21 Print Finishing Techniques & Effects for Your Printing and Packaging Business

Print Finishing op[tions

In the print industry, as important as creating a unique design, choosing a printing method, and other print requirements like size, color, paper, etc. is; finalizing a printing finish too, is a crucial decision to make. And if you think what’s so big deal about it then guess what? There are countless choices to take your pick from and each serves a different purpose.

So, this comprehensive guide explores various print finishing techniques, their applications, and how they can significantly impact revenue, with the help of which print service providers like you can deliver high-quality products and meet customer demands. 

Table of Contents

Defining Print Finishing Techniques

What is print finishing? From the name itself, it is clear that it is something that is done when a printing job is finished. When an artwork is printed onto a surface it appears raw and lifeless, thus to make it aesthetically pleasing, there are many different techniques and special effects that can be added to the piece of print once the ink is dried, to enhance its appearance, durability, and overall quality, such process is called print finishing. 

Though print finishing may seem like a silly job, it can make a striking difference to any printed material. That’s why print finishing is now a must for any print product to make it more attractive and convincing. Some of the finishing processes involve binding, cutting, folding, embossing, lamination, gluing, stapling, and so on.

How Print Finishing Makes a Difference?

How Print Finishing Makes a Difference

Print finishing is the final step in the printing process. It not only adds aesthetic value but also provides functional benefits, making it an essential aspect of any print job hence print service providers must consider it because print finishing;

  • Enhances the appearance of printed materials making it more attractive to customers.
  • Improves the durability of printed materials and therefore is especially important for items like business cards, brochures, and packaging that are handled frequently.
  • Conveys a sense of professionalism. Businesses often rely on print service providers to create materials that represent their brand effectively. High-quality finishing reflects positively on the business using the service.
  • Helps printed materials stand out. In a competitive market, having unique and visually appealing finishes can differentiate one print service provider from another, leading to customer loyalty and referrals.
  • Types of finishes such as UV coating or lamination can protect prints from wear and tear, moisture, and other environmental factors for a longer time. 
  • Offers versatility in design. They allow for creative elements such as embossing, debossing, foil stamping, and die-cutting, which can add depth and texture to printed materials, making them more engaging and memorable.
  • In certain industries, there are regulations regarding the finish of printed materials. For example, food packaging might require specific coatings for hygiene reasons. Print service providers need to be aware of and compliant with these regulations.
  • Ultimately, well-finished prints lead to satisfied customers. When clients receive high-quality, professionally finished products, they are more likely to be happy with the service provided and this kind of satisfaction can lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

Understanding Print Finishing for Artwork Creation

Print finishing is decided upon the print. While one finishing works with a certain print, the other might not. Therefore, understanding print finishing is essential for artwork creation because it directly impacts how the final printed piece will look and feel. Here’s why understanding it is crucial when creating artwork:

Visual Enhancement

Print finishing techniques such as gloss or matte coatings, varnishes, and laminates can enhance the visual appeal of the artwork. They can make colors more vibrant, details sharper, and overall, create a visually stunning impression.

Texture and Feel

Texture and Feel

Finishing methods like embossing, debossing, and foil stamping add texture and depth to the artwork. Understanding these techniques allows artists to design with specific textures in mind, enhancing the tactile experience for viewers.

Paper Selection

Knowledge of print finishing informs the choice of paper. Some printing finishes work better on certain paper types. For instance, a glossy print finish might look brilliant on a coated paper, while a matte print finish might suit a textured or uncoated paper. Artists need to consider these factors during artwork creation.

Design Creativity

Understanding finishing options expands an artist’s creative palette. Knowing what types of finishes are possible can inspire innovative designs. Artists can incorporate unique finishes into their artwork to create distinctive and memorable pieces.

Brand Consistency

For commercial projects, maintaining brand consistency is vital. Print finishing techniques ensure that printed materials align with the brand’s image. Artists need to be aware of these finishes to create artwork that complements the brand identity effectively.

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Technical Considerations

Technical Considerations

Different finishing techniques have specific technical requirements. Artists must understand bleed, trim, and safe areas for each finishing option to ensure that the artwork is created with the correct dimensions and specifications for the chosen finishing process.

Communication with Printers

Artists often collaborate with print service providers. Understanding print finishing allows artists to communicate their vision clearly to printers. They can discuss finishes, paper choices, and other details effectively, ensuring the final printed piece matches their creative intent.

Customer Satisfaction

When artists understand print finishing, they can deliver artwork that translates well into the finished product, leading to customer satisfaction as the final printed materials meet or exceed the client’s expectations, enhancing the artist’s reputation and client relationships.

How Offering Print Finishing as an Add-on Service Can Boost Revenue?

Print service providers can boost their revenue significantly by offering print finishing as an add-on service. Here’s how: 

  • Expand service portfolio i.e. offer a wide range of print finishing options to attract a diverse clientele.
  • Educate customers as they may not be aware of the possibilities offered by print finishing techniques and by educating them about the benefits and visual appeal of various finishing options, providers can upsell finishing services, thereby increasing revenue.
  • Offer personalized and customized finishing options as businesses are often willing to pay more for unique and tailor-made finishes that align with their branding and marketing strategies.
  • Designers often have a deep understanding of how finishing techniques can amplify the visual impact of their designs. By working closely with them, print service providers can offer sophisticated and attractive finishing options, attracting high-paying clients seeking unique and visually appealing prints.
  • Invest in the latest technology and skilled finishing professionals to deliver exceptional results, build a reputation for quality, get repeat customers, and attract more business and revenue.
  • Offer package deals where printing and finishing services are bundled together at a discounted rate.
  • Promote finishing services through targeted marketing efforts. Use social media, online advertising, and industry events to showcase the capabilities and examples of finished products. Highlight success stories and customer testimonials to build trust and attract potential clients interested in high-quality finishing work.
  • Stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in print finishing. Investing in training for employees and state-of-the-art finishing equipment ensures that the provider can offer a wide array of finishing options efficiently. 

Understanding the market size for print-finished products is also essential for print service providers to identify potential opportunities, target specific customer segments, and boost revenue. Analyzing market trends and consumer preferences can help businesses make informed decisions about their print-finishing offerings and further advance in the competitive market. 

Print Finishing Options and Their Applications

Different types of print finishes can enhance the appearance, durability, and overall quality of printed materials. Here are several common types of print finishes and the products they are often used on:

1. Spot UV

Spot uv

Spot UV involves applying a glossy coating to specific areas or spots, creating contrast with the matte or uncoated background. It is done to draw the user’s attention to a particular part of the design from the whole page. It is a tough, transparent coat that is applied to the printing surface and is cured or hardened by UV light during the printing process. 

Applications – Business cards, brochures, packaging, and promotional materials where specific elements like logos or images need to stand out.

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2. Varnishes

Generally associated with wood where it is applied for a modern, sleek look, varnishes are also used for papers for a smooth finish. They are clear coatings applied to the entire printed surface, adding a protective layer and altering the texture, without adding extra weight to the material and keeping smudges, fingerprints, and scratches off your finished product. 

Applications – Magazines, catalogs, packaging, and promotional materials for a glossy or matte finish, depending on the type of varnish used.

• Gloss Varnishing

Provides a shiny, reflective surface to the printed material and hence is best-suited for posters, high-end brochures, packaging, and marketing materials for a vibrant and glossy appearance.

• Matte Varnishing

Offers a non-reflective, smooth surface with a soft appearance. Suitable for business cards, invitations, book covers, and luxury packaging for an elegant and understated finish.

• Silk Varnishing

Provides a silky, smooth texture to the printed surface. Used for book covers, high-end catalogs, and packaging for a royal experience.

• Machine Sealing

An invisible thin covering that does not make a visible difference to the printed products but enhances durability and protection for a longer period. It seals the ink on the paper, usually matt and silk as they are less absorbent. Suitable for packaging, labels, and promotional materials for added resilience and longevity.

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3. Lamination


Lamination involves applying a thin layer of plastic film, often glossy or matte, to printed materials, providing durability and protection against water, wear, and tear. It makes the images on the print look sharper, lending it a smooth finish.

Applications – Menus, ID cards, bookmarks, and outdoor signage for waterproof and durable prints.

4. Foil Stamping

Foil Stamping

Also known as foil printing and foil blocking, foil stamping applies a malleable metallic material or colored foil to specific areas, with the help of heat and pressure, creating a shiny, reflective surface. It is time-consuming and expensive but the result is worth it because the text or images look extra luxurious.

Applications – Wedding invitations, greeting cards, packaging, and promotional materials for a rich and eye-catching effect.

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5. Embossing

Embossing finish is used when you want to raise specific areas of the print to create a three-dimensional effect. With the help of a metal plate and counter, your desired text or image that you would most like to stand out can be embossed on paper. 

Applications – Business cards, stationery, invitations, and packaging for a tactile and elegant appearance.

6. Debossing / Letterpress


Opposite printing finishing of embossing, debossing presses images or text into the paper, creating a depressed or indented effect instead of a raised appearance.  It’s also a printing finishing also known as “letterpress” and is one of the earliest printing finishing methods.

Applications – High-end stationery, business cards, and packaging for a subtle and sophisticated finish.

7. Metallic Inks

Description – Metallic inks contain metallic particles, adding a reflective and metallic appearance to printed materials.

Applications – Posters, packaging, promotional materials, and invitations for a vibrant and alluring effect.

8. Die-cutting


Die-cutting involves cutting printed materials into specific shapes, adding visual interest. Using a steel cutting die,  custom irregular or unique shapes and forms can be cut out. 

Applications – Packaging, promotional materials, labels, and marketing collateral for unique and creative designs.

9. Laser Cutting

A print finishing technique that uses laser beam technology to cut intricate designs or patterns into paper or other materials. Also popularly known as the “pop-up” or ”lace” card effect, laser cutting is one of the more creative print finishing options. 

Applications – Invitations, signage, packaging, and promotional materials for detailed and precise cuts.

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10. Folding


Folding involves creasing and folding printed sheets into specific shapes or formats. There are different ways for folding techniques like the basic ones – Half-folding, Tri-folding, Z-folding, Gate-folding, Roll-folding, etc. In fact, there are not many limitations to folding.

Applications – Brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, and promotional materials for organized and compact presentations.

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11. Perforating


Perforating creates small holes or slits in printed materials, allowing easy tearing along the perforated lines. It is used when one wants to create easily detachable parts or a direct mail campaign. 

Applications – Coupons, tickets, forms, and promotional materials for easy tear-off sections.

12. Polywrapping

Polywrapping involves enclosing printed materials in plastic film for protection and mailing purposes. It is fast, economical, and highly efficient and also the better option for protecting its content from external damage caused by water, dust, etc.

Applications – Magazines, catalogs, and direct mail campaigns for secure and weather-resistant packaging.

13. Booklet Making

Booklet Making

A print finishing process that involves arranging offset printing and binding multiple printed materials (sheets or spreads) into booklets or catalogs.

Applications – Manuals, catalogs, brochures, and informational booklets for organized and professional presentations.

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14. Binding, Stapling, and Stitching

Binding, Stapling, and Stitching

Similar to booklet making, binding, stapling, and stitching is done to join printed materials together with either wire, glue, or other means. 

Applications – Books, magazines, reports, and catalogs for a polished and professional finish.

15. Edge Printing

Edge printing involves applying ink or foil to the edges of paper, creating a colored border. It gives a classy effect and can be done in any color, including foils and metallics.

Applications – Business cards, invitations, and high-end marketing materials for a distinctive and stylish look.

16. Glow-in-the-Dark


If you want to add a fun element, a glow-in-the-dark printing finish is the best option. Also known as phosphorescent or fluorescence, this method uses light-sensitive elements that absorb light energy and then re-emit them as their own light source. In simpler terms, it absorbs light and glows in the dark after exposure. It gives your prints the ability to glow in a dark room which truly makes it a standout among print finishing techniques. 

Applications – Posters, promotional materials, and novelty items for creative and attention-grabbing designs, especially in low-light environments.

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17. Fragranced Ink

Fragranced Ink

Fragranced ink contains scents that are released when rubbed or scratched. Used mostly by the beauty industry, the fragranced finish evokes emotion and tingles senses. 

Applications – Promotional materials, invitations, and packaging for a sensory and immersive experience, often used in perfumes, cosmetics, and food packaging.

18. Thermography


Thermography uses heat to create a raised, textured effect on printed text or images. The printed surface of the paper is coated with a material sensitive to heat i.e. powdered resins, like in the old fax machines, and baked to get a visually appealing finish. 

Applications – Business cards, invitations, and stationery for a captivating finish, often resembling engraved printing at a lower cost.

19. Soft Touch Coatings

Soft touch coatings create a velvety, smooth texture on the printed surface.

Applications – Packaging, book covers, business cards, and promotional materials for a luxurious and tactile feel.

20. Holographic Foils

Holographic foils create a three-dimensional, shifting visual effect when viewed from different angles.

Applications – Packaging, security documents, promotional materials, and labels for anti-counterfeiting measures and eye-catching designs.

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21. Pearlescent and Iridescent Inks

Pearlescent and Iridescent Inks

Pearlescent and iridescent inks contain particles that create a subtle shimmering effect. In fact, all the colors of the rainbow can be replicated in this printing finish. An array of colors is visible when the finished product is viewed from different angles and lighting conditions.

Applications – Packaging, greeting cards, invitations, and promotional materials for a subtle and elegant shine, often used in designs where a touch of sophistication is desired.

Each of these print finishing solutions offers unique visual and tactile effects, allowing designers and marketers to create engaging and memorable printed materials tailored to specific applications and target audiences.

Printing Methods Suitable for Most-Used Types of Print Finishing

Various printing methods can be paired with specific print finishes to achieve desired results. Here are some common printing methods and their compatibility with popular print finishes:

Offset Printing

Known for its high-quality and consistent results, a wide range of finishes including gloss or matte coatings, spot UV coating, embossing, and foil stamping would be ideal. 

Digital Printing

Works well with finishes such as gloss and matte coatings, laminating, and variable data printing

Flexographic Printing

Commonly used for packaging materials, finishes such as lamination, varnishing, and UV coating are compatible. Learn more about flexographic printing.

Screen Printing

Known for its vibrant and opaque colors, finishes like high-gloss coatings, specialty varnishes, and textured coatings are suitable.

Letterpress Printing

Finishes like embossing, debossing, and foil stamping accentuate the tactile nature of letterpress prints, making them popular for premium stationery and invitations.

Inkjet Printing

Inkjet printing widely used for digital and large-format printing, finishes like coatings, laminates, and specialized varnishes are recommended for letterpress printing as they enhance the color vibrancy and protect the prints, making them suitable for various applications including signage and posters and letterpress printing.

It’s important to note that advancements in printing and finishing technologies continually expand the compatibility between printing methods and finishes. Print service providers often conduct tests to ensure the chosen combination of printing method and finish achieves the desired results in terms of visual appeal, durability, and overall quality.

Wrapping Up: Print Finishing Technique

The choice of the right print finish can significantly impact the overall aesthetics, durability, and appeal of your project. Whether you’re designing business cards, brochures, packaging, or promotional materials, understanding the diverse range of print finishes available is crucial.

By choosing the right printing finishing options for each project, businesses can deliver exceptional results, enhance customer satisfaction, and maximize revenue opportunities.

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