A Spring day in Nebraska may start with a below freezing morning commute, then change to a 70-degree lunch break, and back to the 50’s when the sun has set and it’s time to head home. Do I leave the coat at home, or work, or bring it with me everywhere I go? How’s a girl to know?

Coating Considerations and Options

Not so with print! Planning and knowledge of the processes equip you to offer the best possible coating to your clients. So, let’s talk about coating options, why and why not to coat, and what this means for your final piece.

UV Coating

Let’s start with gloss UV Coating. This is a liquid, high gloss coat that cures to the substrate via ultraviolet rays. At Pocket Folders Fast we offer UV Coating as a flood over the whole sheet side (with folders this includes the front, back, and pockets of the final piece). UV Gloss is effective to seal ink, enhance color, and give a high gloss effect. An important note about UV Coating over dark solids: reconsider. Black and dark blues with UV coating tend to show a lot (A LOT) of fingerprinting. If this is an esthetic concern to your client, veer away from this coating option and look instead at lamination or matte finishes. Also, because it is a liquid, it is only available on coated sheets.

Aqueous Coating

Aqueous is water-based and applied with a coating blanket. In our shop, we aqueous coat sheets on our offset presses in gloss, satin, matte, and soft touch finishes. Gloss being the most frequent and cost-effective option. If the job prints on an offset press, aqueous is done inline (on the same press and pass as the ink) and cures the ink to seal almost immediately. On offset printed pieces an aqueous coat protects the ink from scratching while finishing in-house and in transit.

Something important to consider when choosing aqueous coating, the coating choice will affect final color. For example, a solid black with a gloss aqueous will pop as a solid, rich black. A solid black with a matte aqueous will have a more subtle, charcoal black look. The press sheets without coating will be exactly the same, but visually the colors shift with each associated coating choice. (True of matte and soft touch lamination, too.)

NOTE: The sample on the right is printed with no additional coating on the Fuji Press with a Dimensional UV of the logo. The image on the left was printed from the same run/press but added soft touch lamination. Note both the color shift of black by adding a “matte” finish and also how shiny the right image is without any additional coating.

Film Lamination

Lamination adheres a film (as opposed to a liquid) to the printed sheet. It is a more expensive option than UV or Aqueous, however, it has many advantages. First, although nothing can completely stop fingerprinting on dark colors (as long as humans still have moisture in their skin and eat donuts) lamination creates a piece with the least amount of fingerprinting. And, if there are fingerprints, they easily wipe clean.

Lamination is the most durable of finishes, in our shop we most commonly use a film weighted at 1.2 mil. This means a 14 pt. cover stock creates a folder now 15.2 thick, sealed, doesn’t tear easily, and feels snappy.  Speaking of touch, we offer laminate in gloss, matte, and soft touch. These tactile effects are the hottest in print right now, giving people a reason to hold on to the product.

Since lamination is a film laid on top of the paper instead of a liquid, it can also be applied to uncoated sheets. Clients can love or hate this idea. I love it! Gloss laminate over a linen, for example, adds bulk and durability and achieves a unique duplex effect, because the outside of the folder has a sharp contrast in finish from the inside above the pockets.

No Coating

Pow! I mean it, full coverage digital print does not require any additional coating.

What? No Coating…Is that really an option? In the old days, like three years ago, that would have been impossible. Especially for a company like mine, where we ship most of our folders within one working day – how can this be done without coating? Well, I’ll tell you. Inkjet digital print has come a long way. We produce folders on Fuji Presses that print high quality, sharp colors, and the ink seals on the sheet, ready for finishing, right off the press. There is no production-related reason to coat a sheet that comes off of our digital presses. In fact, if a folder is printing full coverage with heavy solids, an aqueous coat is actually a redundant waste of resources. Because the ink is so shiny on the sheet, the piece already shines without any added coating.

The reasons to coat folders coming off of the digital presses are all esthetic, for example, to add a high gloss (like UV) or to change the appearance to satin or matte coating. Also, if the printing is not heavy coverage, and you like the look of gloss aqueous on the white, semi-gloss portions of a coated sheet, then it makes sense.


There are several ways to add effects to print that fall under the coating category, although not all actually seal the ink, but they can seal the deal. (Like what I did there?) Adding effects to your piece is important for the power phrase of print: visual disruption. Varnish and/or aqueous coatings can give a subtle effect of matte/gloss with a dry trap or a strike-thru, but the hottest way to make an image pop right now is with dimensional UV effects. A spot gloss can emphasize a logo or create an effect, but better if that gloss is raised and even better if it has an interesting texture. At Pocket Folders Fast we do “Folders that Pop” with printed sheets straight off the digital press or, and for a sharper contrast, sheets that are satin or matte coated. Matte or soft touch lamination with the dimensional UV effects are the most powerful. Like the liquid coatings, the dimensional UV is only available on coated sheets. (For the moment, it’s an evolving technology, so stay tuned!)

I never know what the weather will bring around here, so I pack an umbrella for April showers, and a coat in case it snows. Yes, in April.  At least the best coating for each presentation project is something we can plan and prepare. Reach out to us for samples and coating combinations. We love to talk folders! Reach our team at 844-427-2642.

(c) Mardra SIkora 2018, orginally published in NPOA “News and Updates” Magazine.

Sam and Jamie have a quick follow-up thought for you, too: