Mastering Print Coatings: Choice, Application, and Best Practices for Enhanced Visual Appeal


Alexander Watson

Mastering Print Coatings: Choice, Application, and Best Practices for Enhanced Visual Appeal

Navigating the world of print coatings can feel like a maze. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back! Together, we’ll delve into the essentials of selecting and using print coatings to enhance your printed products.

From understanding the different types of coatings to knowing when and how to use them, I’ll guide you through every step. By the end of this journey, you’ll be confidently selecting print coatings that bring out the best in your print projects.

Understanding Print Coatings

Immersing one’s self in the world of print coatings isn’t as daunting as it might first appear. With a little help it’s even quite exciting to delve into once you understand the basics.

The Purpose of Print Coatings

What exactly do print coatings do? Simply put, print coatings elevate the visual appearance and durability of printed materials. They offer an extra layer of protection, preserving colors from fading and averting damages caused by exposure to moisture, dust, or wear and tear. Coatings also enhance the feel of the product, adding a texture that can range from glossy to matte.

Two prime examples come from magazine covers and business cards. Magazine covers often exhibit glossy finishes that attract the eye, while business cards frequently have a touch of elegance added by a slightly textured finish.

Different Types of Print Coatings

Next, let’s unpack the most common types of print coatings. The three predominant types include varnish, aqueous, and UV coatings.

Firstly, varnish coatings, which are considered the traditional choice, can be applied as spot or flood finishes providing a range of effects from satin to glossy finishes.

Aqueous coatings, on the other hand, offer greater protection than varnish. It’s a water-based coating that dries fast, offering high-gloss or dull finishes.

Finally, we have the UV coatings. UV coatings excel in glossiness and protection, as they are cured by an ultraviolet light that leaves a hard, shiny surface. They’re sprayed on like ink and exposed to UV light to dry, making them an excellent choice for projects desiring visual pop and robust protection.

Understanding these differences in print coatings helps in determining the right coating for a specific print project. Bear in mind the aesthetic and protective properties you desire for your printed material as you select your print coating.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Print Coatings

Pinpointing the ideal print coating pivots on several crucial aspects. From the end product’s durability and protection needs to the desired visual and tactile effects, many considerations impact the selection process. Environmental and health considerations also play a large role in this decision.

Durability and Protection Needs

When delving into the nuances of print coatings, durability often tops the list of requirements. Print materials, such as business cards, book covers, or postcards, face continual handling. A higher-quality coating offers a robust shield against scratches, smudges, and moisture, extending the life of the product. For instance, UV coatings provide a hard finish, thereby bumping up the item’s resistance to physical damage.

Visual and Tactile Effects

A print coating’s aesthetic and touchable attributes affect how a user interacts with the printed material. Choices span from a shiny gloss to a muted matte, each evoking different emotional responses. Gloss coatings typically result in sharper, vivid colors, appealing to those who favor high-contrast visuals. On the other hand, matte finishes lend a soft, elegant feel to items, widely used to impart a touch of sophistication. For a unique experience, textural coatings offer stimuli that engage the user, much like embossed or raised details.

Environmental and Health Considerations

Choosing environmentally friendly and health-conscious print coatings remains a vital factor for many businesses today. Print coatings may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that harm both human health and the environment. Therefore, print materials targeting indoor use often lean towards aqueous or water-based coatings. These present a minimal VOC profile, thereby promoting healthier indoor air quality. Sustainability-minded folk might opt for coatings with a low VOC count or even UV-curable inks, championing both eco- and health-friendly qualities.

Application Methods for Print Coatings

Based on my exploration of print coatings, let’s plunge into the application methods. Given the unique properties and benefits of each type, the application processes differ significantly. Considering the previous discussions on varnish, aqueous, and UV coatings, let’s delve into their application methods across offset, digital, and screen printing techniques.

Offset Coatings

In the offset printing processes, printers primarily use varnish and aqueous coatings. They apply these coatings by utilizing in-line or off-line methods. In-line use involves incorporation within the printing process, while off-line requires a distinct pass through the press after printing completes. Applied via a press’s coating unit, these coatings perform distinct roles. For instance, in-line coatings protect the print surface from mechanical wear during finishing operations, while off-line coatings enhance the visual appeal with matte or glossy finishes.

Digital Coatings

Use of print coatings in digital printing largely mirrors the principles followed in offset printing. Yet, it’s vital to consider the ink-compatibility for a seamless printing result. UV coatings serve as the primary choice here, applied post-print for superior protection and enhanced visual effects. UV curing lamps facilitate quick drying, ensuring high productivity. This method optimizes the durability of the prints, even under rugged usage.

Screen Coatings

Screen printing, known for its high ink density and vibrancy, requires a robust print coating solution. It’s here that UV and aqueous coatings make significant contributions. UV coating, with its quick curing property, ensures the print doesn’t smear, smudge, or fade over time. On the other hand, aqueous coatings render a protective barrier, shielding the printed product from damage due to environmental factors. Both coatings, when applied on a screen print, noticeably enhance the print’s durability and aesthetic aspects.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Print Coatings

Understanding the issues often encountered with print coatings improves troubleshooting results. Tackling two common problems, adhesion failures and drying and curing difficulties, we’ll delve into possible reasons and suggest a few remedies.

Adhesion Failures

Adhesion failure stands as one of the most common issues with print coatings. When the coating fails to fuse with the print surface, it impacts the durability and quality of the final product, negating the purpose of the coating application. Multiple factors can lead to adhesion failures. They aren’t limited to the compatibility of the coating and paper stock, quality of applied ink, pre-treatment of surface before coating, and obstruction due to dust or foreign particles.

To counter adhesion failures, one must firstly ensure that the print surface is clean and devoid of dust particles. Using industry-specific cleaners often helps in achieving a sound surface for adhesion. Secondly, compatibility testing proves critical; it’s always beneficial to perform a compatibility test before the full-scale application of print coating. Lastly, ensure good quality ink use; poor quality inks can prevent the coating from adhering to the paper surface effectively.

Drying and Curing Problems

Drying and curing problems form another set of challenges with print coatings. Speeding up the drying and curing process, often for faster turnover, can disrupt the adhesion process, leading to undercured or over-dried coats, finally affecting the print quality.

To avoid this, monitoring the curing process plays a critical role. Using a standardized testing procedure, such as a cure ring test or a solid ink density test, can help assess the curing profile of the print coating. Moreover, the temperature of the curing oven significantly influences the curing process. Keeping it within the manufacturer’s recommended limits ensures a proper cure. Furthermore, if UV coatings are in use, maintaining the UV lamp in top-notch condition is paramount, as poor UV output can lead to undercuring.

By addressing these two common challenges, one can maximize the efficacy of print coatings and minimize these frequent disruptions.

Best Practices in Print Coating Usage

Delving into the best practices of print coating usage, my aim is to clarify crucial aspects to ensure practical and efficient usage. I’ll be focusing here on both the preparation and the maintenance aspects of print coating usage.

Proper Preparation and Pre-Testing

The first thing to note in print coating usage is the necessity of proper preparation and pre-testing. This involves more than just ensuring a clean surface. Instead, it’s about executing a detailed plan, encompassing compatibility tests with the inks and paper types. For instance, UV coatings may react differently depending on the type of ink used, so a pre-test becomes imperative.

Ensuring a clean and dry surface is a primary step in the preparation, as any contamination can disrupt the adhesion of the coating, affecting its performance. In the pre-tests, pay attention to the color shifts that could occur post-coating. As an example, while UV coatings provide superior gloss and protection, they might cause some inks to darken post-curing.

Furthermore, the evaluation of accessibility and cost-effectiveness, based on the scale of the print project, is advisable. Aqueous coatings might be a more financially feasible option for smaller scales as opposed to UV coatings, which, despite having a high initial investment cost, can result in lower costs per print for larger-scale projects.

Maintenance of Equipment

Maintaining the coating equipment in working order over time is crucial, ensuring that the quality of printed material doesn’t wane due to faulty or dirty equipment. Regular inspections and cleanings should occur, aiming to prevent the accumulation of dried coating or ink, which can obstruct the smooth application of the coating in subsequent jobs.

Additionally, monitoring of the curing process during printing ensures the coating achieves its full potential. For instance, UV coatings require proper curing under UV light, and if the lamp is not functioning optimally, this can affect the curing of the coating, potentially leading to smearing, adhesion problems, or uneven surface texture.

Managing temperature and humidity levels in the printing environment comes as a part of equipment maintenance since these conditions can impact the drying and curing times of the coatings. E.g., aqueous coatings dry faster in low humidity conditions.

Following these best practices can allow professional printers to maximize the efficacy and minimize disruptions of print coating usage. Work on proper preparation and pre-testing for each print job, coupled with the regular maintenance of equipment, ensure a smooth, efficient printing process, producing high-quality printed materials every time.


Choosing the right print coating is crucial. It’s not just about picking between varnish, aqueous, or UV coatings. It’s about understanding your needs, the visual effects you’re aiming for, and the durability required. Environmental considerations also play a part in this decision-making process. The application methods vary depending on whether you’re using offset, digital, or screen printing. So, it’s vital to know your equipment and processes inside out.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve chosen your coating and application method, you’ve got to use it correctly. This means preparing properly, pre-testing, and maintaining your equipment. It also means keeping everything clean and closely monitoring the curing process. By doing all this, you’re not just applying a coating; you’re ensuring the production of consistently high-quality printed materials. That’s the power of the right print coating, used in the right way.

Leave a Comment