Varnish In Packaging

What is Varnish in Packaging?

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Varnish is basically a clear liquid that is coated on your products or prints, which offers a strong barrier against external factors like dirt, fingerprints, and smudges. In other words, it is the last or final layer on your prints that acts as an additional protective layer.

Any packaging coated with varnish can instantly enhance its overall look. Mostly, it is used in skin care and cosmetics packaging boxes. This finishing technique can transform any ordinary looking material into a luxurious packaging box that is not only good for safeguarding but also increases its tensile strength.

The meaning of varnish is to conceal or cover a surface. In printing and painting, this clear or semi-transparent liquid is applied to the surface to enhance the visual appeal or lock the ink on the substrate.

When it comes to protecting your prints from abrasion, scratches, or other damage, varnish coating is the best option to choose. Apart from just providing protection, it also gives prints an enhanced look with a shiny surface. So what actually is varnish? What are their types? And how does its application work? 

You can apply a varnish coating to create a high quality, polished look. It will change the overall look wherever it is applied. So make sure you make an informed decision about what type of varnish you want for your prints. 

Types of Varnish

Regarding the common types of varnish available on the market, you need to know that every individual type has its own benefits and effects on the prints.

Gloss Varnish

Gloss Varnish

Gloss varnish is a versatile finish commonly applied to packaging to enhance its visual appeal. It not only intensifies color contrast but also adds depth and detail to the design, making it shiny and reflective. This varnish option is excellent for products that aim to grab attention on store shelves or in promotional materials. 

However, its reflective nature can sometimes cause glare under certain lighting conditions, potentially affecting the readability of text or small details. Gloss varnish is often favored for luxury goods and products targeting a younger demographic due to its vibrant and attention-grabbing appearance.

Matte Varnish

mae varnish

Matte varnish provides a sophisticated and understated finish to packaging designs. Unlike gloss varnish, its non-reflective surface reduces glare, making it ideal for packaging with extensive text, intricate patterns, or subtle imagery. 

Matte varnish is favored for products that convey elegance, simplicity, or a more subdued aesthetic. It offers a tactile appeal and is less prone to showing fingerprints or smudges, making it suitable for items like premium chocolates, artisanal goods, or eco-friendly products aiming for a minimalist look.

Strike-Through Matte Varnish

In this technique, matte and gloss varnishes are both used on different parts of the printed piece. The matte varnish covers most areas, making them look softer, while the gloss varnish is applied to specific spots where a shiny effect is needed. This creates a striking contrast, making the glossy areas stand out against the matte background. 

Strike-through matte varnish adds depth and dimension to packaging, making it particularly effective for products requiring a balance between sophistication and impact, such as premium wines, gourmet foods, or luxury fashion items.

Satin or Soft Touch Varnish

Satin or Soft Touch Varnish

Satin varnish combines the best of matte and gloss finishes, giving a look that is both stylish and velvety. It adds a light shine that makes packaging look better and helps protect against fingerprints, smudges, and small scratches.

It’s perfect for products needing a mix of elegance and durability, like high-end electronics, specialty drinks, or luxury skincare items. This balanced finish with a velvety soft touch works well with different packaging designs, making products look good and stay polished over time. 

Pros & Cons of Varnish

When it comes to judging the quality and durability of a varnish, you should be aware of every detail that comes with to make an informed decision. Undoubtedly, there are multiple of benefits associated with this finishing technique, like,


  • One of the most valuable advantages of varnish is its cost-efficiency. Unlike other finishes, varnish is much cheaper and is a more economical choice to make. 
  • This finishing technique is also encouraged due to its easy application and the fact that it could be manipulated to get required results.
  • Like any other finishing technique, varnish can also provide an additional layer of protection at a very low cost.
  • It also adds perceived value to your packaging and prints.
  • If you choose varnish, you don’t have to go through a whole process of machines and deal with technicians; the application process is easier and more convenient. 
  • For instance, there are mainly two methods that are widely used in the industry. 
  1. Wet trapping: when varnish is applied to wet ink, left to meld together, and dried to create a distinctive look.
  2. Dry trapping: when the ink is dried first and then a coat of varnish is applied. 


With multiple benefits, this finishing technique also comes with its drawbacks, like:

  • The coated substrate is not durable enough to withstand external factors for so long as compared to other types of finishes like aqueous coating or uv coating.
  • Varnish is not a suitable choice when you are looking for something more eco-friendly. Because of its inorganic contents like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), silicates and other dangerous substances that, when mixed in the atmosphere, create a harmful impact. 
  • The varnish coating requires a lot of time for drying because of its nature. 
  • After applying the coating of varnish, it cannot be repaired, modified, or even corrected if there is a mistake.
  • It also has a limited variety in terms of applications. This means that varnishes are not suitable for every type of material and will not give the required results. 

The Process of Varnishing

Process of Varnishing

In the packaging industry, the varnishing process involves multiple steps to ensure a seamless and uniform application.

Initially, the packaging material undergoes printing with the desired design using ink. Once the ink is set, the varnish application takes place either through a printing press or a specialized varnishing machine.

A roller or spray nozzle is employed to evenly distribute the varnish across the surface of the printed material, depending on the type of varnish utilized.

After applying the varnish in UV varnish printing, it’s dried or cured using UV light. This quick process hardens the varnish, forming a tough layer over the packaging material. The UV light causes a chemical reaction, making the varnish sturdy and glossy. 

This method ensures the packaging is strong and lasts longer, making UV varnish printing finishes a top pick for durable packaging.

Differences Between Varnish, AQ coating, lamination, & UV Coating

Differences Between Varnish AQ coating lamination UV Coating 1

When it comes to protecting your printables and packages, you may go through a list of options to choose from. Some of them will lack somewhere, while others will be a perfect fit. Here we have demystified some of the commonly used types of finishing and the benefits associated with them.

FeaturesVarnish Aqeuous CoatingLaminationUV Coating
CompositionClear liquid Water-based Plastic film Clear liquid, UV cured
Application Brushing, sprayingRoller coating, sprayingHeat and pressureRoller coating
Appearance Glossy, sating, matteGlossy or matte Glossy or matteGlossy or matte
Transparency Transparent Transparent Opaque Transparent 
Protection Provides resistance to water, chemicals, and UV radiationIt helps prevent scuffing, scratching, and smudgingProvides waterproofing and tear-resistance Offers protection against scratching, fading, and moisture  
Durability Low Moderate High High 
Environmental impactMay contain inorganic solventsEco-friendly Depends on plasticMay contain VOCs, UV curing
Drying methodAir drying or forced dryingAir drying UV curing
Approx drying timeVaries depending on thickness and drying method; typically several hours to overnightTypically 3 minutes to 1 hourInstant curing under UV light 

What does varnish do?

  • Enhancement: It adds gloss, satin, or matte finishes, intensifying color and bringing out natural textures.
  • Protection: Varnish forms a protective layer, guarding against water, chemicals, UV rays, scratches, and abrasions.
  • Durability: It increases the resilience of surfaces, maintaining integrity under tough conditions.
  • Cleanability: Varnish makes surfaces easier to clean, repelling dirt, dust, and stains.
  • Customization: Different varnishes offer varied sheen levels, allowing for aesthetic customization.

What is raised UV?

Raised UV

Raised UV coating, also known as raised spot UV or raised UV varnish, is a specialized finishing technique used in printing to create raised and tactile effects on specific areas of printed materials. 

It is also known as spot varnish and involves applying a clear, glossy UV coating to selected areas of the printed piece, such as text, logos, or graphics, in a thicker layer than the surrounding surface.

Here’s how Raised UV Coating Works

Raised UV Coating Works

Preparation: The printed material is first prepared with the desired design elements, typically using ink or toner.

Application of UV Coating: A clear UV coating is then selectively applied to specific areas of the printed piece using a process similar to spot UV coating. However, in raised UV, a thicker layer of UV coating is applied to create a raised effect.

Curing: The printed piece is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, which cures the UV coating, creating a raised and tactile effect on the selected areas. The UV light causes the coating to harden and adhere to 

the substrate, forming a three-dimensional texture.

Raised UV Coating Offers Several Benefits

  • Enhanced Visual and Tactile Appeal: The raised texture adds visual interest and tactile appeal to printed materials, making them stand out and inviting touch that also opens the doors to many other box design ideas
  • Emphasis on Design Elements: It allows specific design elements, such as logos, text, or graphics, to be highlighted and emphasized, drawing attention to key features.
  • Luxurious and Premium Finish: Raised UV coating can give printed materials a luxurious and premium appearance, enhancing their perceived value.
  • Utilization: This technique is commonly used in various applications such as business cards, invitations, packaging, book covers, and promotional materials to create eye-catching and memorable effects. You can also choose it for a gift card presentation to make it more appealing. 


About Stephen Fowler

About Stephen Fowler

Meet Stephen, our skilled writer at IBEX. With a degree in Packaging Sciences, Stephen brings expertise in simplifying every industry detail more efficiently. His years of experience in R&D and technical expertise have always been helpful for our audience. The best part about Stephen is that he has always provided consistent and valuable insights into the packaging industry, ensuring that our reader is always up to date with the latest practices.

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