Lamination, encapsulation & varnishing your printing

Lamination vs. Encapsulation vs. Varnishing

Lamination, encapsulation & varnishing your printing

Once you’ve decided on a design for your sales and marketing literature and the artwork is ready, consider what finish you will have on the final print. This can make a huge difference to both the look and feel of the final printed document. Will gloss look good, or would matt look better? Should it be used all over, from edge to edge, or only in certain ‘spot’ areas? From a technical point of view, should it be varnished, laminated or encapsulated? Which printing/finishing process will give you the desired result, without breaking the bank?

What’s the difference?


Lamination involves sealing a very thin lamina (whole sheet) of clear plastic, under significant pressure, to the front and/or back of a sheet of paper, card or board. So the entire surface of the stock is covered in the laminated plastic. The most common types of lamination are ‘gloss, which is very glossy, ‘matt’, which has a lovely silky feel and a soft, matt appearance, and finally ‘soft-touch’ lamination, which is most similar to matt lamination but has a slight rubbery feel to it – it’s quite a tactile thing, which is subtle but pleasant.


Varnishing (specifically machine varnishing) usually involves a liquid varnish being ‘printed’ just as if it were a liquid ink like black. If it’s an overall varnish, no plate is required. If it’s a ‘spot’ varnish, then a printing plate will be needed just as it would if the varnish was a coloured ink. So this difference will affect the price a little. (There are now also some digital versions of varnishing now available and, as we know with most digital printing, no plates are required). ‘Machine’ varnishes can be matt, silk or gloss, however traditional ‘litho’ machine varnishes tend to be more muted than “UV varnish”, which is described below …

UV Varnish

UV varnish is a more specialist type of varnish. It is most commonly seen in a glossy finish and the gloss is so glossy that it is difficult to tell it apart from gloss lamination.** UV varnishing is more expensive than ‘machine’ varnish, as it’s a slightly more complex printing technique, but the effect is way more dramatic. Read more

30 Great Printing Resources (part 2)

30 Great Printing Resources (Part 2)

30 Great Printing Resources (part 2)

Yet More Tips, Tricks & Technical Guides for Getting the Very Best Out of Your Print

Here we continue where we left off in the last post, with the second half of our library of extremely useful print-related resources. These further tips, tricks and technical guides cover things like envelopes, paper sizes, foil blocking, raised print in all its forms, folders, roller banners, variable data printing and why you should use it — and much more. Follow the guides to ensure that you get the very best return on the investment you have made into your printing.

16. Folders

Printed folders come in many shapes and sizes and demonstrate various levels of complexity. Whether used to hold a simple business card or several internal brochures and more, there can often be more to folders than meets the eye. Here’s a handy guide to what’s possible.

17. How to Print Economically

Make the most of your design and printing budget with our handy guide to keeping a lid on printing costs. Here’s how …

18. Roller Banners

Our guide to roller banners – what they are, what they can be used for, sizes, artwork specifications and some examples. Learn more here.

19. Raised Print

If you’d like to add a new dimension to your printing and print something in relief, here’s a handy guide showing how to make your printing stand out.

20. Fonts

Our guide to using fonts in your artwork, including ways to make sure what you design is what you end up printing. Embedding fonts, outlining fonts and more, right here.

21. Printing – Under the Magnifying Glass

Printing under the magnifying glass: our close-up guide to using tints, mixing inks or tints, use of black(s), dot formations and how these differ between litho, digital and large format printing processes. Learn more in this guide.

22. Paper for Printing — A Beginner’s Guide

A beginner’s guide to paper for printing, whether coated, uncoated, recycled, textured or something else. Read our guide here.

23. UK Paper Sizes — A Handy Reference

UK paper sizes – a handy reference. Includes the ISO series of sizes including A sizes (‘A4’ etc.), B, C, D, RA and SRA sizes plus many more. It also includes a few other useful facts that may surprise you. Here’s the guide.

24. Variable Data Printing: for Personalised Print

Variable data and its use in truly personalised printing. Learn all about it here.

25. ‘Print on Demand’ & its Benefits

‘Print on Demand’ – what it is, it’s key benefits, how you can use it to your advantage and where you can get it. Here’s the guide.

26. Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know about Envelopes

Envelopes – our handy guide telling you Read more

30 Great Printing Resources (part 1)

30 Great Printing Resources (Part 1)

30 Great Printing Resources (part 1)

Tips, Tricks & Technical Guides for Getting the Very Best Out of Your Print

Looking back at some of our older blog posts, it’s clear that we have some pretty good printing-related guides and resources on the site. So, we thought we’d pull them all together in a handy ready-reference for our readers — a complete library of useful print-related resources at your fingertips. These tips, tricks and technical guides cover things like creating better design, preparing technically correct artwork, using the most appropriate colour spaces and generally making better choices to ensure that you get the very best outcome from every printed job. Some guides are even downloadable for you to keep. Here are the first 15 of 30 guides …

1. A Guide to Preparing Print-Ready Artwork:

One of the most important and popular guides on our site: how to prepare print-ready artwork that is technically correct in its set-up, to give you the very best printed results. View or download the PDF guide here. Also, see #13 below.

2. The Best PDF Settings for Your Artwork

Covering similar ground to #1 above, but in far more detail, we next have a guide to the settings that you should use when saving your artwork in PDF format. View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available to read online here.

3. The Difference Between CMYK and RGB

A guide explaining the difference between CMYK and RGB colour modes and when to use each, for example when saving your full colour images. View or download the PDF guide here. More information can also be read online here and here.

4. Digital vs. Litho Printing

At Firstpoint Print we’re lucky enough to have both litho (or ‘lithographic’) and digital printing. But which technology is best for your particular print job? View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available here and here.

5. Using Transparency in your Printing

Modern page layout and image manipulation software now allows you to control the level of transparency in your images and artwork layers. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid if you’re intending to print with transparency effects. View or download the PDF guide here. More information is also available to read online here. Read more

Printing terms & jargon - explained

Printing Terms & Jargon – Explained

Printing terms & jargon - explained

It’s sometimes easy for printers to forget that not everyone will understand some of the common terms and jargon that is spoken within the industry. For example, printers may refer to ‘process printing’, ‘CMYK’, ‘bleed’ or even ‘trapping’. But what do each of these actually mean? Here we explain …

Above the fold
This refers to the part of a document which you first see, for instance the top half of a document or, for websites, the part of a web page which you see without having to scroll down vertically.

Accordion fold
A way of folding a document or brochure so that it concertinas open/closed.

.ai file
An Adobe Illustrator file type (usually used for vector graphics like logos, charts or illustrations).

The letter &, meaning ‘and’.

Art paper
This is a type of paper, commonly used in commercial printing, which has a coating of a clay-based compound, to give it a very smooth surface on which the printer’s ink will sit without absorption. This usually results in the best type of printed result (e.g. saturated colours and good contrast).

The type of professional digital file supplied to commercial printers, from which to print (if digital printing) or make plates (if litho printing). Click here for a guide to supplying artwork.

The fastening together of pages (e.g. of a book, manual or brochure). Examples include perfect binding, wiro binding, saddle stitch binding, hard binding and soft binding.

An extra extension of images or graphics beyond the edge of a printed page or sheet (usually 3mm in width). This makes sure that, once trimmed, any images or graphic which extend to the edge of the sheet do not have an unwanted white margin.

Blind Emboss
An unprinted image, formed in relief, using a metal ‘die’ which is forced against the paper or card under pressure. Read more

Historical images of printing works

Historical Printers & Printing, in Pictures (pt. 2)

Historical images of printing works

In part 2 of our pictorial look back at historical printing works, machinery, tools and the printers themselves, we now bring you the second batch of ten vintage illustrations. This time there is even a dog which appears twice – see if you can spot it. Of course if you missed the first ten, click here — they’re well worth a look and are a fascinating look into how the industry used to be.


Fig 11* (above): Believed to be a rotary lithographic printing machine, tended by workmen, some wearing paper hats (date unknown).


Fig 12 (above): Printers at work, circa 1770.
Scan courtesy of Daniel Chodowiecki.


Fig 13 (above): Engraving of a printing press by Heinrich Zeising and Hieronymus Megiser (1627). Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Sauber. Licensed via GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0.


Fig 14 (above): Printer, screw press & letterpress components – and, we think, a dog! (1613). Image by Hieronymus Megiser, scan courtesy of FotothekBot.


Fig 15 (above): Fresco of the first printing press opened in the Bavarian countryside, printing the first German book (1461). Image by Ferdinand Rothbarth. Scan courtesy of Mattes.
Read more

Vintage print room

Historical Printers & Printing, in Pictures (pt. 1)

Vintage print room

In an unusual departure from our usual ’21st Century’ blog posts, we go back in time and take a pictorial look back at historical printing works and all the weird and wonderful pieces of machinery they used ‘way back when’. Many of the illustrations are woodcuts or engravings and depict workshops, people, tools, printing presses and outfits of the time— many from hundreds of years ago. There is even a steam-driven banknote printer and a multi-level 6-cylinder press which we find mind-boggling! We think the images are fascinating.

Here are the first ten illustrations – next month we’ll follow up with another ten so come back soon. Enjoy!


Fig 1 (above): Printers operating the press on the left and inking the type on the right.*


Fig 2 (above): A printer’s workshop (date unknown).*

Read more

Spot colour printing

Printing With Spot Colours

Spot colour printing

Spot colour printing refers to the use of inks which are physically mixed to the right colour in liquid form, before being used on the printing press. So, for example, the spot colour ‘Pantone 328C’ can be printed in a single pass of the printing press, using a single printing plate. This is in contrast to printing a similar colour, although not as accurately, by overlapping the tiny dots of the four ‘process’ colours of Cyan (‘C’), Magenta (‘M’), Yellow (‘Y’) and Black (‘K’), otherwise known as “CMYK” and “four colour process” printing. That, of course, necessitates 4 passes of the press, using four printing plates instead of just one. More information about ‘process’ printing can be found in our previous blog post but, for this article, we will concentrate on only spot colour, its uses and benefits.

So why use spot colour?

In essence, using spot colours will generally give you the very best match possible to the exact colour you have in mind. While ‘process’ (CMYK) colours can get a pretty decent match, spot colours can get an exact match. Spot colours are also the only way to print colours such as metallic inks, some pastels, super-saturated and particularly bright colours like fluorescents and even some colours that you might think were fairly standard, for example some blues, which can be troublesome using CMYK. Spot colours compared to CMYK 'process' printingAlso it’s worth bearing in mind that if you are printing a 2 colour job, you can literally print it using 2 spot colour inks (with 2 plates and 2 passes of the press) whereas with ‘process’ printing you’d need 4 of each. (This matters less with Firstpoint Print’s digital printing process, because it is a plateless process, but it potentially makes a significant difference to pricing and colour accuracy on their litho printing presses).

To illustrate the difference in colour accuracy using ‘spot’ vs. ‘process’ printing, here are a few examples showing a representation of the same Pantone colours using both colour models (N.B. slightly exaggerated for illustrative purposes). On the left is the ‘spot’ colour version where the ink is pre-mixed before going onto the printing press. On the right is the same Pantone colour generated using the ‘four colour process’ (CMYK) model. You can see that there is quite a difference for the particular Pantone colours we’ve selected, with the spot colours being more saturated and bright, while the CMYK equivalents tending to be a little less so.

We should point out that the difference is less pronounced for many other colours in the Pantone range. Read more

Print vs Pixel - the rebirth of printing

Print vs. Pixel – The re-birth of printing

Print vs Pixel - the rebirth of printing

In a world which is becoming increasingly digital, it is encouraging to know that physical printing is enjoying renewed popularity — and in no small way. Not long ago, with the arrival of electronic literature in the form of Acrobat PDFs, e-shots, ‘page-turning’ browser app’s and even the one time massive growth of e-books, one could have been forgiven for thinking that ‘traditional’ printing was well and truly on its way out. However statistics now show that there has been a reversal in the fortunes of physical printing and, unlike the music industry, it is bucking the digital trend and is growing in popularity. Meanwhile its electronic equivalent, which seemed for a while almost ready to take its place, is losing ground drastically.

Take e-books as a ‘print vs. pixel’ barometer

Many predicted that printed books would soon be a thing of the past when e-book readers like the Kindle arrived on the scene. Indeed the sale of printed books did drop radically while e-book sales grew enormously for a couple of years (a 1260% sales increase between 2008 and 2010). However this trend is now reversing. We are now seeing a mass migration back to the printed word. Forrester Research reports that last year sales of e-readers were 40% lower than in their heyday back in 2011 and the sale of e-books accounted for only a fifth of book sales in the entire U.S. The Association of American Publishers also reports that paperback sales are increasing — sharply. So the predicted print revolution, in the form of digitisation which affected digital music so profoundly, never actually came to fruition for the printed word. Some surveys also suggest that young readers prefer reading printing on paper, despite being ‘digital’ down to their DNA. The American Booksellers Association says that they’re now in a healthier position than they’ve been for years. Printed matter matters again and major publishers are indeed radically expanding warehouse storage to cope with the re-born demand for physical, printed products.

So what has helped printing to prevail, despite the odds?

Again using printed books vs. digitised books as a good example, I for one tried a few e-books on my new Kindle and, for the first couple it seemed fantastic. But this feeling was short-lived as I found it difficult to obtain particular books that I’d had in mind, while also tiring of the cold, sanitised feel of the electronic e-book reader. I missed the comforting intimacy of the paper, the rustle of the turning page, the feel and even smell of the book and, of course, the full colour, graphically printed cover with its notes, review extracts and ancillary information. I also missed owning something physical and tangible. In contrast to the real thing, e-books felt intangible and sterile. ‘Sterilised’ really sums it up.

Printed paper has a character and an identity

Printed paper has a feel, it has a texture, it has an identity and it even has a smell. They combine to form the character of the printed piece in question. Try accomplishing that with a digital version of the same thing — it’s simply not possible. Digitally reading what should have been printed matter is rather akin to viewing the world with one eye closed. Things look kind of similar but something is missing. Everything is two-dimensional, soulless and that word again — sterile. Read more

Foil blocking

Foil blocking: add a new dimension to your printing

Foil blocking

Foiled & die-cut greetings cardIf you’re looking to add an extra visual dimension to your design and printing then you would do well to consider foil blocking. As the name suggests the result is an area of printing which has literally metallic or even mirror-like qualities – whether used for a logo, border, decoration or other image. With foil blocking, the amount of reflection achieved is far greater than standard Pantone ‘liquid’ metallic inks which, although attractive and metallic to a degree, are rather more subdued and far less like highly reflective metal in comparison.

So how is foil blocking accomplished?

Foiling dieFoil blocking is traditionally accomplished by using a hot metal ‘die’, which carries the required design in relief. This is used to force a sheet of wafer-thin metal foil against the paper surface which is to carry the final design. By applying the die under high pressure and heat, the wafer-thin foil adheres only to those parts of the paper or card which come into contact with the raised relief on the hot die. Resulting areas which show the ‘printed’ foil are slightly indented (debossed) due to the pressure exerted on them. This slight debossing can also add a subtle extra dimension (literally) to the printed piece and is particularly effective when the foil blocking is used on textured card, for example a posh ‘Report & Accounts’ or high specification corporate brochure. Not only does the foiling process deboss the textured cover, but it also flattens the texture in the parts which are foiled. So the result is a mixture of textured and flat surfaces along with a beautifully accomplished logo or design made out of metal foil. Being debossed, the foiled areas glint in the light more readily for a jewel-like quality, as you can see in the photographs above.Holographic foil blocking

Foil finishes

Foil options include high gloss mirror finish, satin and matt as well as holographic foils rather like you see on bank notes (used because they’re so tricky to forge). Whichever finish is used, the result is an eye-catching metallic foil logo, symbol, border or design which catches the light, glinting and reflecting as would any highly polished metal.

Cost considerations

Foil blocking in one ‘metallic’ colour is generally a little more expensive than Read more

Print on demand

‘Print On Demand’ & its Benefits

Print on demand

Firstly, what exactly is printing on demand?

Well, Print On Demand (‘POD’) refers to the process of ordering and printing only as many copies of an item as are really required for immediate or imminent use. This could be just one copy of the printed piece, or multiple copies. Crucially, however, no significant quantity of extras tend to be ordered for keeping ‘in stock’ when using the print on demand approach. This is quite different to how professional printing worked in the past, and is only economical now because of recent advances in printing technology, as we’ll see.

Historic economies of scale

Before the relatively recent advent of digital presses, commercial presses were mostly of the lithographic (or ‘litho’) variety. Litho printing technology requires separate printing plates (even physical film separations and manual reprographic work until just a few years ago); with one metal printing plate being needed for each additional ink colour. So with litho there was historically quite a bit of set-up and cost involved before the printing even began. Therefore litho printing typically worked out relatively expensive for short run (low quantity) printing and only became significantly cost-effective for medium and longer print runs (this is still generally the case today). Hence people would order, say, 5000 brochures rather than a thousand so each individual copy didn’t cost a fortune — even if they only intended to use a thousand or so initially. The remainder would have to be kept in safe and hopefully dry storage for weeks, months or even years on end and, of course, the initial outlay was significant. This larger quantity was ordered simply to keep the individual ‘unit cost’ down to a sensible level. Of course, in recent times, litho printing has advanced but the same theory remains true in essence, even today.

Digital printing; the game-changer

In contrast to litho, with today’s digital, on-demand, printing you would tend to order only the number of copies you really need right now and this is possible because digital printing does not require the ‘old school’ type set-up; there are no film separations, no manual reprographic work to do and even printing plates are no longer required in many forms of digital printing. So you can hit the ground running with very little up-front set-up or cost. In stark contrast to litho printing, this makes the individual unit cost affordable even for the lowest print quantities.

Benefits of ‘on-demand’ digital printing

These include: Read more