What is Spot UV

Spot varnishing, or spot uv, is an embellishment that can be added to a print . You will often see it on book covers and business cards, an element of the design will be slightly raised the glossy.  To emphasize the effect the rest of the print is usually covered with a matt finish, to create greater contrast between the matt and the gloss.

When you are preparing artwork for spot uv, the files needs to be prepared in a particular way. I will explain briefly how the process is done, so you can better understand how the artwork needs to be prepared and why it needs be done that way. I find often understand the why makes it easier to get to the how.

To create a spot varnished print, first so we do the CMYK printing, then on top of that will go a surface finish. There are a few options here for the surface finish, it could be a laminate, a celloglaze(a thinner laminate), or a clear varnish. This finish will be a flood or overall cover and is typically matt. Finally on top of that surface finish will go the spot varnish. So there’s actually three processes being used here,  we’ve got the CMYK printing, then the surface finish, and then there’s a third process, which is the spot varnish.

How is the spot varnish actually done?

Before the spot varnish is done, the CMYK printing, and the surface finish will be done, and you will have a stack of untrimmed sheets sitting there ready to go.

There’s effectively two ways that it’s done in these days.

The older way and more traditional way is a screen printing process. A screen is prepared from the artwork, and then the spot varnish is applied to our prints.

The newer way is a digital process. There are some smaller machines, which are similar in size to your typical stand alone office multi function laser printer. And there’s also large multifunction flatbed printers that can also do the spot varnish. These flatbeds are large inkjet machines that can move their printer head over a large rigid sheet. They use a UV drying process so that they can operate much faster because even the screen printing has a drawing process. Digital processes are usually faster as there is less physical setup to be done.

Even though the application method has changed, the overall process is still the same. CMYK, then surface finish, then spot UV.

You can see applying the spot varnish this is a whole new process, a completely separate machine, it could conceivably be done in a different factory. When preparing your artwork for print, this additional printing process needs to be catered for, there needs to be an additional page of artwork just for the spot varnish. When you set that page up it will just be vector shapes, because there won’t be any raster images, just shapes. The shapes needs need to be set up as a single color PMS colour, it doesn’t matter what particular PMS colour you use it just needs to be a PMS colour. Potentially the pages will need to be in a particular order, CMYK then SPOT, or SPOT then CMYK, just make it consistent if you are suppling multiple artworks.

Spot varnish is a very nice embellishment, but it is also a subtle one, that is best used intelligently. It looks great on a solid colour, the spot varnish becomes the ink in a way, it defines the letters. It looks great when used boldly, you can’t do to much, but you can do to little, so be bold!

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