5 print finishes that make a lasting impression

Toby Matthews

Creative Designer

5 print finishes that make a lasting impression

One of the biggest advantages print has over digital media is that you can touch it and feel it, even smell it. It provides unique opportunities to convey the qualities and values of a brand – concepts that can be harder to drive home online.

SYMM invitations

Engaging with a piece of print is a multi-sensory experience. In addition to the creative design and your choice of paper, special print finishes can play a very important role in conveying your message.

In this post, I highlight five print finishes that will ensure that your printed materials stand out and have the lasting impact you want.

1. varnishing

Applying varnish to paper or card produces a smooth and consistent texture. As well as improving the look and feel of a printed piece, varnishing also seals the ink to help it last longer. Varnishes can be gloss, matt, or silk and are usually used to cover an entire printed surface. Varnish seals the ink underneath and provides a visual effect on coated papers.

2. lamination

Lamination is a process of bonding a clear plastic film onto printed paper or card. It is commonly used on book covers and jackets as well as business and greetings cards. In particular, it helps prevent cracking in folded material and degradation. We offer gloss and matt lamination as well as soft-touch lamination. Gloss lamination can add dynamism to images, while matt lamination is sometimes perceived as being more sophisticated. A more unusual lamination is soft-touch, which provides a peach-skin feel and is popular on business cards as it adds an unusual tactile quality.

3. spot UV

Used creatively as part of the design process, spot UV produces some stunning results. As the name suggests, varnish is applied and cured under UV light. It’s usually applied to specific areas (hence spot), rather than to an entire surface, and can be especially effective when used to highlight an image or detail. The contrast between the treated and untreated surface areas creates a dramatic visual impact.

Dragon School Draconian Magazine cover with spot UV

4. foil blocking

Foil blocking involves the application of a metallic foil, which is fixed in place with heat and pressure. It’s a process that invariably adds prestige to a project. Foils are not just limited to silver or gold but are available in a wide range of specialist colours and finishes – including more specialist holographic foils for certificates and security projects. Typically, foil blocking is used for text or to pick out detail, adding a luxurious reflective quality. The technique – also sometimes called foil stamping – is used a lot on high-quality book covers, invitations, and business cards, often in conjunction with embossing for added impact.

SFA book cover with silver foil blocking

5. embossing

Embossing makes an impression by adding a physical depth to any area you choose to emphasise. The process involves pushing out specific areas – usually, but not necessarily, text or part of an image – so that the area is either raised (embossed) or pushed in (debossed). Embossing creates shadows and real depth for an interesting and highly tactile finish.

Embossed cover for Privacy International report


For best results, print finishes should be factored into the design process rather than added as an afterthought. If our studio is designing your printed material, we’ll discuss print finishing options at the outset. If you’re providing artwork, it's a good idea to involve us early so we can advise your creatives as the designs take shape.

Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to work with us. To ensure you achieve the best results, within your budget and timeframe, we’re always happy to explore options, share our printing know-how, and show you in person what you can expect. Holywell's Quick Guides aim to help you get a better understanding of design and printing topics, including:

If you'd like to discuss print finishes and how to add 'wow factor' to your next print job, call 01865 242098 or contact us using the button below.

get in touch button
Sort by: