October 20, 2022

Dazzle Responsibly with Specialty Finishes and Inks

In years past, brand owners and designers mainly focused on applying specialty finishing techniques to packaging that would make it stand apart from their competitors on the store shelf but gave little thought to what happened to the carton once it was discarded. As consumers become more concerned about packaging's impact on the environment, brands are now requiring that their packaging not just dazzle the eye but dazzle the eye responsibly.
Fortunately, there are a few new inks and films that, paired properly with standard water-based or UV coatings, will add sparkle and shine to your packaging and align with corporate sustainability initiatives.
Aqueous Coatings
Available in a variety of styles including matte, gloss, and satin, aqueous coatings are one of the most popular eco-friendly finishes in the industry. Unlike traditional varnishes, aqueous coatings do not yellow over time and are recyclable.
Aqueous coatings have been a staple of the print industry for quite some time, as they can increase the durability of the substrate and even resist impurities, such as fingerprints, scuffs, and scratches. Also, water-based coatings produce minimal waste and do not emit harmful gasses on-press, making them safe for pet or baby product packaging.
Unfortunately, to help balance the pH and produce a high-quality print, aqueous coatings contain amines. When printed on top of low-performance inks or sensitive base colors, such as Warm Red, Rhodamine Red, 032 Red, Reflex Blue, Violet, Purple, and 072 Blue, water-based coatings can burn the ink (i.e., alter the color) and emit harmful chemicals. So if you request that your printer use an aqueous coating, ensure that they order inks that are resistant to burnout.
UV Coatings
With a variety of finishes available, including matte, silk, satin, and glossy, UV coatings are quite durable so are an excellent option for packaging that may incur damage during transit.
Unfortunately, when paired with solvent-based inks, the UV curing process will release harmful chemicals into the air. Moreover, since solvent-based inks are flammable, they cannot be recycled.
Fortunately, water-based inks have recently been developed that can be paired with a UV coating. These inks are safer for the environment, healthier for production staff, and won't affect the recyclability of paper products.
Although these water-based inks have better adhesion than their solvent-based counterparts, they are soluble in alkaline solutions. This is an important factor to consider if the packaging might come in contact with goods that contain liquid with a pH greater than 7, such as food, cleansing agents, or even cosmetics.
Cast and Cure™ Holography
Cast and Cure™ technology uses patterned film to enliven packaging or labels. First, a UV coating is applied to the paper or board. Next, a patterned film is laid on top of the coating and the pattern is transferred to the coating. The coating is then cured with a UV dryer and the film is reused. The film leaves behind a stunning, eye-catching holographic effect that adds dimension to a carton's on-shelf presence.
The wonderful thing about this process is that neither the film nor UV coating affects the substrate's recyclability, nor does it release any harsh chemicals into the air. Moreover, the film can be reused multiple times, minimizing waste.
Although Cast and Cure™ can enhance the look and feel of packaging, it does not work well on a rough or uncoated surface or applied on top of light-colored inks. Even so, it may be the most eco-friendly way to add holographic sparkle to a printed piece or packaging.
With these new eco-friendly finishes, it's easier than ever before to apply environmentally conscious sparkle to packaging. Perhaps one of these innovative techniques will inspire your design team to create a new look that will not only look fantastic in unboxing videos, but also transform eco-conscious consumers into uber-loyal life-long fans.
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