Making that First Impression

27th February 2015

It’s said that a first impression is formed in less than a second, and that once it’s made it’s very hard to shift. We agree. It’s that instantaneous reaction to something that will govern your on-going perspective, and that’s as true in print as it is in life.


Let’s take an extreme to make the point: Just imagine for a moment that Rolls Royce printed their next brochure on the same paper stock that Yellow Pages uses. How would that look? What subliminal message would that pass to you about their claims of perfection and quality? On the other hand, let’s also launch a new brand of watch and print our brochure on the best quality thick, luxurious paper using the finest finishing technique: What’s that telling you even before you start to look at the specification?


It’s all about subliminal messaging, and the lesson here is that whilst the beauty of your design and the elegance of your prose are vital ingredients, it’s the look and feel of the way these are conveyed, the messenger rather than the message, that will encourage your reader to engage with you.


Let’s look at some of the choices you have to make and the options available, concentrating on the type of paper (the stock), the special finishes available and then the various completion processes such as folding, stapling and binding.


Paper first. Or maybe not, the truth is that you need to know what you want the end product to look like before you can choose the right stock. Some papers absorb more ink than others, so is yours going to be image or text rich, it will make a difference. You’ll probably (but not necessarily) want a coated stock, but this could be light, medium or high coat, the different levels impacting the opacity, lustre and colour absorption ability of the paper. The more you pay, the better you get. Interestingly, whilst the weight of paper is measured in grams per square metre (g/sqM), card is measured by thickness in micrometres or microns, with anything you’re likely to use falling between 200 and 500 microns.


Special finishes call for a blog of their own, so be aware that there’s an almost bewildering variety of choice. Let’s start with varnishing, a process that gives the page a smooth and consistent texture as well as having the added benefit of sealing the printed material to help preserve it better. Rather like its wood equivalent a varnish can be either matte or gloss.


An option to varnishing is to laminate, which adds a layer of protective coating, usually plastic, to the paper, making it more hard-wearing. Importantly a high gloss laminate also makes the finished item feel better and brings out the sharpness and clarity of photographs, a matte lamination being more subdued but adding a very luxurious and elegant finish to the printed surface.


Spot UV can be very effective, adding a very localised varnish finish to a matte background can make elements of your design really stand out, again reinforcing an impression of no cost having been spared.


Foil blocking, a technique where metallic foil is applied to a paper surface using heat and pressure to create a reflective area, can be very effective. More eye catching and, needless to say, more expensive, than using metallic ink, the foil has greater reflective properties and sits on top of the paper rather than being partially absorbed as is the case with the ink.


Embossing raises up a portion of the page to create a shadow. This, like foil blocking, can make a great impression, but is expensive. The opposite, debossing, uses a letterpress is to depress or indent certain portions of the page …also very effective.


The final steps, the way pages are folded, the importance of having a properly sized and placed pocket in a folder, the positioning of staples, all make an impression and should be considered and planned…the truth is that a good print finish that complements your brand can sometimes make or break a good design. The challenge lies in finding the right applications and the perfect balance of their use. And really, that’s where print finishing becomes an art in and of itself.





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