Matte OR Glossy

What kind of finish on your packaging do YOU prefer?

custom printed matte labels

Matte or gloss? Shiny or dull? Satin or sheen? Whatever lexicon is used, most people have a preference. Personally, I prefer the look of matte gold over shiny and always select a “matte finish” when developing photographs or picking a new paint for a project. I love matte! But I know there is a huge shine-loving camp out there who prefer the pristine look of a glossy finish.

In custom label printing, choosing between gloss and matte is a common occurrence and this distinction can have a big impact on the overall appearance of a label. Do you want a matte paper or gloss paper, brite foil or dull foil, matte lamination or gloss lamination, imprintable or UV varnish, flat inks or shiny foil stamping?? All these decisions can alter the appearance of your printed label; but moreover, there are practical implications to consider when weighing these options.

Take custom embossed foil seals for example. There are four foil choices available: brite and matte in both gold and silver. If you want a blind emboss (the term for embossed foil with no ink), after review of artwork, a practical recommendation may be to go with a matte foil because the brite is more reflective, which makes fine text more difficult to read. Still prefer a shiny foil? Then perhaps consider adding a metallic ink to provide a little contrast so the artwork “pops” while keeping an overall metallic look to the finished product.

When printing full-color labels, we often advise printing on a gloss paper or poly, rather than a matte stock. Glossy substrates hold the ink better and therefore appear more vibrant and crisp when printed. Matte paper tends to absorb and dissipate some of the ink, which makes it look faded and a little washed out. If this is the look you’re going for, then great! There are label designs intended to have a vintage, distressed look and a matte stock can be effective in creating this result. In most cases however, people want their inks to be bright and defined. We suggest a matte lamination over a glossy-printed stock to achieve balance between solid color and a matte finish.

Another practical consideration is whether you plan to write or stamp on your labels. Matte lamination or imprintable varnish are far more suitable surfaces to write on than their glossy counterpart. Gloss lamination tends to sweat or even repel many pen, stamp or marker inks, which can be messy and frustrating.

If you’re looking for shiny text on labels, it’s important to note 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 does. If you are looking for shiny metallic text, there are a couple approaches to achieve this look. For example, one way to achieve shiny text using water-based inks is to do what is called a “reverse knockout” and start with a shiny stock (imagine shiny gold paper) and flood the background with ink (everything BUT the text) so that just the text is shiny. If it's a light-colored ink, some of the metallic properties of the substrate may shine through the ink, so if greater ink opacity is desired, white ink would be printed beneath the light-colored ink in what is called a "white ink backup".

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 makes a 3D impression into a surface. Fast foil is flat and because it uses metallic foils, it shines.

There are also 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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