Varnish for Letterpress?

Hi there,

I’m quoting a job thats asking for Varnish.. any ideas? Is there such a thing out there or is this fancy talk for transparent white?



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I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to print any offset varnish letterpress, except that you may run into coverage issues.

Perhaps someone who’s tried can chime in. But the same inks work on type and plates, and the rollers are the same material, so I don’t see why varnishes wouldn’t.

There are different varnishes. If they want a UV coating you’re going to have to find someone with a coater or who screen prints.

I use varnishes from Van Son.

A few thoughts……..

There are different reasons to varnish a job. Probably the two most common are additional gloss, and rub resistance. Do you know why your customer is specifying varnish? If you do, you can get the type of varnish which will satisfy the customer’s requirements.

If you are varnishing to achieve greater gloss, and your paper is rough, you may not get that much more gloss. There is a relationship between paper smoothness and varnish gloss: the smoother the paper, the greater the gloss.

If you are going to varnish the entire surface of the job, it will go much better if you have a cylinder press. If you have a platen press and the job is big as compared to the platen size, you could have a problem with impression.

Some inks have wax in them which “blooms” to the surface of the ink film as the ink dries. This is to give the ink better rub resistance when it is used in applications where rub resistance is important, like folding cartons. The reason wax helps rub resistance is that when rubbing occurs, it is to the thin wax layer which has formed above the ink, rather than to the ink itself.

If you use ink with wax in it, and then you try to varnish it, the wax layer above the ink film may keep the varnish from sticking properly. To avoid ruining the job, it would be best to check with your ink maker to see if your ink is suitable for overvarnishing.

To be clear - I need something additional to transparent white for gloss right? I have a van son supplier so I guess i’ll be bugging them next. Thank you all : )

The Van Son website lists several overprint varnishes, so yes I think it would be a good idea to go to them, tell them what you are trying to achieve and that you are printing by letterpress, and let them make a recommendation.

Transparent white is primarily designed to be used as a mixing color to make colored inks. Whether or not to use it for your application to achieve gloss, is a question which will be answered when you talk to Van Son. My guess is that they will recommend a different one of their products for your requirement.

When you are talking to the ink supplier, be sure to tell them precisely what type of colored ink you plan to use, and to cover with the varnish. As I said in my previous post, you want to make sure that the varnish will work well with your inks.