What is a Varnish? Transform Your Work With a Spot Varnish

Spot Varnish on card

A Varnish is a liquid coating that is applied to a printed document. The varnish can be Glossy, Matte or Satin giving a variety of different finishes.

A varnish is an additional process and cost due to the fact it is not normally applied on the same printing press as the original document.

Before saying no on a cost basis alone it is always worth asking your printer or designer to show you some examples.

What Can a Varnish Do:

Other benefits include the speeding up of the drying process and prevention of ink rub off.

Adding a varnish is a straight forward process but it can really make your work pop and gleam with vitality. Photography can really shine with a varnish applied to it making the colours appear more vibrant and lush.

The addition of a varnish can also give a business card or brochure cover a tactile feel otherwise lacking on a normal print run. Two cards sat side by side can stand apart and give an incentive to pick up one over the other just by adding a varnish.

Business Card Printing with a Spot Varnish

A straight forward business card can be transformed into something people want to touch and feel. A client of ours was delighted with the business cards we produced for her. The spot varnish applied to the leaf made it leap off the card and also gave it a texture everyone comments on.

Business Card with Spot Varnish

Gloss Varnishing

A gloss varnish can be used to enhance the appearance of printed photographs as the coating reflects back the light and makes colours appear richer and more vivid.

Matte Varnishing

A matte varnish gives the printed surface a non-glossy, smooth look. This type of varnish gives the effect of ‘softening’ the appearance of the surface it's applied to.

Satin Varnishing

This coating falls between Gloss and Matte providing a smooth finish.

UV Varnishing

Ultra Violet (UV) Varnishing uses special Ultraviolet drying machinery, a UV coating is like a deluxe version of the non-UV varnishes, with the varnish appearing noticeably richer and more luxurious.

All-over UV varnish

This UV seal is applied all over the printed surface. The varnish can come in Gloss, Matte and Satin.

Spot UV Varnish

As the name indicates, a Spot Varnish is applied to chosen areas of a printed document.

Have you used a varnish on your work? Did you choose quality over quantity? Did it give you the result you were expecting? Do let me know your experiences with varnishes, it might sound geekie to some but I'd like to know ;)


mohammed's picture


The information you provided was excellent, but i also want to know what are the costing, of applying these varnishes, can we apply any of the varnish directly at our place on the photos, or we have to give in the printing press....or any other place....

Richard Dewick's picture

Varnish variations

Hi Mohammed, thanks for the comment. It's hard to give an exact costs as there are a number of things you need to take into consideration.

1) The length of print run, 1,000, 5,000 etc

2) The area being covered by the varnish

3) Whether your printer can apply the varnish himself or has to put the work out to a separate company / print finisher

You would also have a basic cost of an extra printing plate to add to the cost of the varnish and machine time. You should now be able to approach your printer with a better understanding of the process but it is always worth getting a couple of quotes to compare costs. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Kamran's picture

looking for general idea of the cost...

say i do a run of 1000 business cards...
and i want them matte black (both sides)
with a gloss black graphic (similar to your ones pictures with gloss black vines, both sides)
than i would like additional gloss white text (name on front, info #s etc. on back)
what would some thing like this run me?
thank you,

Richard Dewick's picture

Print quote

Hi Kamran, rather than give a quote on my blog I have sent you an email with costs.

belina's picture


Thanks for the info.
I'm looking for some good printers in the London area (preferably). Are there any that you would recommend? Needing UV spot varnish finish.

Richard Dewick's picture

Reliable Printer in Croydon

Hi Belina, I use The Old Dairy Printing Company over in Croydon, give Richard or Mark a call on 020 8773 8811 and don't forget to mention where you heard about them ;o)