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If you can dream it. You can print it.

If you can dream it. You can print it.

Some of my favorite design is done with blind spot coating. A blind spot coating is a process by which a design is made simply by printing contrasting clear coatings. It is a very elegant treatment that can make a bold statement. However over my years I have had a question eating at me. Can you do a vignette with the spot varnish?

A vignette is when an ink is applied and fades. Think of it like a gradient. At one end of your gradient you have a color and the other end is white. The gradient causes the color to go from full strength, 100%, to white, 0%. It fades. With inks a vignette is not blending with another color it just slowly fades coverage of that ink from from 100% to 0%.

Anyone who knows how a blind spot coating treatment works knows it is actually made with 2 coatings. A dull and a gloss. This helps provide step-off, another term for contrast, making the design more visible since there is no difference in the actual color. Any piece you are printing with this process is going to add 2 more inks to the job.

Tint’s are basically the amount of coverage of a particular spot color. So in effect a vignette is simply a spot color with a gradation tint. Considering all the complications had over my career with the printing of spot colors and tints of that spot color. It naturally seemed to me that printing a vignette of a spot varnish would not be recommended. But the fact is the complications were only there because of the limitations of the printing company printing the piece.

The truth is if you can dream it you can print it.

There are many different procedures and processes a printer can take in order to create the look you are trying to achieve. Difficult processes like a blind spot vignetted coating are what separates the fly by night printers from the real quality ones. They may flood with specialty formulated dull first and then take another pass on the printer to overprint the gloss. They may do a strike through which is basically a reversed plate of your intended varnish and then do a flood of a different coating over top. They may add a little black flake to the gloss in order to get a higher step-off (contrast). It all depends on the equipment they have and the inks that is being used. They can get real creative. I get the feeling, they would screw a press to the ceiling if it provided some kind pleasant printing effect.

The downside is that any printer that has the capabilities, knowledge and experience in bringing you difficult or rare finishings are going to be more expensive. As the old saying goes though, “you get what you pay for”.

Take time and talk to your printers. Ask questions. Part of why these people do what they do is their love of the craft. A decent printer is part alchemist, part machinist, part mad scientist. If you are getting one that is telling you no. There is a good chance there is another down the block who will tell you yes. Unless you are trying to print chocolate or something - but then again, I think there is even a printer for that.

Dec 01, 2014
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There are 1 comments for this entry. Leave a comment below »


Printing really is remarkable these days. You can print on almost any surface and use all sorts of fantastic effects. As you say... all it takes is the budget to do it and the time to find a printer that can do it.

William Levins
Dec 03, 2014


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