What’s the difference between a laminate and a varnish? And do you even need one? Yes, label terminology can be confusing. If you haven’t ordered custom labels before, you’re probably not sure what would work best for your labels.
A varnish is a liquid coating (typically silicon-based) that alters the appearance of a label and provides a bit of protection. It’s the less expensive option of the two. Varnish can accentuate label color or shine, particularly on paper stock. It can be applied to either specific areas of the artwork to create dimension (spot varnish) or flood-coated over the whole label for smudge or fingerprint resistance. Varnishes are really best for indoor applications, and come in matte, hi-gloss, or thermal transfer. Our varnishes have UV protection for fade resistance. They are less durable and less resistant to moisture than our laminates.
A laminate is a full-on additional layer of material (polyester typically) applied over the label, thus creating a “thicker” feel as well as additional protection. Like varnish, it will protect from fingerprints and smudges, but in addition, it provides more durability and water-resistance. For products that are exposed to oil or moisture (bath & body products, outdoor uses, food products, etc.), you want a laminate rather than a varnish. Our non-specialty laminates have either a glossy or a matte finish.
With a thermal transfer laminate, printing from a wax or resin ribbon adheres more strongly to a label when it runs through a thermal printer. The thermal transfer finish is also available as a varnish.
Need More Info?
Our process color and industrial (short-run) equipment product lines offer the most laminate and varnish options. Each of them has a “Free Samples” button. Samples include a copy of each laminate or varnish available in that product line.
Have more specific questions? Our Customer Care reps are available via chat from one of those pages (M-F 6AM-5PM Pacific), phone (800-537-8816; same hours as chat), or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).