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Finishing Options Add Final Touch to Printed Products
By: Greg Ortmann, President, Feiereisen, Inc.

Even the best looking printed piece may require the right finishing touch before it’s complete. What really distinguishes one printed piece from another are well-chosen and properly executed finishing techniques. Designers should be encouraged to use die cutting, embossing, foil stamping, UV coating and film laminating for more compelling eye appeal.

When putting the final touches on your printed product, it’s good to have a range of choices available from your finishing partner. Finishing options allow you to mix and match different processes to achieve the look you’re seeking.

Here’s some of the top finishing options:

Die Cutting Helps Designs Come Alive
Die cutting is where your drawing board designs come alive. The die cutting process uses sharp steel rules to cut paper, board, magnets or some other substrate. Die cutting can be used to create custom designed products such as pocket folders, ticket wallets, Rolodex cards, CD, DVD and other media holders, direct mail applications and more. Die cutting can be used to make other products either more functional or attractive. Channel scoring, round cornering, angle cutting, non-standard tab shapes and business card slits are all possible with die cutting.

Customers can choose from an existing inventory of dies or have one custom made.
The best quality and high production speeds are achieved by using the latest die cutting equipment such as the top-of-the-line Bobst, which performs twice as fast as older models with more precision.

Embossing Provides Eye-Catching Results
Embossing and debossing add a third tactile dimension to print finishing. Either can be “blind” or “registered” depending on the design. Embossing and debossing use a combination of heat and pressure to create a three-dimensional image or pattern on the paper’s surface. Common applications include book covers, business cards, other corporate identity pieces such as letterhead and envelopes, brochures, annual reports and more.

Paper selection is an important consideration. High-quality stock with long paper fibers performs best. Soft paper stocks with high cotton content emboss particularly well. A rule of thumb is that embossing height should be no more than 2.5 times the caliper of your stock. So, in general, the thicker your paper, the deeper your embossing potential.

Foil Stamping Delivers Classic Look
Foil stamping adds a classic look that will get noticed. It is a preferred method for book covers, letterhead, pocket folders, cards or any piece that needs to catch the eye. Foil stamping uses heat and pressure to transfer colored, tinted, metallic, clear or patterned foil onto a substrate’s surface. Hundreds of standard metallic, pigment and holographic foils are available. There are dozens of choices in each of the following categories:

  • Metallics: Golds, silvers, bronzes, metallic colors
  • Pigments: Reds, whites, blues, blacks, etc.
  • Neons: “Sunglasses required” colors
  • Tinted: Smokes, clears, tinted colors
  • Pearls: Lighter “pearlescence” colors
  • Patterns: Wood grains, metal finishes
  • Holographics: Many special effect choices

Make sure your foil selections will work with your chosen paper stock and yield optimum stamping results by communicating with your finisher before your project is printed.

UV Coating Adds Depth, Shine
Ultra-violet (UV) coating adds depth and shine to any printed piece. In this process, a liquid UV coating is applied to stock after printing and is cured with UV light to form a glossy, protective surface that resists scuffing and enhances color images. UV coating is a popular choice for point-of-purchase products, book covers, posters, annual reports and promotional materials.

There are several available UV coating finishes, including high-gloss, low-gloss and matte. Gloss UV coatings give pieces a “wet” look that makes colors appear to leap from the page, while matte UV coatings offer an elegant appearance. To avoid a sandpaper feel, use as little press powder as possible.

Since UV performance is greatly impacted by paper substrates and finishes, consult with your finisher during product planning stages and test a sample before making final job component decisions. This will help you avoid potential hurdles and identify time- and cost-saving opportunities.

Film Lamination Offers Ultimate Protection
For projects that will withstand heavy use or must have a long shelf life, film laminating offers the ultimate in protection, durability and weather resistance. This process, which involves applying a coat of plastic with heat, can be used on one or both sides of a sheet.

Laminating films are available in an array of finishes, including matte, gloss and textures such as linen. Nylon layflat and glueable films are also available. Ideal candidates for film laminating are turned-edge case-bound book covers, pocket folders, cover wraps and soft-cover books.

When printing a project that will be film laminated or UV coated, use only wax-free varnishes and inks. Metallic inks and those with rhodomine red and reflex blue should be avoided. Both film laminate and UV coatings should also be applied only to completely dry sheets. This will help ensure a faster, stronger bond of the film coating to the sheet.

Take It to the Next Level
Finishing options can make all the difference in taking your printed product to the next level. Let your imagination spark your creative designs but follow-up with your finisher to make sure that your project can be produced just the way you envisioned it.  


Greg Ortmann is president of Feiereisen, Inc., a leading provider of post press and finishing services including diecutting, embossing, foil stamping, pocket folders, tab dividers, UV coating, film lamination, scoring and perforation and more. Founded in 1933, Feiereisen has locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Kansas.