Coating 101: The low down on Aqueous, Varnish, and UV coatings

When it comes to applying a finishing coat to your printed collateral, there are multiple coating options for you to choose from whether you desire a gloss, dull, satin , or even applying a “soft touch” feel to your piece. (Ever felt the DVD case to “The Social Network” – this is “soft-touch” aqueous. )

Aqueous coating is available in three different finishes – gloss, dull, satin and soft touch. This water-based coating is applied in-line on press immediately after the ink is laid down, and its fast-drying capability enables us to expedite your product through our bindery. Great for any project that needs a more durable finish or protection from smudges, fingerprints, and scratches. The protection from aqueous coatings far exceeds that of varnish. Not to mention – more cost-effective than varnish by eliminating the second pass through press. Ask about our soft-touch aqueous coating to really help bring your piece to life!
EcoFacts: Aqueous coating is considered the most sustainable coating option because it is biodegradable and recyclable.  The coating formula as well as the cleanup process are both non-toxic and printed materials are recycled without emitting harmful byproducts.  Another sustainable alternative for all coatings: clear vegetable based ink.

Varnish is more of an ink without any pigment. It needs a separate unit on the press and is available in gloss, satin, or dull finishes. Varnishes can be applied in-line as the ink is being laid down (wet-trap) or it can be applied in a second pass through the press after ink has dried (dry-trap). To achieve the glossiest of gloss – dry trapping is encouraged.  Varnishes require spray powder to be used to eliminate sheets sticking together. Varnish does not provide adequate protection to the sheet; therefore, the most encouraged application for a varnish is for aesthetics. It is great for adding depth to any printed piece.
EcoFacts: Varnishes are more recyclable than UV coatings; however,  the emission volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the coating process can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, as well as damage to the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system. VOCs are also suspected to cause cancer in humans.

UV Coating (sometimes referred to as liquid laminate) is applied much like the ink to paper and dried via ultraviolet light. You can choose to spot UV a graphic element to add to your printed piece or flood the entire sheet for a protective coat. UV coating is available in a wide array of finishes, from high gloss to matte and satin – or glitters, tints and even scents! UV coating is more likely to show fingerprints than either aqueous or varnish coatings and select UV coatings can make folding more difficult.
EcoFacts: The process of applying UV coatings does not emit any harmful byproducts; however, the clean-up process is another story. Hazardous chemicals with strict safety measures are required to clean-up after a press run. UV coatings also require high energy consumption due to the UV drying lamps. UV coated materials are limited in recycling as well – too much coverage on a piece will contaminate the pulp and the paper is not recyclable.


4 thoughts on “Coating 101: The low down on Aqueous, Varnish, and UV coatings

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