What is Aqueous Coating for Printing and Packaging?

To make a lasting impression on your target market, your product packaging needs to be attractive, and it must have the “wow” factor.

But as much as these eye-striking packaging designs boost sales, manufacturers need also to make sure that the packaging performs its primary function, and that is to secure the product.

And speaking of durability and protection, the coating is one of the most critical packaging elements that you need to be aware of if you want your packaging to still look its best despite multiple individuals touching and handling your products.

Whether used for packaging boxes, calendars, manuals, or other applications, the coating impacts the final look and appeal of the product.

AQ (Aqueous) coating is a popular choice because of its unique advantages, specific applications, and cost-effectiveness.

What is Aqueous Coating?

Unlike UV coating and varnish, aqueous coatingis water-based. It features fast-drying capabilities when used during the printing process, which makes it possible to achieve different appearances, therefore, allowing a variety of application methods.

Known for being environmentally friendly, aqueous coating is used in packaging for food, household products, and fast-moving consumer products.

It is classified as the “default” coating for printing and packaging.

Coatings are often used to resist fingerprints and other impurities. It is also possible to enhance the surface durability with different coatings. From a packaging perspective, the type of product will largely determine the suitability of using AQ coating.

Cosmetic products and perfumes, for instance, contains chemicals that may make AQ coating difficult on the exterior or interior packaging.

A custom folding carton box with a semi-gloss finish.
A folding carton box finished in AQ Semi-gloss

Different Types of AQ (Aqueous) Coating

Gloss: If you’re looking for a less showy and more muted gloss finish, AQ coating is an ideal solution. For a high gloss, UV coating or film laminates are better options.

Matte: Consider matte coating for minimal shine and depth but a high degree of color.

Satin: With an appearance that’s between gloss and matte, satin offers medium shine and excellent scruff resistance.

Soft touch coating: Soft touch aqueous coating creates a velvety texture with a mellow appearance compared to a glossy finish.

Pencil receptive: This coating is receptive to pencil, ink, and laser. It comes in handy for applications where the quality of the pencil/laser/ink marking/imprint is important.

Dry erase: An alternative to laminate, dry-erase AQ coating achieves a high gloss effect and is an inexpensive solution.

Primer: Applied before lamination, used on substrates to become more receptive to ink.

A custom rigid box made of two pieces, colored in purple.
Two-piece rigid drawer style box finished an AQ Soft-Touch ®

The Aqueous Coating Process

Machines apply aqueous coating immediately before printing ink on sheets. After the application, the sheet passes through a heated air system for quick-drying, and then makes its way to the finishing section of the facility.

There are considerations to keep in mind when printing with aqueous coating and to apply it throughout an entire sheet. An appropriate heaviness and text weight can prevent the paper from curling, wrinkling or losing its shape.

The Benefits of Aqueous Coating

  • Non-toxic & environmentally-friendly: The treated paper is easily recyclable and does not produce harmful by-products. There is minimum solid waste after the application of aqueous coating, and the cleaning process does not require toxic cleaning agents.
  • Versatile: It is a no-hassle solution when additional finishing is necessary to the print and works well with various printing process inks and glues. The coating also makes it very easy to write and print over the coating.
  • Cost-effective: This water-based coating is mostly used in line with the printing process, delivering significant cost savings.
  • Durable and long lasting: By sealing the ink against exposure to air, the coating maintains the fidelity of metallic inks. Aqueous coating is also less susceptible to yellowing, making it a better alternative to varnish.

Although AQ coating provides several benefits, the chances of chemical burning with aqueous coating and UV coating is higher than other finishing such as varnish. The solvent resistance of aqueous coating is lower than that of UV coating and thermal lamination. Nevertheless, AQ coating is still the most popular choice for print finish options.

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