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Why didn’t the spot varnish effect work when my job was printed on a dull sheet?

I recently had a printing job go bad that I had printed on a dull sheet. I requested a spot varnish on the cover to make some images "pop." When I received the final printed job, I was amazed to see that there was no effect whatsoever with the spot varnish. The supposed varnished images looked no different than the unvarnished images. My printing sales rep claimed the lack of effect was due to printing the job on a dull stock. He explained that a dull stock soaks in the spot varnish thereby negating the effect of the varnish. I am wondering if this is true or is my rep just making excuses.


The stock does play a role in how the varnish reacts. Matte stocks and some #2 stocks do not have as much ink hold-out as top quality #1 sheets do. If a dull varnish is used it will be hard to see unless a gloss varnish is used in the opposing images. Conversely, gloss varnish will provide more contrast if it is used on a dull stock. The result also depends on the amount of varnish put on the sheet. Printed material always looks different when wet, and sometimes operators don't want to go too heavy on the varnish because they are worried about offset (transfer of varnish or ink onto other sheets when the job is handled or stacked).

In the future I would make sure that your expectation of how you want the effect to look is written on the proof and in your initial bid specifications. Discuss your expectations with the press operator and your sales representative too, so everyone has a clear understanding of what you mean when you say the varnish should "pop off the sheet." You may also have them recommend a sheet they think would work best. Make them work for you.

Answered by Tom Loudon, VP Printing Operations, EU Services. Tom may be reached at or

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