Print finishes – What options are there?

Examples of different print finishes for business cards

In the past, printed marketing materials were, more or less, the most common way of promoting your business at a distance. However, with the explosion of the internet and social media many businesses have opted for a more online approach to marketing. Subsequently though, with many people now suffering from a deluge of emails, bursting inboxes, spam filters, and not to mention the complexities of GDPR regulations regarding email lists, many businesses are reconsidering their approach, and are beginning to rediscover the value of print.

Of course, there is a material cost linked to printing and in an environment where costs are rising and concerns about the planet are at the fore, it is even more important to ensure that any printed materials are designed to be relevant, durable and create maximum impact. Also the quality of the written content and the artwork design will play a role in the success of your marketing materials, however, a well selected print finish can give your document an extra boost to make it really catch the eye.


Size really does matter! There may be the temptation to stick within the norms of traditional sizing – A7 or A6 to advertise a nightclub, or short event, A5 to advertise a local business, A4 to advertise professional business services – but why not “go large”. The bigger the document, the bigger the impact – both in terms of the amount of information included and the amount of brand exposure.
You could perhaps opt for a larger sheet size, or if the size is physically restricted by another factor such as envelope or letterbox size, you could consider a folded leaflet or even a brochure. Leaflets and brochures should create the desire to open and discover what is inside. Often the cost of production is not so much greater than a flat leaflet. And the finished article will have much less of a “throw-away” feel.

Paper weight

If your budget is on the smaller side, or prevents you from going large, you could consider a heavier paper stock. Smaller sheet sizes can benefit from being printed on 250gsm or 350gsm stocks. These will feel more substantial. If your sheet size is larger than A5, opting for heavier stock can also be a good idea. At A4 size, a heavier stock of 170gsm or more can prevent your document from feeling floppy. 250gsm and over will feel more luxurious. For very little more expense you can create a better impression with a heavier paper weight.

Paper finish

When producing marketing items, the typical finishes are silk and gloss, with silk being the more popular of the two. If your product or service is being marketed as environmentally friendly, or artisanal then an uncoated finish may also be an appropriate choice.

Paper weight and finish should be a consideration for all your printed materials – business stationery, business cards, flyers, leaflets, brochures and folders


This is where a thin plastic film is applied to the surface of the paper or card. Usually this can be applied to stocks of 250gsm or above and is typically used to improve the durability of the printed material. As well as making the paper less likely to tear, it can provide (short term) water resistance. Gloss laminates can increase the vibrancy of colours. Matt laminates can create a more muted luxury feel. There are even anti-scuff laminates which are great for items like presentation folders, which have a practical function and may be subjected to more physical wear and tear.

Lamination can be considered for any items printed on materials over 250gsm- Business cards, flyers, leaflets and folders

Die cutting

Die cutting is a process which enables you to get creative with the shape of your item. A cutting die is a bit like a shaped biscuit cutter for paper and card. Some printers will have a range of standard die cutters, which will enable you to personalise your business cards, or flyers with rounded corners, holes, or even bite marks. You can take die cutting to a whole new level by creating your own bespoke die. This could be in the form of one of the shapes from your branding, part of your company name, or something else completely. Your graphic designer can help you create the shape, and your printer will be able to advise you on any restrictions regarding shape. This will enable you to make the most of the creative options available to you. There will be a charge involved in creating the cutting die, so it can be prohibitive on short print runs, but for larger jobs, or projects which will involve repeat prints, it can be a great way to make your materials stand out from the crowd.

Die cutting can be used for business cards, flyers, folded leaflets and presentation folders. Why not mix things up by having a die cut cover on your brochure, revealing some if the inner content.


Folding doesn’t just have to be “in half”. Consider other folding options to make your leaflet more of an experience. Cross- foldingZ-folding, map folding and diagonal folding can transform the flat, into something much more exciting. If you are feeling really creative, you could even design your own promotional origami sheets, and send some origami creations to your business prospects.

Specialist stocks

Fancy cards and papers were once only available for short runs of digital print and home crafters, but now everyone can choose from a whole range of stock whether you need just 100 or 100 000 copies. A well-chosen specialist stock can really add something to your printed material. Most people will already have come across Conqueror Wove options when choosing their business stationery. Conqueror is known for its classic style, and it certainly says “quality” to the touch and the eye. If you want to make more of a statement you can now choose from a range of textured boards such as leather effect, woven effect, hammered effect. Or go for a more visual effect with pearlescent or metallic board, or opt for one of our coloured sandwich finishes. Whichever option you choose, make sure your designer knows your plans before they start work on the design.

Specialist cards and papers can be used on any printed items, but it is worth considering the ongoing costs of using them on everyday items such as business stationery.

UV Varnishes

UV varnish is a coating which is applied to the printed material after the printing has taken place. The coating is exposed to UV light which causes it to cure into an ultra-glossy finish wherever it has been applied. It can be used to highlight specific elements within a design such as a logo or title, or perhaps a focal element of a photograph. Depending on the type of UV varnish being used, it can also give a slightly raised effect, so spot UV varnish can also be used to create a very subtle texture.
In order to get the maximum impact from UV varnish, it is best used in moderation. Again, it is something which should be discussed with your designer so they can plan ahead when creating your artwork. Normally, any areas which are to be varnished will be denoted by the use of a specific spot colour in a separate layer or separate pdf file.

UV varnish is often used in conjunction with a matt laminate finish, and as such is only really used on stocks of 200gsm or more. It can be really effective on business cards, flyers, booklet covers and presentation folders.


Foiling is most commonly seen on greetings cards, however it can look really good when used on premium business stationery. Traditionally, foiling is carried out using an engraved block or stamp to press the foil leaf onto the paper or card. This will also leave a slight impression on the surface of the paper where the foil has been applied. Foils are most commonly gold or silver in colour, however there are a whole range of colours to choose from. Coloured foils can really add some zing to a modern design. Discuss your project with your printer to see what is available.

Alternatives to hot foiling are UV foil and digital foil. Neither of these methods require a stamp to be made, so are more suitable for shorter print runs. UV foil creates a slightly raised finish, similar to the UV varnish discussed earlier. Digital foil uses a special toner which acts as an adhesive for the foil. It has the added advantage of not requiring the extra processes involved with UV treatment.

Hot foil can be applied to uncoated stocks of all weights. UV foil is usually applied in conjunction with a coated surface or a matt laminate finish and used on 200gsm or more: business cards, presentation folders…

Embossing and debossing

This is when a design is pressed into the surface of paper or card. Both processes require the creation of a die, the cost of which makes them more suitable for longer print runs.

Embossing is where the die is laid underneath the paper to create a raised design. Debossing creates a design which is indented into the material. In both cases, the design can be seen in reverse on the other side of the sheet.

Embossing is a traditional process and is often used to create an impression of quality, tradition and luxury. However, with the right design it can be used to create effective and stylish modern designs.

So how important are print finishes?

The many print finishes can really lift a good design, and enable your printed materials to make a real impact. The finish you choose should sit well with your brand and be appropriate for the target market. It is always worth discussing your ideas with your designer to make best use of your chosen finish.

Here at am:pm graphics we offer a range of different paper and print finishes. Get in touch to discuss your printing requirements – / 01298 605010. We can let you know the options available and send you a print quote.



About us

am:pm graphics is a graphic design partnership based in Buxton, Derbyshire. We offer a range of quality, affordable graphic design solutions for print and web, helping our customers achieve a consistent professional identity across a variety of media.

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Top tips for successful flyers

1. Carefully write your copy – flyer copy Don’t forget to include suitable contact details and your web address! 2. Re-read your copy Get someone else