Create special print finishes in InDesign

Spot varnish

The great thing about spot varnish is that you can align it with various elements to really accentuate particular parts of the design. It also works really well when you're using it to add interest or a decorative element to a piece.

There are several different options out there for spot varnishes: gloss, matt, soft touch, rough touch, even glitter and scratch-off latex (as we used on our cover below). And you can create some really interesting effects when you mix two contrasting finishes together.

issue 259 of Computer Arts

Issue 259 features a scratch-off silver latex varnish

How to create a spot varnish

You don’t have the same limitations with spot varnish as you would with foil blocking, as a slight misregistration isn’t going to be so obvious. Like foil blocking, I find the best way to supply the artwork is as a separate PDF file. I use the method I did with the foil blocking, working over my final printing artwork.

If you're using a Photoshop file that's been placed in InDesign, make sure you're working with a solid black by setting the colour mode to greyscale in Photoshop. Again, you can check the colour via the Separations Preview panel.

two covers of computer Arts, one is a guide

The printed cover and scratch-off varnish guide

Best practice for spot varnish

  • Don't use spot varnish over areas that are to be folded, creased or trimmed or glued.
  • Very large solid areas of varnish may have a ‘pinholed’ appearance, which is not always possible to eliminate.
  • Mesh selection will vary depending on the image selected – the lower the number, the greater the volume of varnish/coating applied.
  • For the vast majority of ‘normal’ gloss UV screen work, a 150 mesh will be used.
  • Varnishes such as glitter require a coarse 21 mesh, and applications such as latex, need a 70 mesh.

Next page: Die cuts and folds

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Jo is group art director on the events team at Future and has worked on a number of magazines and brands, including Computer Arts, What Hi-Fi? and T3. She recently led the redesign of Creative Bloq's sister site, TechRadar.