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Matte or Glossy? Choosing Your Custom Label Finish

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Matte Black Rolls

I like the look of dull gold over shiny gold and I always select a “matte finish” when I drop off photographs to be developed, pick a new paint for a project or purchase some device with an LCD screen. I love matte! But I know there is a huge gloss-loving camp out there who prefer the pristine look of a glossy finish.

In custom label printing, having to choose between matte and glossy (or dull and shiny) is a regular occurrence. This distinction has a huge impact on the overall appearance of your label. You can choose between matte paper and glossy paper, shiny foil or dull foil, matte lamination or gloss lamination, flat inks or foil stamping – but in some cases, the choice affects more than just the look of the label.

For example, consider our custom embossed foil seals. There are five foil choices available: shiny and dull gold, shiny and dull silver and shiny bronze. If you want the classic blind emboss (the technical term for embossed foil with no ink), we often recommend going with the dull foil because the shiny is much more reflective and therefore it can make the artwork or text difficult to see. If your heart is set on the shiny foil, than you might think about adding a metallic ink to add a little contrast to the seal so the artwork “pops” while keeping an overall metallic look to the finished product.

Shiny Black RollsConversely, when printing labels – especially full color labels – we recommend that they be printed on a white gloss paper or vinyl, rather than a matte stock. Glossy substrates hold the ink better and therefore appear more vibrant when printed. Matte paper tends to absorb and dissipate more of the ink, which makes it look faded and a little washed out. If this is the look you’re going for, then great! Many label designs we have printed on this stock were intended to have a vintage, distressed look and matte stock can be effective in creating this illusion. Traditionally, most people want their inks to be bright. We suggest a matte lamination over a glossy-printed stock to achieve a fine balance between solid color and a matte finish.

An important thing to note about shiny print on labels is that many inks are water-based and even though they may be called “silver” or “gold”, they don’t have real metallic luminescence to them in the same way that foil or actual metal would. If you are looking for shiny metallic text, there are other options available.

Fast foil, foil stamping and hot stamping are all terms that refer to the imprinting or stamping of colored foil onto a surface instead of printing liquid inks. This is not to be confused with embossing which actually makes a 3D impression into a surface. Fast foil is flat and because it actually uses metallic foils – it shines.

Another way to achieve shiny text using water-based inks is to do what is called a “reverse knockout” and print on shiny paper stock (imagine shiny gold paper) and flood the background with ink (everything BUT the text, in other words) so that just the text (where no ink was printed) is shiny.

Then there are thermal resin inks, which are used in digital printing on synthetic substrates and which enable us to print shiny gold on a clear vinyl. The options and combinations are as endless as your imagination. Never fear! We don’t expect you to figure all of this out on your own. Our label experts can help you get the best product for your application, and we expect you to have lots of questions. Glossy or matte, the choice is yours!

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