Special Printing Options & Finishes:

Specialist print finishes

If you want to give your printed pieces that little something special then you could consider some of our optional extras. These are specialist printing or finishing processes which will ‘lift’ your printing and design in one way or another, make it stand out, and give it a feel of real quality. Here are some of the options we can supply at Firstpoint Print, London:

Spot colour

Spot colour can be used when an exact colour match or hue is essential and when it can’t be replicated from standard ‘full colour process’ (CMYK) printing. With spot colour the ink is actually mixed to the right colour before going onto the printing press and, by doing this, you can print colours which simply cannot be replicated using traditional full colour or digital printing. Colours can be more bright and saturated and, indeed, you can even print fluorescent colours when printing with spot colours. Spot colour printing also allows you to print a huge range of metallic inks which, again, is simply not possible using traditional CMYK or digital printing. It should be noted, however, that for every single spot colour being printed, a new printing plate will be required so unless the job only uses two or three spot colours, it can work out quite a bit more expensive than full colour process (CMYK) or digital printing. It is also only possible using the litho process.

Foil blocking

Foil blocking is printing which looks like metal, and indeed it consists of imprinting a very thin layer of metallic foil onto the surface of the paper or card. In its shiny form it has a mirror-like surface which is way more shiny and reflective than the spot colour metallic printing mentioned above. It is also, however, available with a matt or satin finish. A limited range of standard foil colours is also available and, of course, this includes various golds, silvers, coppers and a gunmetal finish, along with a limited pallete of greens, blues, reds, lilacs and pinks etc. Holographic foil is also available and this resembles some of the foiled details you often see on bank notes. Foil blocking is usually confined to a few elements, for example a logo or titles. The smaller the total area to be foiled, the cheaper it’ll be to print.


Embossing and debossing is traditionally produced using metal dies (similar to how foil blocking is done, in fact). The result will be that the surface of the paper or board is either imprinted inwards (debossed) or raised outwards towards the viewer (embossed). So the printed piece is given a third dimension. It is important to remember that the reverse side of the sheet will also be affected so care should be taken with the design as a whole. Embossing and debossing can be combined with other printing techniques such as litho printing and/or foil blocking so, for instance, a logo could be both printed in colour (and/or foil) and be embossed (and/or partially debossed). The very finest stationery often uses this approach, for example where a coat of arms or emblem is both printed and embossed, giving the resultant stationery a very luxurious quality and feel. Also see UV embossing in the relevant section below.


Laminating your printed covers or folders etc. can both protect the printed piece, because you are applying a coating of plastic to its surface, and enhance the look and feel of the document as a whole. Gloss lamination is very glossy indeed and its addition to the surface of the paper or board tends to really lift colours and contrast in the underlying printing. Matt lamination, on the other hand, slightly subdues the underlying printed colours and their contrast but gives the printed document a lovely silky feel. Lamination has to be applied to the entire paper or board surface; it cannot be applied on a ‘spot’ basis. This makes it almost impossible to tear the document when discarding, unlike with UV varnish, which is explained below.

UV varnish

Overall UV varnish will also make the printed paper or board look like it has been gloss laminated, but with UV varnish there is no plastic-based laminate; it is a printed process instead. Magazine covers often use this process.

UV varnish can also be used to great effect when ‘spot printed’. Spot UV varnish means that only certain elements of the design are given the UV varnish and they usually look extremely glossy and, as such, really stand out and have a high quality feel. Often the process of adding the spot UV varnish also lifts and saturates any underlying colours (like with gloss lamination). Spot UV varnish can be used to excellent effect when combined with matt lamination (explained above). With that approach there is a real contrast between the glossy spot UV varnished elements and the matt feel of the remainder of the document surface.

One of the most recently introduced applications of UV varnish is the development of “UV embossing”. This is similar to spot UV varnishing and gives the treated elements a ‘thickness’ so that they feel embossed. Unlike with traditional embossing, which requires a set of metal dies to ‘stamp’ the relief into or out of the paper, UV embossing requires no such pressure and therefore the reverse side of the sheet remains unaffected.

Machine varnish

Machine varnish adds a much more subtle varnish finish than lamination and UV varnish and can give a printed document an added quality, particularly if the machine varnish is used on a spot basis. Usually it has a silk finish but you can also get matt and gloss machine varnishes. In recent years, machine varnish has been used widely for its sealing properties – e.g. to limit fingerprinting and ink ‘set-off’ – hence also being referred to as a machine ‘sealant’.


Thermography is a very traditional type of printing process whereby printed elements are coated with a thermographic powder while the ink is still wet. The powder is then melted under intense heat so that it becomes shiny and a little like raised plastic. This has a thickness to it so means that the printing can be felt in relief, a bit like embossing, as well looking obviously raised. Thermography can be coloured as well as just black or white and is a relatively inexpensive process.

Die-cutting and laser cutting

Most printed documents have square-cut corners and straight sides. However, with the use of die-cutting, the sheets can be cut to non-regular shapes of the designer’s choosing. So, for example, at the simplest end of the spectrum the corners could simply be rounded or, at the other end of the scale, complex cut shapes can be attained. Die-cutting ‘formes’ (the tools which cut the bespoke shapes) can incorporate creases as well as cuts so are often used in the manufacture of pop-up cards, corporate folders and the like. In recent years the printing industry has also seen the introduction of laser cutting. This allows for extremely complex cut shapes, for example a paper sheet could be laser cut so that it incorporates a cut filigree, or other highly detailed shape or pattern. You may have seen this process used for greetings cards in particular. One tell-tale sign of laser cutting is the presence of slightly burnt (brown) edges to any shaped parts of the paper or board, however this is only noticeable on close scrutiny.

Firstpoint Print are litho, digital and large format printers with branches in Clerkenwell (EC1), London Bridge (SE1) and Victoria (SW1). So if you are looking for print services in London we have all the in-house printing services and facilities needed to turn jobs around at high quality, fast speeds and competitive prices. Contact us here or fill in an enquiry form here if you’d like a no-obligation quotation and we’ll be delighted to help.