Friday, 18 October 2013


I started my research into finishing methods by listing the methods that my method could feature. The results from my survey showed that 89.3% of participants want to know more about finishing techniques and how they can be applied.

Finishing techniques;
  • Foiling.
  • Embossing & Debossing.
  • Spot varnish.
  • Lamination.
  • Perforation.
  • Thermochromic inks.
  • Thermography.


I started my research into fishing methods by experimenting with a technique I wanted to use last year, foiling. It is a method that I have never used so completing the process was a good change to gain first hand experience and knowledge regarding the technique.


Foiling is a finishing method used by designers to add an upmarket, classy feel to a piece of design. Allowing them to apply a shiny finish to specific design elements the technique can be applied in various ways. One method uses a heated die and presses the foil straight onto the stock often called a foil stamp or foil emboss. Another technique utilizes a heat activated glue that is screen-printed onto the stock, the foil and stock are then sent through the heat press to bind the foil to the stock.

  • Fabric Screen.
  • Screen printing equipment (see screen-print research).
  • Foil
  • Foiling adhesive.
  • Heat press.
  • Stock.

  • Firstly, create your desired design and expose the fabric screen following the same steps as outlined in the screen-print section. It is important that you use a fabric screen with a 43T mesh as the 120T paper screens will block with the fabric adhesive. 
  • Next, place the screen on the print bed and prepare it for printing. Once the screen and stock are ready place a generous helping of the adhesive the full length of the design.

  • Print the design in a similar fashion as to when printing with screen inks. However, work quickly as the adhesive can dry in the screen and block it up.

  • Once the glue has been printed onto the stock leave it to dry, this should only take around five minutes.


  • The next stage of the process requires you to bind the stock and paper together using a heat-press. The temperature settings used for foiling is 160°C and the time needs to be set to 12 seconds, these settings can be changed on the monitor of the heat press. 

  • Next, place the foil over the design and sandwich the two elements between sheets of newsprint. Then, hold the heat press down until the 12 seconds are up.

  • Remove the elements from the press and leave to cool for a minute, it is important to let the design cool otherwise the glue might not be completely set, so when you peel off  the foil parts of the design can be removed.

  • Once cool, carefully peel back the sheet of foil.

  • The end result.


Spot varnishing is a finishing method that I have come across quite regularly on upmarket, mass produced magazines. It can be used to add an interesting aesthetic effect on an outcome, to add a multi-sensory aspect to a piece of work, or to draw viewer attention to specific parts of a page.


A spot varnish is essentially a gloss finsih that can be applies to specific areas of a printed outcome. It can be printed over inks adding a protective coating which also makes the colour appear more vibrant. There are different types of gloss varnish available, from a simple gloss varnish to UV activates glosses. 

A spot UV varnish - Link

  • Paper Screen (120t).
  • Screen printing equipment (see screen-print research).
  • Gloss varnish.
  • Stock.

Prepare the screens following the same methods as outlines in my screen-print process research.

  • Once the screens have been prepared and exposed you will need to print your spot varnish in a similar way to screen printing. 
  • One problem I encountered while completing the print process was with the speed in which you need to work, the varnish's consistence means that it dries in the screen very quickly, this blocks pixels and stops you from getting a complete clean print.
  • I asked Andy, one of the print technicians, what I could do to overcome this problem and he suggested adding a teaspoon of water to the varnish.

  • The finished outcome leaves you with a subtle glossed area, the final result can be used to vastly improve the aesthetic quality of work and arrest the audiences interest.


I started collecting secondary research into spot varnishes from the book; 'The Production Manuel' by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris. The book provides an insightful look at the different types of spot varnishes and how they can be applies to work. 

  • Any part of a printed surface can have a spot varnish applied.
  • When working commercially a designer must send a separate file showing exactly where the varnishes should be applied. 
  • The file will contain artwork that presents the location of the spot varnish in black as it will it will run as a solid colour without any screening, while other areas are white.
  • Varnishes can be applied over images to protect them from ware and make the colour seem more vibrant.
  • Varnished can be used to enhance elements on a matt page. Contrary to this, if printing on a high gloss stock a matt varnish could take away the sheen from certain areas.
  • In regards to the file, all black areas will be printed with varnish, and all white areas will be left unvarnished.
  • At the bottom of the page there is a table displaying information about different types of varnish, my outcome could include a similar diagram to communicate varnish information to my audience in.

I also collected secondary research online from a printing company called 'Pulse Print'.

  • Post-printing method applied after the outcome has been printed. (finishing method).
  • The techinique can be applied 'online' (immediately after the ink has been applied) or 'offline' (Some time after the ink has been applied, placed on a separate machine).
  • Quite a costly technique to apply so designers need to think about whether it is definitely needed.
  • The technique is usually applied by the printer/print company (relevant to commercial jobs).

  • The main drawback is the cost that it takes to apply the technique.
  • The cost will be higher for more complicated jobs.
  • Using the technique extends the timescale of the print job specifically, a spot UV varnish adds a considerable amount of time to the job.

  • Instant visual imapct.
  • Multi-sensory impact - Tactile finish the audience can physically interact with.
  • Adds vibrancy to colours.
  • Gives the outcome an original, upmarket feel.

Pulse Printing - Link


Two finishing methods that I see used in design work regularly are embossing and debossing, the methods use a plate that is pressed against stock to leave an impression. As it is a popular and effective method I think it is important to feature it in my outcome. 


Embossing is to raise an image up above the surface of the paper whereas debossing pushes the image down into the surface of the paper.   Both techniques provide tactile qualities as well as visual shadow lines that subtly enhance the look and feel of an object.  Either process can have color or can be blind i.e. without color.  Both embossing and debossing are produced on letterpress equipment and require film and metal dies to be made.  

  • A plate for embossing/debossing.
  • A printing press (hydraulic for best results).
  • Stock.
  • Inks and printing items (if inked deboss).

While in the laser cut induction workshop we were told about who lino could be cut and used for embossing and debossing. After the session I booked a laser print slot so I could experiment with the technique.

  • Start the process by setting up the laser cutter correctly (see laser print process research). For this job I used the raster setting so that it cut away the excess lino around the letters of each plate. The printer cuts to a specific depth with each pass which was unfortunately too shallow for the plates function, to overcome this problem I simply reset the printer so that it would print over the same design again increasing the depth. 

  • The finished plates look like this, as the emboss plate will be placed under the stock it does not need reversing. However as the deboss plate is being placed on top of the stock it needs to be reversed.
  • If creating a plate for a proper design the base of the plate would need to be the full size of the stock, this is to ensure the shape of the plate doesn't transfer onto the stock as well.
  • Once the plates have been cut ensure that they are well cleaned or dirt will transfer onto the stock.

  • This is my deboss plate in the printing press, I placed newsprint wads underneath the stock so that their was a soft surface for the stock and plate to press against. Using newsprint wads helps the plate imprint the stock.

  • This image shows my plate fresh out of the press, as you can see the base shape of the plate has also transferred onto the stock, this can be avoided by following the steps above. Moreover, as I did not clean the plate well enough and so plenty of dirt has also transferred to the stock.

  • The emboss plate also worked, however, the lino did not produce the crisp edges that a copper emboss plate can produce.

  • I also decided to experiment with an inked deboss, to produce this I simple inked up the lino plate so that the ink transfers to the stock when compacted in the press. I used the equipment used when lino printing, consisting of a relief ink, rubber roller, and pallet knife.

  • The inked deboss worked relatively well but still didn't achieve the crisp quality achieved with a copper plate.

  • The final emboss plate, although the technique works the result and quality are mediocre when compare to other available options.


Firstly, although the technique worked the results were definitely substandard when compared to copper embossed outcomes, the lino just could not achieve the crisp, clean lines produced when using a copper plate. While conducting my finishing experiment I also found that as the lino was quite soft and so squashed while being pressed, with each experiment the impact of the emboss or desboss became less and less. The only aspect of lino embossing/debossing that outdoes a copper plate emboss is the turn around time,  it only took the printer around 15-minutes to cut the design into the lino plate. Compare this to the time it takes to prepare a copper plate and the difference is drastic as it can take a whole day for the plate to be properly produced. Overall, I would not use this technique again, but instead set aside time to produce a copper plate.


After experimenting with lino I attended an embossing workshop at 'Rossington Street' that walked us through the copper plate embossing process.


I collected my initial secondary research into embossing and debossing from the book; 'The Production Manuel' by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris.

  • An emboss or deboss is a design thats stamped onto a stock to create a decorative raised or imprinted design on its surface.
  • An emboss uses a magnesium, copper or brass die holding an image to stamp onto the stock.
  • To ensure the designs transferal to the stock the design is usually slightly oversized with thicker lines.
  • Copper and brass are more durable materials than magnesium so should be the stock of choice when printing in large volumes.
  • Thinner stocks can hold more detail, however they can rip when the die is stamped onto them.
  • Thicker stocks generally need thicker lines as the die has to press through more paper fibers.
  • Coated stocks hold detail well, however when pressing the die coating can sometimes crack, if pressing a deep emboss then an uncoated stock is generally better.
  • An emboss can also be made with foil to give a design colour. Embosses are also applied 'blind' to add a tactile finish to a design.

Black board business card with black block foil print finish created by and for design agency Stylo.
This image shows a matt foil emboss - Link

Blind emboss / Toby Designs
This image shows an example of a blind emboss - Link

  • A deboss is a metal dye containing a design that is stamped from above the stock to leave an indentation.
  • Debossing produces better results on a thicker stock because a deeper indentation can be achieved.
  • The abikity of an emboss/deboss to leave a good impression depends on the stock choice, thinner stocks hold finer lines but can rip while being pressed. Thicker stocks are more robust but lose fine detail.


Lamination the process of covering a stock in a specific type of material, laminates come in a range of finishes from matt to gloss, each with their own characteristics and benefits.

I started collecting secondary research from a book called 'The Production Manuel' by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris, the book gave a brief introduction to the types of laminates and how artwork should be prepared for the laminate application.

  • Any part of a printed surface can have a laminate applied to it.
  • Artwork that needs the application of a laminate should be sent in two files, one containing the artwork and the other showing the positioning of the laminate. (exactly the same as spot varnish process) 
  • Laminates can be applied in different ways to achieve a variety of effects.
  • Types of laminate; Matt, Gloss, Leather, Satin and Sand.


I recently noticed the increased use of an impressive finishing technique that allows designers to print inks that change colour or become transparent. The method utilities special 'Thermochromic inks' which are inks that react with certain temperatures and change their aesthetic appearance. 

This poster shows the effects that can be achieved using Thermochromic inks - Link


Thermochromic inks take advantage of thermochromism, which refers to materials that change their hues in response to temperature fluctuations.

Thermochromic inks first hit the mainstream in the 1970s, appearing in one of that era's lasting icons -- the mood ring, which supposedly used the wearer's body heat as a sign of his or her emotional state.

Thermochromic inks conjure their magic in different ways. Currently, there are two major categories of these inks: thermochromatic liquid crystals (TLCs)and leuco dyes.

leuco dyes are colored when they're at a cool temperature. Then, as heat rises, they become translucent, which lets them reveal any colors, patterns or words that may be printed on an underlying layer of ink. In other products, leuco dyes can be blended with another color so that as temperatures change, a two-tone effect occurs. Mix blue with yellow, for example, and you have an ink that looks green at lower temperatures and yellow when heat rises.

The teensy capsules contain a colorant, an organic acid and a solvent. At lower temperatures the solvent remains in a solid state, keeping the colorant and acid in close proximity to each other -- and as a result, they reflect light and create color. As the solvent warms, the colorant and the acid separate and there's no visible color

Information Link


  • Thermochromic ink or powder.
  • Binder.
  • Mixing container.
  • Spoon (metal).
  • Screen printing equipment.
  • Stock.


The technique really interested me as the application of thermochromatic inks opens up a world of new possibilities in relation to graphic design. Therefore, I decided to experiment with the technique first hand, after the embossing workshop I found out that the inks are sold at Rossington street so purchased some. 

  • The ink came in 5ml syringes from Rossington Street, as I was printing an A2 print I bought two tubes to ensure I had enough ink to produce a number of prints. 

  • The ink needs to be mixed with binder so empty the contents into an empty container.

  • The ratio of binder to ink should be about 1/3 binder to 3/3 of thermochromatic ink.

  • Use a metal spoon to mix the binder and ink together, make sure that the two substances are well mixed.

  • Set up your screen and print bed as shown in my screen print research.

  • Apply the ink to the screen, make sure that there is a generous amount or it could affect the quality of the print. 

  • Clean the screen and all equipment as shown in my process research.

  • Leave the prints on a drying rack until completely dry to ensure none of the wet ink smudges.

  • Once dry you can see the impressive effects that can be achieved using thermochromatic inks. 

  • Apply heat to the ink using your hand or finger. Depending on how hot your hands are press down on the print for around 30 seconds.

  • When you remove you hand form the print the heat of your finger will have caused the solvent in the ink to warm, this causes a seperating of the colorant and the acid which is why there is no visible color.


Thermology is a print finishing technique that allows designers to create raised lettering, this gives outcomes a tactile, interactive feel that can really change the dynamic of an outcome.

An example of the effects achieved with the finishing technique - Link


Thermographic printing is a practical alternative to engraving(copperplate printing) and is more affordable, but still versatile enough to let you fulfill your most exquisite taste in design. While engraving raises the paper surface, thermographic printing raises the image or type. This is achieved by sprinkling powdered resin onto wet ink, then heat-fusing it onto the sheet. The result is a deliciously textured, high gloss finish. Though a similar look is achieved to die-stamping or engraving, thermographic print will not show the fine details of typography or logotypes.
Information Link


  • A fresh print with the ink still wet.
  • Thermographic powder.
  • Vacuum (optional, can work without).
  • Oven (A heat-gun will also work).


I started collecting secondary research into the finishing technique from a book called 'The production Manuel' by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris.

  • Thermography is a finishing technique that produces raised lettering.
  • The raised lettering is created by fusing thermographic powder to a design in an oven.
  • Various raised effects can be created by using the technique. 
  • Highly visible, very tactile finish.

After reviewing the brief information taken from 'The Production Manuel' I decided to collect further research into the technique in order to collect more technical based information.

Thermography process; 
  • Print item, while the ink is still wet dust with thermoplastic powder.
  • Next, remove any excess powder so it only remains on the printed area. 
  • Finally, apply heat to the item, this causes the powder to react and fuse to the ink, lifting form the surface.

  • Powders are available in three varieties; clear (takes on the colour of the underlying ink), gold (to be used on a yellow base) and silver (to be used with a blue or grey base).
  • Different grade powders are also available, finer powders are used for finer detail and courser powders for thicker strokes. Different powers produce slightly different effects, for example the finer powders raise from the surface of the stock less.
  • Thermology relies on a good print quality.
  • If the result is dull then too little heat is being applied.
  • If the results are blotchy then too much heat is being applied.
  • Thermographic powder will stick to anything, including greasy finger prints, ensure that the stock is completely free from marks and dirt before applying the powder.
  • To apply thermographic powder to multiple prints stack them on top of each other, then apply a generous amount of powder to the top print, shake the excess onto the second print and repeat.
  • Thermograhy causes the surface of the stock to be uneven which can cause problems when cutting. Therefore, ensure that the stock is cut to the correct size before applying the powder.


Die cutting is a finishing technique that allows designers to cut out specific shapes from a piece of stock, the technique can be adapted to cut out stickers from an adhesive sheet or to remove shapes from a specific part of an outcome.


  • Die (shaped metal blade). 
  • Die cutting machine.
  • Stock.


I started collecting my secondary research from a book called 'The Production Manuel' By Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris. As well as some brief information on die cutting the book also included information on kiss-cutting, another outcome that can be achieved with a die. 

  • Die cutting uses a steel die to cut away a specific part of a design.
  • The method is usually used to add a decorative element to an outcome.

  • Kiss cutting is usually used when a designer needs to cut through the surface material but not the back sheet, therefore it is usually used for sticker sheets.
  • Artwork supplied for kiss cutting needs to include a cutter guide.

The Spy Guide to Design and Print - Pippa Young

  • Die cutting can also be used to score paper ready for folding or to imprint the image, to do this a blunt blade is used so that it does not pierce the paper.
  • Die stamping is a process which gives a raised printed image. 
  • Die stamping can be used on areas without ink to create an effect similar to blind embossing.
  • The effect is created using two dies, one pushes the paper into the other to make an embossed or debossed image.

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