Varnish is both beautiful and functional. As a utilitarian step in a quality print job, varnish seals and protects large solid areas of ink against finger-printing, minor abrasions and scuffing. Varnish even offers limited protection from moisture and spills. And varnish can prevent a dark, heavily-printed page from “offsetting” or rubbing-off on a facing white page.
But let’s not get too practical here — varnish looks great! It adds depth and brilliance to colors, crispness to photos and enhanced tactile feel to paper. In truth, varnish can increase the glossiness of paper only marginally. But it can enrich the surface — dull varnish especially adds a velvety touch to coated stock. And contrasts between gloss and dull, or spot varnish and the paper, increase the designer’s repertory.
As a member of the ink family (printer’s varnish is not the syrupy stuff brushed on wooden decks), it can be tinted and used as a wonderfully subtle medium for printing pale imagery or “ghost” effects.
Wet Trap? Dry Trap? In-Line? Off-Line?
Laying down varnish along with the other inks (wet, in-line trapping) is most economical and usually quite satisfactory. Dry (off-line) trapping eliminates possible blurred edges and results in the best final finish — it requires more time and money but may produce the quality you seek.
Vexed by varnish? Here are a few tips:
• Dull varnish looks its very dullest when applied to high-gloss stock (it’s smoother).
• Gloss varnish cannot render dull-coated stock shiny.
• Varnish on uncoated paper has a negligible effect — save your money.
• Omit varnish on areas for handwriting or glue strips.
• Spot varnish requires a “plate” on your multi-color job as you prepare your file.