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There are many ways to bring attention to your cover and interior pages. Some publishers choose a combination of different laminations and varnishes to do the trick. Mixing dull and glossy finishes on the same surface creates striking effects.

A laminate is a material constructed by uniting two or more layers of material together. Lamination, refers to sandwiching something between layers of plastic. Then sealing them with heat and/or pressure, usually with an adhesive.

Laminating paper, such as book covers, can prevent it from becoming creased. It also prevents sun damage, wrinkled, stains, smudges, and fingerprints

There are two reasons for adding a coating over your printed cover. One is for protection: to avoid scuffing the ink. Such as if you have included areas of heavy ink coverage. The second is for aesthetic reasons. To draw the reader's eye to particular items. To add depth and interest to your printed piece.

First consider why you are coating your job. When making this decision, remember that dried inks show fingerprints and scuffing.

Varnish costs less than UV coating and laminates since they are applied over dry ink at slow speeds. The chemicals used in aqueous coating damage press rollers. This coating is more expensive for the printer/binder to apply than varnish. Therefore, the extra cost is passed on to the client.

Varnish is the least effective way to prevent scuffing. You can use it when publications are multiply shrink-wrapped (as opposed to singly shrink-wrapped) prior to shipping. Bindery coatings like laminates are far better for protecting loose books in transit. Even aqueous coating is much stronger than varnish. It can therefore withstand books shifting around in transit without scuffing.

All printers can apply varnish. Not all printers can apply laminates, UV coating, or aqueous coating.

You cannot print, glue, or foil stamp over coatings

You need to leave an uncoated window if you want to do any of these. These coatings should be the final finishing step on a printed piece.

You should only varnish coated stock.

On uncoated stock it will seep into the paper and be lost. Some coatings deepen the ink color they cover, yellow with age, and discolor white paper.


Varnish is essentially ink without pigment. It requires its own printing unit on press. It can be printed in-line at the same time other inks are laid down. It also can be run as an additional pass through the press after the initial ink coating has dried. The latter often provides a glossier finish. Varnish comes in gloss, dull, and satin in-between dull and gloss. They can be tinted by adding pigment to the varnish. Artistically, you can play dull-varnish against a portion without varnish or with gloss varnish. This contrast can give emphasis to certain areas and/or give the impression of depth.


UV Coating is a clear liquid. It is spread over the paper and then cured instantly with ultraviolet light. It can be a gloss or dull coating. It can be used as a spot covering to accent a particular image. It can also be used as an overall coating. UV coating gives more protection and sheen than either varnish or aqueous coating. Since it is cured with light and not heat, no solvents enter the atmosphere. However, it is more difficult to recycle than the other coatings. UV coating is applied as a separate finishing operation. Either as a flood coating or as a spot coating. Keep in mind that this thick coating may crack when scored or folded.


Aqueous coating is more environmentally friendly than UV coating because it is water based. It does not seep into the sheet and does not crack or scuff easily. Aqueous does, however, cost twice as much as varnish. It is applied by a coating tower at the delivery end of the press. One can only lay down a flood aqueous coating, not a localized "spot" aqueous coating. Aqueous comes in gloss, dull, and satin.


Laminates come in two types, film and liquid. They can have a gloss or matte finish. A clear plastic film is laid down over the sheet of paper. In the other case a clear liquid is spread over the sheet. It dries (or cures) like a varnish. Laminates protect the sheet from water. This is good for coating items like menus and book covers. Laminates are slow to apply and costly but provide a strong, washable surface. They are the superior choice for protecting loose books in transit.