Veronica Halim

Common Finishing Techniques

Printed pieces without any special effects can feel a little lacklustre sometimes, don’t they? Finishing techniques like foil stamping adds fine details, creating a luxurious depth to the design. It just gives your final result that extra flair and makes it even more exciting to hold. Depending on how elaborate the design is, everything from the name, monogram, map details, to envelope liners can be furnished with finishing techniques. Of course, there’s a number of various finishing techniques to choose from. The question is, which is the right one for your project?

As with printing method and paper choice; design direction, theme and budget will influence what finishing will be used for a particular project. There’s really no limit to what kinds of finishings we want to use, but too many combinations can get quite expensive. If the budget is limited, a foil finish where the foil is calculated per meter is a good option without compromising the final result. With a more generous budget, we can mix it up with two or three finishings or even a beautiful engraving finish. The most common finishing techniques I use in my projects are embossing, debossing and foil stamping.

Foil Stamping
I’m sure many of you are already familiar with foil stamping, also called hot stamps or hot printing. Instead of ink, this finish often seen on wedding invitations and book covers uses foil film that is stamped into the paper. The result is a very shiny but relatively flat artwork. Foil stamping takes anywhere from a couple of weeks to two months. This article highlights some of the pros and cons of this versatile finish.

Emboss and Deboss
Embossing or debossing gives the final result more of a texture than a foil stamp finish. Both embossing and debossing involve applying pressure onto paper. The difference is, embossing creates a raised relief while debossing makes an indentation on the surface of the paper.
Although debossing looks similar to letterpress, they differ slightly in process. Debossing involves printing the design flat first and then stamping it without any ink. In letterpress, there’s less chance of misalignment because the ink and pressure are applied together in one step.

Thermography Printing
Thermography printing, or raised ink, lends a formal look to a design. It’s considered an affordable alternative to engraving and you can get glossy or matte effects with this technique. This finish is created by applying a special resin powder to slow-drying ink before heating and drying to leave a raised effect. When using thermography, avoid designs or typefaces that are too small because you’ll lose details. Conversely, very big designs can also create uneven results or even distort the paper as it dries. Unlike engraving, the turnaround time is quite short and can be as little as a few days.

Engraving is one of the most intricate and expensive finishes in printing, making it ideal for formal pieces. The front of the design looks like raised foil, with an indentation (sometimes called a bruise) on the back of the paper. Because engraving uses thicker ink, it’s possible to print light colours on darker paper. This lengthy printing process can take about six weeks to complete. If you’re curious about some of the terms used in engraving, you can take a look here.

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