Varnish is widely used to create a protective layer for items like product packaging and business cards. It is essentially a clear ink that is spread on printed medium and dried. Varnish can appear matte, glossy or satin.

Varnish is also used to enhance the appearance and tensile strength of paper based packaging.

Packaging benefits from varnish thanks to its capability to enhance the feel of surfaces and provide adequate exterior protection.

Let’s jump right into the types of varnishes you have at your disposal:

Types of Varnish

Gloss: Produces a smooth surface; the process often applies gloss over the full surface area or in specific areas.

It creates a contrasting effect while increasing the depth of color and detail. But it also results in a reflective surface that may interfere with the readability of text.

Example of spot uv
Source: PakFactory

Matte: Matte varnish creates a smooth surface and a soft, subtle appearance. Being a non-reflective surface, it makes texts easy to read.

If you’re looking for a dynamic effect, you’re better off sticking to gloss. However, several effects are possible with this type of coating.

Also, like spot UV coating, matte varnish can be spot applied with a high level of precision.

Satin: A combination of matte and gloss varnishes, satin varnish strikes a balance between medium shine and strong scuff resistance.

The effect of satin varnish allows for a subtle aesthetic. It almost appears like there is no protective coating on the printed medium.

Strike-through matte: Strike-through refers to a technique in which both matte & gloss varnish is coated on the same printed area.

A matte varnish is first applied to all areas of a coated sheet, except those where a glossy effect is needed.

A high gloss AQ coating floods over the entire sheet to allow the matte varnish ‘strike-through’ to the surface and leaving the glossy areas to shine.

The intention is to create a visual distinction between different areas of a sheet.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Varnish

Varnish increases the perceived quality of the product.

It is also an economical and user-friendly process that can be easily applied to existing packaging designs to elevate a brand’s perceived value.

It is easily manipulated to get the desired result and provides a sensory experience for customers who interact with a box before purchase.

However, it offers a lower degree of protection in comparison to aqueous coating and UV coating.

They are also susceptible to yellowing over time.

Varnishes are also not particularly eco-friendly and need a careful application to prevent the release of toxic compounds into the atmosphere, unless aqueous based varnishes are used.

The Varnish Process

Different techniques are used based on the design of the printed substrate and the desired result.

For example, varnishing a whole surface is a one-step process.

Varnish is applied and it’s then either:

  • Cured by a UV light
  • Left to dry

However, for more complicated designs like spot varnish printing, it can be a 2-3 step process.

In the example above a matte varnish is applied first then dried, followed by a satin varnish, which is also dried and a glossy spot varnish and drying for a final time.

Varnish is an industry standard in packaging and should be applied for protective purposes as well as branding purposes.

Varnish is a super easy addition to any packaging design that elevates the packaging experience for customers.

It can bring standardized packaging to unique packaging!

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