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Design For Print: Finishing

*Written in my own words*

Gloss, Matt and Satin Most finishing process are available in three formats Gloss, Matt and Satin. A gloss varnish when applied to a print will reflect light, creating the appearance of a shiny surface it is often used on photographs and brochures. A Matt varnish is often used on text heavy pages as it does not reflect light like a gloss and it creates a smooth surface finish. A satin varnish is half way between a gloss and a matt varnish it is not completely shiny nor completely dull, it highlights but not to the extent of a gloss but is not as flat as a matt coating. Varnish can also be pearlescent, when this is applied to a print, when in light will reflect a myriad of colours.

Vanishes is a print finishing technique that can be applied to specific areas of print and can create a matt, glass or satin affect. Pigments can also be added the varnishes to further increase there uses. These varnishes can be applied ‘on-press’ with other inks or they can be created using a separate run. These varnishes are applied to the print like an ink and are cured instantly under UV light.

Spot UV A spot UV varnish works in the same ways as a varnish but is only applied to select areas of a print to highlight the area with either a coating of matt, satin or gloss varnish. This spot UV then becomes raised from the surface of the rest of print creating a visual point of impact on the eye. Spot UV varnishes are usually clear and the colour is created from the print beneath. Spot UV’s are most effect when used over a print that has a matt-laminated coating. The liquid is applied to the desired area and then is set using a UV light.

Textured spot UV Textured spot UV work in the same way as a traditional spot UV but are chosen when creating a textured surface rather than to create an aesthetic quality. The spot UV is often applied over the entire print to create and mimic a desired textured, this process is used to engage with the sense of touch rather than to create aesthetic appeal.

Neutral and Aqueous coatings Applying what is known as a Neutral finish to printed stock allows for inks to be sealed with an almost invisible coating of clear liquid that does not affect the printed appearance of the product. This process is often to speed by drying time when matt and satin paper stocks have been used where drying times for ink are considerably longer. Neutral coatings are also referred to as Aqueous coatings and can come in a variety of affects including matt, sating and gloss, they applied at the end of a print run as they can not be applied to a specific area but only applied as a complete covering.

Laminates are very similar to applying a Neutral coating and provide the same function of protecting the printed ink, however laminates are often applied as sheet of plastic that bond with heat to the paper stock to protect it. This process often creates a glossy affect which can affect the printed colour unlike a neutral coating which can be either glossy or matt.

Foil Blocking Foil blocking or stamping is the process by which a tinted foiled, available in many variants is applied to another surface. The process can also be combined with embossing, it can be used both alone to create its own affect or applied onto a pre printed surface to create extra emphasis on a specific element. The process is based used on open areas of a design and type bellow 8pt should be avoided. Smooth and coated stocks work effectively with this process as uncoated and matt stocks create an uneven surface for the foil to adhere to. The foiling is applied using using a heated die to impress the foil onto the surface, the types of foils available are vast and include colored foils, matte foils, metallic foils, marbled and pearlescent foils.

Thermography is a much less common speciality finish process that creates an effect similar to engraving, that produces images raised from the surface of the stock producing a visible and tactile effect. The process works but applying a heat reactive powder to wet ink, the powder adheres to the wet ink and when heat in applied the powder melts to create solid raised surface. Similar to foil blocking the powders are available in a wide range of variants from pastels to metallic colours, the powders also come in matt, gloss and satin variants. This process can only be applied to one side of a stock and should not be applied over folds or creases and should be applied to type smaller than 6pt, conversely large flat areas may appear bubbled.

Embossing and Debossing Embossing is the process in which the stock is pressed to be raised from the surface of the rest of the stock. A impression is made using a die, manufactured from either copper, brass or steel, the stock is placed between a recessed die and a relief die which are pressed together to create the impression. Different dies create different effects, a single level die creates an impression as a single depth, a multi-level die creates impressions at different depths. Round-edge dies create a soft impression, Beveled-edge dies create a soft impression but with well defined edges and a Sculptured die create the a realistic impression of varying depths and definition. There are also different types of embossing that can be produced blind embossing does not use ink or foil and is used to highlight an area of a stock, however the results are dependent on the quality of stock and depth of impression. A registered impresses uses an ink or foil when creating the impression to create a new embossed image on the surface. Debossing is the same process however instead of the impression be raised from the stock it is recessed into the stock.

Die cutting Die cutting is the process which is used to cut stock into a desired shape or format however the process can also be used crease, perforate and slit stock in the required places. What is known as the die must first be made before cutting can begin, the die is template, made from razored steel that cuts the stock into the required shape. This die is then placed into a die-cutting press the stock material is then placed bellow the die press in lowered onto the stock to perform the cut and then elevated to reveal the cut stock. This method allows for stock to be cut, creased or perforated perfectly every time without flaw. This is an inexpensive process for larger print runs.


Perfect Binding Perfect binding is a method of binding in which individual signatures and single pages of a publication are encased within a cover stock, often heavier than the stock used for the pages, these single pages are then glued to the spine using a flexible adhesive. The edges of the publication are then trimmed to be flush with each other. This process is often used for binding magazines and trade publications. It is a fairly inexpensive binding option in comparison to stitching. Uncoated stock is most effective with this method of binding as the adhesive is absorbed in the stock however coated do not absorb the glue therefore leading the publication to split overtime.

Case/Edition Binding Case binding is a bind that is traditionally used for hard cover text books, the process works by cover material to two hard boards which create the front and back covers. The signatures of the book are then sewn together and end pages added. The hard front and back cover are then attached to the end pages. Groves positioned along the side of the covers act as hinges.

Wire, Spiral Comb and Canadian Binding A canadian bind is where as the publication is wire-bound which is also known as spiral binding. A wire bind is where each page of the publication is hole punched along one edge a C shapes wire spine is passed through these holes and tightened until the wire spine makes a closed loop. A full canadian would mean that the cover then wraps around the hole publication and conceals the spine a half canadian bind would leave the bind visible. Spiral binding allows the document to open flat when being read, a spiral bind can be manufactured from either plastic or metal, it is known as a comb bind when plastic is used and a spiral bind when metal is used. However although the publication may lie flat the pages do not align when opened and turned but the method does allow for a variety of stock to be used within the publication.

Saddle Stitch Saddle is one of the most common and accessible types of binding used to bind publications together, it is a common option for booklets and magazines. A saddle stitch is constructed by opening aligned several signatures together and having them open at the centre and then stitched together through the centre fold line. It is referred to as the saddle stitch due to its similarities with a horses saddle. When attaching the pages together they are held together with staples. This is one of the most inexpensive methods of binding.

Singer Sewing Singer sewing binding uses a sewing machine to create a stitched line along the centre fold of the publication similar to a saddle stitch however you can also sew along an outer edge. Thickness will be a contributing factor to the use of this method as thicker publications can’t be bound using this method. Often this method creates a less uniform aesthetic which can make the publication appear more hand finished than industrial as often threads are left at the top and bottom of the publication.

Clips and Bolts Clips and bolts are less common forms of binding however they can be used to create a more unique aesthetic within a publication. The process often works by first punching or drilling holes through the publication to allow the clips and bolts and to pass through the pages and then tightened to then uniformly hold the pages together.

[Calvert S, Casey A and Dabner D. (2010) 'A Foundation Course for Graphic Designers Working in Print, Moving Images and Digital Media' London, Thames and Hudson]

[Ambrose, G and Harris, P. (2009) 'The Fundamentals of Graphic Design' Switzerland, AVA Publishing]

[Ambrose, G and Harris, P. (2008) 'The Production Manual' Switzerland, AVA Publishing]

[Fishel, C. (2007) 'Mastering Materials, Bindings and Finishes' USA, Rockport Publisher, Inc.]

[Mason, D. (2007) 'Materials, Process, Print: Creative Solutions for Graphic Design' London, Laurence King]

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