Finishing Methods: Coatings & Laminations

Author: Southern Champion Tray

We want customer packaging to shine. That’s why we offer several finishing methods for custom packaging.

Board coating is the process of applying a thin film of polyethylene or ink to the board. In this article we will talk about why this is done and the different coating types, as well as the benefits of each. Note: this is a different kind of coating than substrate coating, such as clay coated board. That coating is done during board production.

Why coat board?

The primary reasons to coat board are to make it more durable and more aesthetically pleasing. Printing increases durability by making it resistant to scuffs and fingerprint, maintaining a clean image for the product. Different coatings also give the product a different feel, for example, elegance, sustainability, or simplicity. It can be used to direct customers’ attention to certain parts of the packaging.

Why Types of Coating Are There?

Aqueous Coating
Aqueous coating is the least expensive and most environmentally friendly coating type. It is fast drying, water-based coating that can be done in matte or gloss. The gloss coating is not as shiny as UV coatings, but it is more resistant to cracking when folded. Aqueous coating is often used in inline printing processes and is typically the last machine on the line (for flood printing, not spot). It is a more protective coating than varnishes and is easy to use with other printing process inks and glues.

Gloss: If you’re looking for a less showy and more muted gloss finish, AQ coating is an ideal solution. For a high gloss, UV coating or film laminates are better options.

Matte: Consider matte coating for minimal shine and depth but a high degree of color.

Satin: With an appearance that’s between gloss and matte, satin offers medium shine and excellent scruff resistance.

A varnish coating is essentially a layer of clear ink. This can be done in gloss, satin, or matte options. It is possible to do a flood varnish (the whole sheet) or a spot varnish (a particular area). However, a spot varnish requires more work, as well-defined artwork and a press plate are needed.

Lamination uses a plastic film to coat the material. It is one of the most expensive finishing methods, but also one of the most material-protecting methods. Lamination can be done in matte or gloss. Matte lamination is more expensive and does not protect the material as well but can give a high-class yet subtle look. Gloss lamination provides more durability and deepens colors, making graphics pop.

UV Coatings
UV coatings are coatings that are cured with Ultra Violet light. The advantage here is that they dry immediately. UV coatings will give the highest gloss look possible but will be more likely to crack when bent because of the hardness of the coating. UV coatings deepen colors, making them appear more vibrant. They can be applied as a flood (covering a whole sheet) or spot coating, on or off press. However, some drawbacks are that you need to use UV compatible inks and UV coated sheets cannot be foil stamped.

Soft Touch Coating
“Soft touch” generically refers to any finishing process that adds a soft feel to the material. This is a unique method, as it allows you to appeal to your customers’ sense of touch in a unique way. Soft touch finishes typically have a velvety feel, almost no sheen, dry fast and are eco-friendly. They are applied after the printing ink has been applied.

There are two main soft touch finishes: coatings and laminates. Coatings are applied in liquid form, while laminates are made of plastic film that adheres to the material’s surface. Soft touch coating is less expensive than laminate but does not provide durability like laminate does.

So which type of coating do you choose?

It is important to consider the cost—what can you afford? Consider the context of your product—where will it be seen? How will it be handled? What other products will it have to compete with? Would a gloss, matte, or satin finish work best? Working through these considerations will help you make your choice. Be sure to also consider other aspects of the manufacturing process, like printing methods, die cutting and other finishing methods that can make your product stand out.


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