Print Finishes Explained


There are all sorts of options available when it comes to print production, not to mention all the jargon that goes with it!



Whether you’re looking to produce a high-end brochure or want a business card that will impress, the finishing options you select will depend on the look and feel you want to achieve.

If you are new to print, trying to figure out what will be the best choice might leave you feeling completely bewildered and confused. However, fear not because we’ve produced this handy guide to help you decipher the mysterious world of print and make that amazing document you envisioned a reality.



Adding a varnish to paper stock gives it a smooth texture and helps to seal in the ink, making it rub-resistant. As it makes pages more durable, varnishes are a popular choice for magazines, books and brochures. There are three types of varnish to achieve the look you want:

  • Matt varnishing – understated, less reflective
  • Gloss varnishing – gives a high quality, premium look
  • Satin varnishing – a hybrid of matt and gloss



Lamination is another way to make printed stock more durable and is commonly used on business cards. A layer of plastic film is laid over the stock providing a protective coating which can be gloss or matt. Lamination is available in a range of textures and thicknesses. For a more unusual look, you can apply lenticular film, which will give the design a holographic effect.


Spot UV Varnish

If you want to highlight certain parts of the design, Spot UV may be a finish to consider. Unlike sealing varnishing, you can specify the coverage area and helps to enhance and accentuate elements of the design. With this type of finish, you can also apply special effects such as tints, glitter and can be gloss or matt finish.


Foil Blocking

When you want to give your design some impact, foil blocking is perfect. The look is achieved by a heating a coloured film or foil which is impressioned by a metal die (stamp) directly onto the paper. The final result is a highly opaque print which is indented into the paper. The finish is available in a variety of colours and can be gloss, matt or textured. This specialty finish looks great on invitations and business cards.



Embossing and debossing can add texture to a design. To achieve this, the paper is pressed between metal dies, one raised and other recessed. Embossing is when the design is raised, whilst debossing results in a depressed design into the paper. Both finishes are a good way to draw attention to graphics, logo or text. For a minimal and subtle effect, another alternative is blind-embossing, which is when the embossed area is not printed.



For multi-page documents such as brochures, magazines and leaflets, there are a number of different binding options, which vary in cost. Here are some of the most commonly used types:

  • Perfect binding and PUR binding gives a professional appearance to brochures with over 24pp and is achieved by gluing the pages and cover together at the spine
  • Case-bound (hard-backed) is a high cost option, however it does provide a premium, high quality feel to documents
  • Saddle stitching is one of the more economical binding methods and has a similar look to stapling, however it is not suitable for documents with a high page count
  • Tape, comb, spiral and wire-o are all quick and cheap softback binding methods suitable for use with one of documents such as reports
  • Half and Full Canadian binding is similar to wire-o binding, however with this method, the binding is mostly hidden using a wrap-around card cover
  • Cased-In Binding is a more unusual binding method where the wiro-bound document is attached to a hardback casebound cover


Die Cutting

Die cutting creates a bespoke shape within the design. Metal blades are shaped to the chosen design and embedded into a wooden base, known as a wooden forme. This is then pressed into the paper stock to cut out the bespoke shape. It is also used to score or perforate designs, for example vouchers or tickets.


Laser Cutting

For cutting out more intricate designs but do not require high quantities, laser cutting would be a more suitable option. A CO2 laser can cut precisely through the printed stock without the need to produce wooden formes like with die cutting. This method is good for shorter/medium runs and works on almost any paper stock.


Duplexing, Triplexing & Multiplexing

This type of finishing method results in a creative and eye-catching look particularly when combined with other finishes. Popular for business cards, this finishing method involves layering up several different papers to create a thicker sheet by gluing them together. Multiple coloured paper stocks can be glued to give a decorative and colourful finish to the edging. Although effective, you should expect extra production time to allow the adhesive to cure.

We hope this has helped you to understand what print finishing options are available to you. However, if you would like some more advice, we’re happy to help – just give us a call on 01202 727070 to discuss your project requirements in more detail.

If you want to find out more about print production, you might be interested in reading about the difference between digital and litho printing or find out what our designer’s favourite print finishes are.