GuideLines: Print Finishing Techniques

Discussing and deciding on printing options directly with your print company can be difficult. Whilst they are the expert and will have a wide understanding of the print finishes available, familiarising yourself with the options will help ensure you get the finish that works best for your project. This guide is designed to help you get a clearer understanding of the different finishing techniques available and help make a more informed decisions.

There are a wide range of different print finishing techniques and below is a closer look at some of the most popular options.



Gloss/ Matt Lamination is the application of a thin plastic sheet across the print. Both matt and gloss lamination provide moisture resistance as well as protection from dust and fingerprints.

Matt lamination is one of the most popular finishing options available as it provides an attractive satin finish to the page, but can tend to slightly dull the intensity of some colours. Gloss lamination provides a shiny finish and can sharpen colour intensity but can also impede readability in brightly lit areas.



Spot gloss or UV finishing is another lamination technique that applies varnishing to specific, preselected areas of the print. It creates a different texture which allows the central point of the printed product to be focused on. Spot gloss is often used to highlight key brand messages or help a logo stand out on the front cover of a document. It is often applied over matt laminated paper stock to help further pronounce the specified area.



Embossing is an older technique which remains very popular. It is a process which involves raising elements of the print, to add depth and texture to the design. The shadows and highlights formed through embossing and can add emphasis to certain areas of a printed image or can be ‘Blind Embossed’ on to unprinted paper stock create a more subtle look.



Foil stamping or foil blocking is a finishing technique in which heat and pressure are combined to apply a pigment or metallic foil to the surface of the print. It can give design elements a highly reflective and premium feel and it is often used on products wishing to portray luxury or official connotations.

Foil stamping is most regularly used as a finishing technique to help text or logos stand out and the metallic finishes provide an especially high contrast on uncoated paper stocks.



Die cutting is a precision technique involving cutting specific shapes or designs out of the printed page, often to emphasise a multi layered feel. It can be used to create simple shapes such curved edges, through to intricate patterns in a highly decorative and ornate way.

Contrasting a plain cover with die cutting to reveal a section of printed page underneath can be a particularly effective use of this print finish.



A spot colour is often applied where a specific colour value is required to print consistently across multiple printed items or where a certain (often vibrant) colour cannot be easily printed using standard CMYK inks.

Spot colours are often referred to as ‘Pantone colours’ which utilise the Pantone Colour Matching system; a standardised colour reproduction system. Most printers and designers will own Pantone swatch colour guides to choose and cross reference a specific colour they wish to achieve in print.



Silk screen printing is a process which can be used to create prints and designs on a wide range of materials. It involves the use of a silk mesh where ink is rolled onto the stock except for areas made impermeable by a blocking stencil. It is a technique not often used in day to day printing but often used for limited edition prints and in the clothing industry.



The right print finish can be a key factor to the overall impact of a printed piece and can often lift the simplest of designs to a higher level of a quality and sophistication. All print finishes will add extra cost to a print run and this cost can be significant if more that one process is required, so it’s always worth discussing this with a designer at the project briefing and budgeting stage.