A varnish is a thin, protective coating applied to a printed sheet for protection. Varnishes can also be used to create design effects.

Varnishes can be clear or tinted, glossy or dull.

  • Clear varnish can be used as a sealer that overprints ink and paper. Used in this form it greatly reduces scuffing and scratching by producing a protective coating. Varnish does not prevent “fingerprinting”.
  • Gloss varnish produces a surface that is smoother than the paper/ink that it overprints. Gloss varnished images appear sharper and shinier.
  • Dull varnish reduces the glare on a glossy stock. Dull varnish also minimizes slickness of coated paper allowing pieces to be stacked or carried easily. A dull varnish produces a velvety texture thus producing a softer image.

Coated papers yield the best varnish effects. Rougher surfaced uncoated papers have greater absorption and do not varnish well.

By combining gloss and dull varnishes on the same image you can create different levels of reflectivity — separating and heightening contrast. Combination creates the illusion of depth.