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The Wonderful World of UV Special Effects

(February 2012) posted on Tue Mar 20, 2012

Find out how you can use the latest generation of UV-curable inks and coatings to add value to signs, graphics, packaging, and other screen-printed applications.

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By Mike Young

What types of special
effects are possible?
New special-effect inks and coatings are UV curable and designed for compatibility with one another, thereby enabling the production of a wide variety of surface treatments, finishes, and characteristics. They augment the visual and tactile appeal of printed graphics, and they’re formulated to yield the exact same finishing characteristics regardless of printing and finishing equipment used in the production workflow.
Furthermore, the coatings are all designed to generate a desired finish right out of the can without measuring or special mixing, except for customization with additives. Each can be used alone or as part of other printed elements to provide varying levels of hand, dimensional appearance, gloss or matte finish, highlights and reflective elements, and more. Numerous types of special effects can be created to provide a distinctive and stunning addition to any plain-looking print to bring it alive (Figures 6 and 7).
These UV-curable formulations can deliver spectacular special effects simply through creative printmanship, either singly or in multiple layers, for something remarkably out of the ordinary. Example include:
Deep/high gloss for superb spot lamination or to provide a wet, glossy look selectively to an existing matte surface to highlight subject matter
Deep matte for lamination and to give a sense of rich depth or to reverse an existing glossy surface selectively to accentuate another part of the print
Crystal provides a dazzling, light, glistening, transparency finish for a different effect than deep/high gloss; startling finishes include water droplets or sparkling effects with glitter flakes—a great transition by adding a touch of reality to jewelry. Highly visible lamination radiates when printed over silver, gold, or virtually any color. It also can be used for tactile applications (Figure 8), Braille, doming, and more.
Refractive creates 3D holographic or micro-embossed effects. A foil-like surface is child’s play with unlimited vector patterns (Figure 9).
Texture simulations, such as leather-like finishing, are possible and can form realistic surface consistency or can be applied to backgrounds to develop breathtaking exteriors.
Softening effects are possible and can de-emphasize backgrounds with a suede-like characteristic and feel.
Relief effects are possible with specialty, UV-curable coatings—a great way to add 3D effects, as well as thick-film deposits to small, round objects such as berries, pebbles, etc.
Coral/bubble effects provide a deep, distinct bubble effect to accentuate pimple-/dimple-like surfaces, such as the stigma center of flowers.
Abrasive roughness is possible in varying degrees and provides a great looking finish to images that call for rough surfaces—a feel that is not meant to be smooth to the touch, such as a crab, brick, sand, concrete, etc., to emphasize real-life characteristics.
Sparkle sheen with deep luster accents the body of a car, appliance, machine, or any decorated panel surface to confer an elegantly appointed finishing touch not possible by other means.

Can anyone screen
these special effects?
In a word, yes. Any company that has UV screen-printing capabilities can reap the rewards of creating special effects for their own customers. For long production runs, those usually printed by offset, are best screen printed with a cylinder line rather than semi-automatics designed for short-run lots. During this year alone, a large number of digital printers invested for the first time in screen printing (talk about a major trend reversal) with offset printers joining the club to provide their own customers with these exciting finishing effects.
This is not surprising when considering such alluring, value-added print features become the new redeemer for print buyers—and printers alike—and one that can almost name its own price just to satisfy the objective. Providing special effects can enable any printing company to win business and increase profits. Enterprising printing companies today are seeking ingenious ways to enhance their customers’ products, by adding and creating value-added additions to their in-house capabilities. These special features are truly unique and striking, each with distinct properties for many knock-your-socks-off applications. The results have such an impact that virtually any graphics application can be transformed to provide added embellishments that promote genuine isolation from the competition.
In today’s economic climate, there has never been a better time or opportunity to reignite one’s business passion by strategically embracing an extraordinary market niche that can infuse much needed financial benefits into an existing printing operation. Screen printing is a tried and true process that exists largely today due to its ability to print the widest range of substrates with the broadest selection of inks and coatings and its support for intense color vibrancy and opacity that deliver the greatest visual impact of any printing process.
It has been said that you only have one chance to make a lasting impression. UV special effects are limited only by imagination, so innovative printers who are willing to think outside the box will enjoy a higher return on their venture with value-added features that radiates excitement instead of minimizing cost per printed unit. When special effects become product, profits increase.

The author would like to thank Ron Hayden of RH Solutions for his assistance and expertise in this area. The UV special effects inks mentioned in this article are available through RH Soluitons. For more information, go to



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