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What Coating To Use For What Type of Packaging

There are lots of options for standard and speciality finishes available today for packaging box designs. 

And the truth is, especially for startups and new entrepreneurs, it can be confusing, overly technical, stressful, and overwhelming.

Luckily, in this guide, you will learn how to choose the right coating based on the compatibility with your overall packaging specification (material, design and cost). 

So before you decide on a coating for your packaging, we suggest you read these tips below.

We’re here to arm you with all the information you need before you make your decision! 

Paperboard (Retail)

Since paperboard is flexible, versatile and usually showcases products in retail stores, designers tend to be more creative with the finishing to bring attention to the shelves. 

Here are the popular coatings for paperboard packaging:


Laminated paperboard boxes are widely regarded to have the best quality, but are typically more expensive due to its protective properties. 

Compared to other coating types, lamination provides the best protection from moisture. Long-run projects also typically prefer to use lamination due to its longevity and dust resistance.

It makes sense since you’ll be storing thousands of packaging that may not be used instantly.

Another advantage of lamination is its artwork output. When you see that beautiful matte box in Sephora or Holt Renfrew in many beauty products, the chances of them using lamination is quite high.

Luxury products tend to choose matte lamination to achieve the simple yet elegant look and use gloss lamination to achieve a vibrant and striking appearance.


UV & AQ Semi-Gloss Finishing

If you’re looking for a less expensive option, you might want to consider low gloss AQ coating. Since AQ Semi-Gloss is water-based, it is a food-safe alternative.  (please check with your manufacturer to verify their FDA compliant AQ coating). 

AQ is often the default of all coatings because of its price and effectiveness. It provides a low gloss sheen that gives a bit of texture to the packaging but not too much that it distracts the eyes.

Ultraviolet Coatings (or UV coating), on the other hand, generates a glossy appearance just like gloss lamination.


What the difference?

UV coating is much more eco-friendly but it doesn’t match the strength and protection that lamination provides.

Lamination is more tear resistant. It is a better option to protect the packaging during shipping.   

UV is still a popular choice, however, as it adds maximum vibrancy to the packaging, it is quick to produce and has a lower cost per unit.


Corrugated (Shipping & E-commerce)

Companies often prefer to use corrugated cartons for shipping and e-commerce packaging because of its thicker and sturdier material. 

These types of packaging can be coated similarly to paperboard (with the exclusion of AQ Semi-Gloss).

Let’s take a closer look!

Gloss Varnish (Little Gloss) / No-Coating 

Particularly for low to medium-runs, these are the better options. Why?

Digital printing for packaging is typically used to print small to medium sized projects for corrugated packaging to increase production efficiency, generate a faster turnaround time and, of course, lower unit cost.

As these boxes are mainly for shipping and transporting, it is rare to apply embellishments and expensive coating on the packaging.

This is changing, however, due to the phenomenon of unboxing experience videos. Businesses are becoming more inclined to add more design elements to their shipping boxes to leverage marketing opportunities.  

In addition, because the thickness of the corrugated material is enough to protect the products inside, the additional coating may not be needed.

Depending on the complexity or simplicity of your colours and artwork (and your branding), you could still produce a high-quality packaging box with a low gloss varnish or no coating at all. 

corrugated boxes


Similarly to paperboard packaging, a laminated coating provides your box with the ultimate protection on your artwork.

Businesses that use lamination on their shipping boxes are usually ones with very intricate details on their packaging and use it as a means to fully maximize their artwork appearance that digital printing can’t do.

The only disadvantage with gloss lamination or UV coating is that the ripples of the material are rather prominent. 

ripple corrugated

Luxury (High End)

Simplicity, minimalist, luxury and expensive is the typical characteristic of rigid box packaging. It is a no-brainer that matte lamination is the most popular choice for this type of packaging.

Matte Lamination

Matte lamination is the most recommended coating for luxury boxes. For one thing, the appearance of this particular finishing is widely known for its elegance and class (which is typically what most luxury brands want to achieve). 

It is also the best coating to use when incorporating special processes into your boxes such as embossing, foil stamping and spot UV.


Specialty Coating

If you simply have more than enough budget to invest in your packaging design that requires more unique elements, you can also opt for special coatings. 

These types of coating are recommended for long-run orders due to its extra costs. However, if budget isn’t a problem, why not! 

These are just some of the specialty coatings you can use:

  • Textured paper
  • Embossed and Debossed
  • Pearlized coating
  • Glittered
  • Reticulated
  • Scented
  • Foil Stamped

Choosing the best coating for your product’s box packaging definitely requires your time and attention. You still have to do your homework and continue to communicate with your manufacturer to find the best fit for your packaging. 

Remember, a well-prepared plan for your packaging will make your life a lot easier.

Have a solid idea of what your brand, your objective and your budget is first. From there, you can have a better sense of the overall packaging including the coating and additional finishing that is right for your packaging!

Require more assistance and need more clarification on the different types of coating? Contact us at PakFactory anytime!

About author

Mark Velarga is PakFactory's Director of Digital & Content Marketing. He writes about all things related to design, business and technology and how it serves value to customers, business owners, packaging designers and industry experts. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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