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Go Beyond the Design – It’s all in the Finish!

January 19, 2018 - Dave Sloan

We get excited when our clients ask us to consider enhancing their printed collateral with print finishes. Those little extras that can give their work that extra ‘je ne sais quoi’. Set them aside from their competitors but most importantly, allowing them to create something that is memorable.

Making a Difference

For example, you can take the humble business card and turn it into a work of art. Something beautiful that you can be proud of giving to a potential new client. Because the card looks different, it is more likely to be kept rather than tossed into the back of a drawer with all the other ‘stock’ business cards. Never to be seen again.
Or, take a well designed, thought out brochure and embellish it with something new. Something unique that hasn’t been seen before or, in fact, felt before. There are so many new papers that you can print on too. Gone are the days of the overused but solid champion of papers – the 170 Silk.

Favourite Print Finishes

Most designers and clients alike are aware and familiar with the usual print finishing techniques. Such as embossing, foiling, die cuts and spot varnishes. But they are less likely to be mindful of the ever-growing new and original technologies that the printing industry are developing. There are many different finishes out there that are unprecedented. Especially when used well or combined with other finishes. It can turn a great design into something breathtaking and completely original.

Here’s a quick overview of what I consider to be the top print finishes around at the moment.

Let’s create something awesome.

Printing white ink on coloured stock

Printing white ink on coloured stock.
Credit: Creative Bloq

Once only achievable by screen-printing this finish can now be made by a digital press which is good news as it is less time-consuming. You can get exceptional results using this technique.Printing white
Text or large images in white onto black or coloured substrates looks cool, and the quality is top notch too.

Risograph printing

Risogrpaph Painting
Credit: People of Print

This printing technique is also known as ‘Riso’. It gives a very traditional hand printed ‘retro’ feel to your design. It is cost effective and also looks great. Suitable for posters and flyers.

3D Varnishes

3D varnishes
Credit: Fespa

Like a spot UV but much thicker. You can get some fascinating results with this varnish. Consider this when you need to make something ‘jump’ off the page, condensation bubbles on a beer bottle, red lips advertising a new lipstick. The possibilities are endless.

Laser Cutting


Laser cutting is like die cutting. It is far more accurate and can be used to cut out the most detailed and intricate of designs.

Interactive printing

Interactive Painting
Credit:Design Week

Electroluminescent ink and thermo colours are great techniques that are used in packaging. But are now moving over to print and editorial projects due to new developments. Great for brochure covers that change colour when you pick them up. Also, packaging that emits light when touched.

Fragrance burst or better known as ‘scratch and sniff.’

Scratch and Sniff
Credit: Celloglass

I remember as a child this being popular on stickers and comic books. Over the years the idea seemed to fade away, but now it is back and becoming more and more popular. It is a screen-applied finish that is printed on a particular area of a page to which you just scratch and sniff. The most popular scents are chocolate, strawberry, coffee and banana. Bespoke fragrances can be achieved by mixing oils.

Glow in the dark inks

Glow in the Dark Print
Credit: Celloglass

Phosphorescent inks that emit light due to active optical pigments are very interesting. The area that is printed will usually be a light green colour and when the lights are low, will glow in the dark. Great for posters, magazine covers and themed designs.

Where to go from here…

There are loads more techniques available. There are always new techniques being developed by the printing industry. The ‘print world’ is an exciting playground in which you can have loads of fun creating unique finishes. So the next time you are considering some print work, don’t forget to think beyond the design. Get involved in some exciting print finishes.

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