Choosing Between Lamination and Varnish for Packaging Finishes

After putting a lot of work into designing your custom food box packaging, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Here, we’ll talk about the most common types of finishes and how to choose the right one for your packaging.

What kinds of finishes are there for packages?

Varnish and lamination are two types of finishes that can be added to printed items like boxes or book covers. Finishes on rigid boxes, which are also called coatings, are mostly used to protect printed ink from smudges, fingerprints, and other marks. The most common types of finishes you can put on printed materials are varnish and lamination (e.g. packaging boxes or book covers).

• Tell me about varnish.

When you put varnish on the paper layer of your packaging, it makes it look like it’s made of liquid. One of the most common varnishes used today is aqueous varnish, which is made of water and helps seal the ink on printed artwork. Most of the time, these varnishes come in matte or glossy finishes, but you can also order them as UV varnish or soft touch varnish if you want. The type of finish that is the best for the environment is varnish that is made from water.

• Describe lamination.

Put a very thin plastic film over your printed materials to protect the ink and make them look better (such as polypropylene). Lamination protects your print better than varnish does and makes it much harder to see small creases or cracks, especially on thicker materials. Lamination helps keep your boxes from getting too wet by making them resistant to water. It costs more than varnish because it gives a better level of protection.

Lamination uses a thin layer of plastic film, which means that your boxes won’t break down and you can only recycle some of them. If sustainability is important to you, you should look into varnishes. Glossy and smooth (matte) lamination are the two most common kinds (and shiny). Most rigid boxes have a matte lamination, which gives your packaging a more expensive look.

How the way you package something affects the outcome

Even if you have a favourite type of finish for your packaging, sometimes the design of the package will force you to use a different type of finish. Imagine you have a corrugated mailer box with artwork printed on both the outside and the inside. During production, your art is printed right on paper and then laminated (glued) to a corrugated board. If your box has printing on both the inside and the outside, it will be thicker than a corrugated box with printing on only one side. Folding thicker boxes is likely to cause small tears or bursts because of how they are made.

Also, let’s say that both the outside and the inside of your mailbox are completely dark. Because the box is on a dark background, it is much easier to see the fold lines when you put the box together. Remember that crease lines tend to be less noticeable in designs with lighter colours.

So, what does this mean?

For thicker, full-color printed boxes, we would recommend laminating them so that cracks don’t show up where the box folds.

Sticker or varnish?

Here is a table that shows how lamination and varnish are different in the most important ways.

• Go with varnish if:

1. You care about the environment.

2. You desire a cost-effective choice.

• Choose lamination

1. Make sure there aren’t too many folds and cracks.

2. You care more about how something looks than how long it will last.

3. You want your packaging to last longer or be able to handle rough conditions.

4. Your budget is a little bit bigger.

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