Special Finishing Options: Let Imagination Be Your Guide

Specialty finishing options can help ensure your print jobs stand out, get attention, turn heads, and open eyes. That’s why many savvy printers are attuned to specialty finishing and its potential to provide greater sales and profits.

If seeking that extra “wow” factor, you can add it with any number of specialty finishing options, including spot UV coating, film lamination, foil stamping, holographic foil stamping, embossing and debossing, and die-cutting custom shapes. So says Matt Anson, president of Baltimore’s Bindagraphics, Inc., a nearly 40-year-old full-service trade bindery and postpress finisher.

“All of those command an upcharge,” Anson says. “So for a buyer to be sold on paying that premium, the selling point is going to be that the more special and less ordinary a piece looks, the more it will be read and acted upon.“

The question for end users, he adds, is, “If you’re out to raise awareness or ticket sales, what kind of effect will get you the most bang for your buck?”

Here’s a look at a number of specialty finishing options, their distinctive effects, and the types of pieces most likely to feature these finishing touches.

• Spot UV coating. Within the category of spot UV coating, a number of alternatives are offered. The UV coating can be gloss or soft velvet, for instance. Alternatively, it can have glitter within it. “The glitter particles are suspended in the UV solution,” Anson says. “Then the UV solution is cured by UV lights, and it sets the glitter so it can’t be removed. You typically see it on holiday cards”

Glow-in-the-dark and scratch-and-sniff effects as well as scratch-offs can all be applied with the same method as spot UV coating, Anson adds.

• Film lamination. The typical choice within this category is either gloss or matte film lamination. “You would customarily see laminating used in instances where you want a piece to provide some measure of durability,” Anson says. “Any time you’re adding gloss film laminating or gloss UV coating, it also makes the colors underneath the coating pop.” Gloss or matte coatings often are used on book or pamphlet covers, he reports.

• Foil stamping and holographic foil stamping. Foil stamping, Anson says, is a “tried-and-true method” of highlighting certain art elements of a printed piece. Silver foil stamping the boughs on a holiday tree is one typical example. “It makes people want to pick it up and touch it if it has something shiny,” he says. “It’s appropriate for anything where you want to draw attention to a particular aspect of a piece of artwork or a name or element of text.”

Holographic foil stamping can be registered to print so it enhances the overall artwork of a piece, making it more likely to be noticed and admired.

• Embossing and debossing. These options begin with simple single-level emboss or deboss; highlighting a logo, for instance. They can extend all the way up to a multi-level sculpted emboss die.

“When you talk about emboss and deboss, you have the added quality of it being tactile, so it’s one more aspect you can use to pull your target audience in,” Anson says. “Brochures, direct mail, and business cards are all examples of pieces getting this treatment.”

• Die-cutting. Perimeters of pieces can be die-cut to catch viewers’ eyes, and interiors of pieces can be die-cut to provide a window and create a reveal. “It’s another way to draw the viewer in,” Anson says, adding that cards, brochures, and pocket folders can all benefit from some aspect of die-cutting.


Keys to Success

Why outsource your printed pieces to those who devote all their time, skill, and experience to specialty finishing options? Anson responds many printers don’t have the volume to justify making the capital investment in the equipment.

That’s a primary reason many printers print the pieces and send them to professional binderies for specialty finishing, Anson says. “We always recommend there be a test strike done by us, to make sure we have the specialty effects they’re looking for,” he reports. He cautions that problems can arise when work must be done in a week, and there’s no time for the crucial strike run.

Another step that leads to greater success is discussing budgets at the outset, so a bindery can suggest specialty effects within a printer’s budget, he adds. Doing so helps sidestep a time management problem for both players, because precious time can be wasted working on effects outside the budget.

One additional strategy that can help printers is to be proactive, rather than reactive, in selling their own customers on specialty finishing. “What would help them is to go to their local finisher, and ask the finisher to arm them with samples of every special effect that’s available,” Anson says. “That way, when their sales team is on the road meeting with customers, they can not only show their customers’ buyers, but leave some samples in the hands of those buyers.”

That enables the buyer to educate their own colleagues about what specialty finishing options are available. “The end game is not to get more money out of the buyers’ pockets, but to demonstrate the effectiveness of print, and to make it as popular and widely used as possible,” he says. “If the buyers want bang for their buck, print plus special effects will give them that bang.”


The DIY Alternative

So far, we’ve described scenarios in which customers of conventional printers require, for instance, custom die-cuts requiring dies to fit their particular needs, and those jobs are farmed out to specialty finishers for completion.

But there’s another not infrequent scenario, says Chris Van Pelt, president of Therm-O-Type, a 35-year-old company that manufactures digital finishing equipment for digital output. “If you’re doing a lot of the Web-based work going on today, the job is printed almost automatically by the order system, but when it comes off the machine, the printer has to do the finishing operations,” he says.

“Those may include blind embossing, die-cutting, hole-punching, cross-cutting, cross-creasing, cross-perforating, in-line slitting, scoring, or perforating. Those operations cannot go out, there’s not enough time.”

The solution is obtaining digital finishing equipment that’s programmable, and that allows printers to very quickly set up for small-quantity orders and process them accurately in-house. “They can get that from our company,” Van Pelt says.

Most Therm-O-Type customers process orders that have to ship within 12 hours of arriving. They’re producing door hangers, round-corner business cards, round-corner postcards, round-corner greeting cards, and such things as holiday gift tags. The combination of hole-punching and die-cutting offered by the company’s equipment lets them produce items such as tabbed divider sheets.

Therm-O-Type’s biggest selling machine, the Zip-TS2L, has two tooling stations to do embossing, die-cutting, perforating, slitting, scoring, and hole-punching, and also has a cross-sheet guillotine cutter.

Printers can use the combination of those features to create many different products in one pass of the machine. “You’re doing in one pass what would normally be done in multiple passes with multiple machines,” Van Pelt says. “It’s very cost effective, especially when you’re doing small quantities.”

Therm-O-Type likes to emphasize the value of products created on its machines. Printers making square-corner business cards or square-corner postcards are all too aware these are low-profit items. But round-corner business cards, round-corner postcards, fold-over cards, round-corner fold-over cards, and hangtags with holes punched in them feature enhancements that significantly increase the retail value of the products. “It also decreases the competitive pressures on pricing,” Van Pelt says. “That’s because most people don’t offer round-corner business cards or round-corner postcards.”

Print service providers may also be interested in the recent introduction by ImPress Systems of an automated positioning option for Foil Xpress. The new version will transfer an 8x10-inch custom foil print onto leather, vinyl, plastic, and paper items. Paper items include book covers, photo books, planners, diaries, photographs and photo mats, portfolios, presentation and report covers, novelties, and ad specialty items. ImPress Systems reports the option is ideal for personalizing an entire book cover automatically.


The Future of Specialty Finishing

Many of the specialty UV effects Anson discussed are now available to printers with UV presses. “They still actually come to us for the effects, even if they have that equipment,” he says, adding, “Everyone in graphics arts should take up the challenge of demonstrating and proving print is a necessary component of any marketing and advertising campaign.”