishes. Is your packaging flexible or firm? Are you applying a label to a box, a jar, or a bag? What is the temperature of the product that we are putting the label on? These are all key elements in determining what materials and adhesives we will be printing on. A company that truly knows their product should be able to answer all of these questions with ease. Now let's dive a little deeper into this subject.

Typically, if we are talking about packaging and labeling, we need to discuss the preparation, transport, warehousing, sale, and end use of your product. All of this information is relevant to your business and to your label company. For instance, a label may appear to have enough protection with a simple UV Varnish on it, but if it is shipping across country with no dividers in the box separating the product the varnish may wear and cause your label to de-face. On the other hand, if your product is going to be labeled for use in a freezer then you may want to consider using a freezer grade adhesive. If you were to use a simple permanent adhesive then the label would most likely fall off of your product. If you are labeling in a freezer and then the product is going to be put in a room temperature environment then you definitely are going to want to laminate it to prevent condensation from ruining your label. Removable adhesives are popular for putting a label on a product that you want the customer to be able to easily remove- didn't see that one coming huh!? If you are going to be machine applying labels and want the ability to peel a label off that goes on crooked and then put it back on straight then you may want to consider using a "re-positionable" adhesive.

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There are many face stocks and adhesives that can be mixed and matched based on the specific need your product has. When you are choosing a commercial printer you should try to find one that has a good working relationship with their stock supplier. This can mean all the difference if you have a special label application need. The printer can easily bring in their supplier to ensure your label is going to stick how you need it to.

Other things to take in to consideration can be simply overlooked and cause big problems later for your product's label identity. For example, if your label is going to be exposed to extreme heat at some point in it's lifetime then your printer is going to need to know. An example of this type of label could be something that is going on a furnace or hot water heater. There are many things to take into consideration when talking to your printer about your label. If you are lucky, then you will stumble upon a printer with employees that are already in the know about what questions to ask about application. Who knows, the printer you are looking for may be right under your nose!

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Topics: Lamination hot fill labels glass jar labeling bubbling labels label not sticking automatic label application Varnish Protecting Inks Ink Protection Choosing a commercial printer

Flexo 101: A Survival Guide for the Pressure Sensitive Label.

Have you been struggling with designing a label? Do you have questions about what the best material is to run your label on? Do you even know what materials are available? Not sure whether to use varnish or lamination? Have you never heard of a "rewind code?" You've come to the right place. Everyone has been there before- looking for a little bit more education on pressure sensitive labels. If you are already an expert then you might not want to read on any further because this weeks blog is all about the basics of putting together flexo labels! 

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At Label Tech we have dealt with all kinds of label purchasers. Some of these people are extremely educated when it comes to flexo labels- others not so much. There are a lot of new companies out there bringing a new product to market and they are researching what the best way to label their product may be. So what did we do you might ask? We took it upon ourselves to create a "Learning Center" on the Label Tech website so that you can talk the talk when it comes to flexo labels! Right in the upper right side of our website you will find the Learning Center. Here are some of the questions you may find answered!

  • What is the best finish for your label?
  • What is a "Rewind Code?"
  • What is Digital printing?
  • What is four color process?
  • What is full bleed?
  • What is the best size for your label?
  • What are my material choices?
  • What is the ordering process?
  • What is the proofing process?
  • What are these new things called QR Codes?

Note: We feel that having this information can help customers better understand the world of the pressure sensitive label! We hope you find our learning center helpful and if you don't see the answer to the specific question you have feel free to reach out to a specialist. Thanks for tuning in this week to Flexo 101.


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Topics: four color process 4CP labels label tech inc rewind code Label QR Codes Lamination Varnish Pressure Sensitive Labels Pressure Sensitive Labels Protecting Inks Choosing a commercial printer flexographic label printing
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