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Enhance Your Design with Varnishes & Laminates

There are two uses for a varnish or laminate – to protect your printed product from scuffing, cracking or marking, or to incorporate it as part of the design. In this article we’ll cover a small selection of currently available varnishes and laminates.


An oldie, but still a goodie. This high gloss liquid coating is applied over the top of the printed sheet and traditionally used to ‘lift’ the image or text block. These days we’re seeing more creative uses for this varnish, making it a design feature itself.

Best results – relies on the contrast between the matt background of the paper and the gloss of the varnish. Even better when the varnish sits on top of a dark colour. The lighter the colour underneath the varnish, the less contrast and impact. We don’t recommend a UV varnish over white text. Variations of this varnish can achieve very fine detail or even a slightly raised finish. Applications – anything really on a 150gsm plus stock weight. It is often use for cover and text application.

2. MACHINE VARNISHES Inline machine varnishes are the cheapest option, but also usually carry the lowest visual impact. Similar to a UV, it’s the contrast between gloss and matt which gives us the refraction of light. Using a spot gloss machine varnish (wet on wet, or wet on dry) can also create a subtle background pattern for a low cost. 

Best results – spot gloss varnish on a matt stock, or spot gloss and spot matt varnish. Often applying the gloss varnish as a second pass on the press (wet on dry) will give it more lift. Applications – only suitable for matt coated paper over 90gsm. 

3. SOFT TOUCH VARNISH OR LAMINATE Becoming more popular, this finish adds a luxurious velvet feel to the printed document. Like any laminate, it is an overall film and cannot be applied as a pattern or spot section to the page.

Best results – stocks over 170gsm in weight. It can scuff an mark when applied over dark colours. Works well with a gloss Spot UV. Applications – book covers, packaging or presentation folders.

4. BRUSHKOTE LAMINATE According to the coating experts Allkotes, Brushkote is a metallised silver laminate that features ‘brush stokes’, looking similar to the brushed aluminium finish seen in car interiors or electrical home appliances. Before you start designing with a Brushkote look in mind, it is a finish that is applied BEFORE any printing or embellishment. It requires printers to use special UV inks which will add considerable $$ to your job.

Best results – printing with UV inks, foiling or blind embossing. Applications – brochures, covers packaging.


As the name suggests this is the chalk paint version for paper, available in black, blue, red or green. Be mindful of any other finishing process required (ie mounting) that may affect the surface. Can be applied as a spot section.

Best results – stock weights over 200gsm. The area to Chalk kote must be free of any varnish or ink. Applications point of sale, direct mail, posters.

These are only a few of the laminates and varnished available on the market today.

Although we subcontract most to outside specialists, they are still an important part of the print work we produce. If you are considering using any laminate, varnish or print process that is unfamiliar to you, talk to us before you start. Many of these ‘speciality finishes’ require specific artwork requirements, paper stock and finishing methods. 

Printcraft is Queensland’s largest privately owned printing company. We specialise in the design, print, mail and logistics. For more information on on our services, or to request a quote, or contact us directly.

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