Creative Print Idea: Spot UV Coating


Coatings applied either in or off line to a finished print piece provide some very practical benefits – protection from scratches, water or moisture damage, abrasion, fading and yellowing, and handling damage. Aesthetically, they offer varying degrees of gloss and shine, improved readability, and more. But from a design perscpective, coatings can be used creatively to enhance the actual design. Check out the spot UV coating project below for one idea, then read on for further information about all the coatings available for print.

spot UV coating adds gloss to print

UV coating adds a high degree of gloss and shine to your printed piece, but using it only on certain elements can make your piece stand out even more. On the example above, we used spot UV on the zebras stripes, select parts of the organic design element, the logo – but left the background uncoated. When the paper catches the light, these elements shine and give the illusion of depth and dimension to the card. Notice how the swirls in the green design element stand out where some are coated and some have the dull finish of the paper.

InDesign layout for spot UV coating

To prepare for print, you will need to create a separate file to designate which elements you want UV coated. (In other words, you will need to provide a four page pdf for a two page job.) Any element to receive coating needs to be shown in its exact same position on the page but as 100% black. For linked artwork, this can take a little manipulation of the vector and image files in either Illustrator or PhotoShop, but it is a fairly simple process. Just be certain that when you link your new 100% black art files for the spot UV page that they remain in the EXACT same position as on the original CMYK layout. If you allow InDesign to update a file from the Links palette to your new black element but you selected only part of that element to be 100% black (which can potentially change the overall shape of the item) then your placement can shift slightly and the UV coating will not align exactly to the printed object.

Below are the four main print coatings used in commercial printing. Each of these can be done in matte, dull or satin, and gloss finishes.

Overprint Varnish

Whether spot or full coverage, varnish adds a more subtle gloss or shine to printed paper, as well as offering some protection from smearing, water and wear. Dull varnish is often used to reduce the glare and improve readability of a piece.

Aqueous Coating

Aqueous coating is a protective, water-based sealant that offers more protection than a varnish. It is fast-drying, environmentally friendly and the glossy version has a higher shine than standard varnishes.

UV Coating

UV coating is a liquid protectant applied to a printed piece and then cured with ultraviolet radiation. It can be formulated to a variety of high gloss finishes that enhance the clarity of print. These coatings can be applied with full or spot coverage, and even with special raised effects for more dimension. Liquid UV coatings are solvent free and emit no volatile organic compounds or VOCs.


Laminates offer the most protection, providing a strong, water-resistant, non-scratching surface. Plastic film encapsulates the paper to protect it, and can be applied either as a clear sheet or as a liquid that is cured and dried.


Rely on your printer for advice and direction with any questions you have in fashioning your brand or designing your marketing materials. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for print, signage, apparel and integrated marketing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Shop our full ImageSmith catalog online here. We can work with you to find the best option to suit your needs. Please note, prices in online catalog do not include decoration, but call us for a quote at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.