When I collaborate with clients on high-end printing projects, I recommend they think beyond the paper stock and ink. Finishing techniques like foil stamping, embossing, debossing, engraving and spot UV coating, when applied thoughtfully, can make your printed piece extraordinary. Since you have put so much thought into design and communication, consider one of these five finishes to elevate it above the competition.
Letterpress: Letterpress printing is the oldest method of commercial printing. Invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the year 1455, it is a process by which raised letters or images pick up ink from a roller and transfer it to the paper, leaving a deep impression of the image. Due to its visual and textural qualities, many designers like to utilize this print process for stationery and invitations. What makes letterpress stand out is that it engages the senses, and creates a design you can touch and feel. It has a simple elegance and beauty that is unique unto itself.
Foil Stamping: Foil stamping (aka foil application) is the application of a thin metallic, holographic, or pigmented foil on to a solid surface with a heated die, leaving the die’s design stamped in foil. Foil stamping, like an exclamation point, lends an emphatic statement of quality and richness to the printed piece, which leaps off the page with vivid color, texture, and dimension.
Embossing and Debossing: Embossing simply means to press the paper into relief using heat and force. It requires an etched metal (female) die and a matching counter (male) die. When a paper stock is pressed between the heated die and counter die, the desired image is pressed into the stock. Embossing creates a raised image on the paper. When the same process creates an indented image it is called debossing. These processes create a subtle effect, communicating a quiet sophistication to the printed piece.
Engraving: Like letterpress, the process of engraving imposes ink onto paper under intense pressure, creating images with a unique look and feel unavailable through flat printing. However, unlike letterpress, type, and graphics are raised. To achieve this result, a metal plate is etched with a recessed image, and then hand-aligned on the press. Once aligned, the plate is coated with ink and blotted with kraft paper to clean it, leaving only the image with ink. Paper is then hand-fed with each piece applied under two tons of pressure(!), creating an embossed image with startling clarity, color purity, and depth.
The beauty of engraving is best reserved for formal pieces, as the price and printing style lends itself to more formal occasions. The engraving technique captures fine details, unparalleled by other printing methods. Since engraving ink is incredibly opaque, printing white ink on a colored stock creates a startling effect with color and relief.
UV Coating: UV coating, technically is not a “printing” technique but a coating for printed materials. It may sound space-aged, but it is not complex. The process utilizes UV light to “cure” a varnish that is applied to paper or cardstock. While this varnish can be used on plain cardstock, it is often applied to printed designs, sealing in the color, adding a high gloss or dull finish, and protecting the printed surface underneath from moisture and other types of damage.
UV coating can also be applied just to certain areas – “spot UV.” It is a great way to accentuate the printed image. Depending on the desired effect, you can use a high gloss spot UV on a matte background, or a dull spot UV on a glossy background. Since UV finishes are clear, they can be applied as a pattern across the entire printed piece, without reducing the readability of wording underneath. A heightened contrast is the result of spot UV coating, unmatched by any other process.
Business cards, brochures and other heavier weight paper or card stocks are best combined with UV coating. It’s an affordable option when thinking about ways to give your printing project a huge visual impact.
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