My customer asked me…

Spot UV business cards“What are the latest trends in coatings?”

When you walk into your local book store, what’s the first thing you see that will often influence your decision to pick up a book or not? The cover, of course! It often captures the theme of the book and provides an initial impression to the reader. With so many books to choose from, all of which are vying for your attention, it can become a sensory overload to take it all in.

So, how do publishers get you to look at their title instead of someone else’s? Often the coating, which is the final application to the cover and a chance for real impact, is how designers can differentiate their titles. Whether it’s a shiny patch of blood or raised water droplets, unique coating options can add real punch to an otherwise bland cover.

A coating is typically applied to a product for protection (due to handling and use), for aesthetic value (to enhance the look, feel and eye-popping graphics on a printed sheet) or both. The objective is to find the most suitable coating method for the end use, while enhancing the appearance of the printed sheet and staying on budget. Other factors may also be taken into consideration, such as the environmental impact of your coating decision, and these issues can seem overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with the coating options available.

To achieve a better understanding of the variety of coating choices and current trends in today’s marketplace, I had the opportunity to sit down with Carol Nicholl, operations manager at Coatings Canada.

Design Trends & Coating Considerations

The ability to apply a unique coating treatment is only beneficial after a designer first understands how to use coating options to their full potential. Nicholl sees a number of projects move through Coatings Canada that have spot UV applied only to the title and the author’s name on a book cover.

“It’s a missed opportunity. There is so much more that could be done to enhance the impact of a design. There is often unused potential with the coating aspect of a printed piece.”

In many cases, coating a project is about more than just protecting the ink. It’s ultimately about catching consumers’ attention and selling a product. Coatings Canada works with printers to pass on the word about unique coating options. The message is passed down to the printer’s clients and ultimately designers who can incorporate a number of unique applications in their designs.

Nicholl admits that designers are becoming more and more aware of the coating options available to them, which makes for designs that better incorporate the full potential of the coating process. Designers are incorporating spot UV, raised spot UV and glitter spot UV coating into their projects in unique and interesting ways. Coatings Canada is able to offer raised UV and glitter coating options to their customers because of their screen application process. Using a screen allows them to apply a thicker layer of UV coating (raised UV), giving products an appearance similar to embossing at a price closer to spot UV. This option offers visual punch, as well as a distinctive raised feel.

Glitter is also a unique coating option being used more and more. Any colour can be used and the amount of glitter applied to the product is completely up to the customer. Additionally, because the glitter is added directly into the liquid UV coating and cured instantly by a UV light, the glitter will not flake off. This method is being used in children’s products, such as book covers and CD sleeves.

Production Coating Trends

When asked about their most popular process, Nicholl noted that laminating, whether gloss or matte, proves to be their most common application. Lamination is generally more expensive than other coating options available; however it offers more protection and is designed to last longer than other coating methods. Many of the lamination jobs then go through a second spot or raised UV treatment.
“With regards to book covers, the trend is to use more dual processes like matte lamination plus spot UV. There are also a number of instances where customers use raised UV instead of embossing. The raised UV trend really began catching on last year.”

Nicholl has also seen spot UV on a number of brochures, such as pocket folders for gyms. “It’s about highlighting the product using a hit of spot UV.” With regards to overall UV coating, Nicholl has noticed a decrease over the last 5-10 years. She attributes this to some printers now being able to apply it inline.

Eco-Friendly Coating Options

The environment has become a more prominent issue in the printing industry and in the global marketplace as a whole. In light of recent developments, many organizations are looking for ways to not only print their product in an environmentally-sensitive way, but also to coat the project in an eco-friendly manner, all while maintaining budget, the overall appearance and the durability of the product.
“UV coating is the way to go”, explains Nicholl. “It’s recyclable, re-pulpable, there are no emissions in the coating process and its solvent free.”

There is a preconceived perception of the term “UV” and a misunderstanding that this coating process is unsafe, which could prevent non-savvy coatings customers from using it. UV coating is a clear liquid that is applied to the sheet and then passed under ultra violet light where it is instantly cured. Because this coating is cured under light and not by heat, there are no emissions released. UV coating can be applied as a flood coating across the entire sheet or as a spot to add “pop” to a printed piece. UV coating also proves to be a very durable and cost effective option.

Designers will continue to experiment with cover choices, and coatings suppliers will continue to offer unique, eye-catching coating choices. In the meantime, Nicholl boasts that “Yes! You can judge a book by its cover. If the coating treatment makes people pick up a product and turn its pages, that’s half the battle.”

Coatings Canada is a Toronto-based company founded in 1985 specializing in the coating of printed products. They apply coatings for projects that range from book covers to cosmetic packaging to labels, calendars and annual reports. For more information about Coatings Canada, please visit or contact them toll free at 1-877-282-7102.


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.