If you’ve done any sort of printing in the past decade, you’ve probably heard the term “spot UV” at some point. But what, exactly, is spot UV, how does it work, and when should it be used?
First, spot UV is a coating process, rather than printing in the most literal sense. It is the application of a high-gloss coating to a piece that is then cured using ultraviolet light. Originally, UV coatings were applied to an entire piece to give it a finished look — which is still an option today — but today’s technologies allow for very precise application of the coatings, which means it can be applied only to very specific areas of a printed piece.
A spot UV coating can be applied to a printed piece directly over the inks, enhancing a printed item, or it can be applied directly to a substrate to create a raised, glossy effect that resembles embossing. It is a great way to add a lot of value and perceived quality to any application, and because spot UV tends to be a relatively inexpensive process, it can be budget friendly as well.
The uses for spot UV are as endless as the creative people putting together unique designs. A few examples include:
- Business Cards
- Book Covers
One thing to note is that spot UV does better on heavier stocks, such as card stock, or heavier weights of papers. It can be used on thinner substrates, but it likely won’t work great on the very thin stocks, such as newsprint.
To apply spot UV to a project, an additional layer is added to a print file, known as a mask. This layer defines exactly where the UV coating will be placed as it runs through the printing press — it is often done in-line along with the printing, so both the ink and the coating are applied at the same time, in sequence as the substrate moves through the press. The mask layer in the design file is fed into the software that tells the press how much of each ink color is needed and which areas to place it in to achieve the desired image. Today’s software is advanced enough to be able to place both ink and coating with near microscopic precision, allowing pieces to have everything from a glossy brand name that stands out against a matte finish, or a raised design that calls attention to a specific area of a piece, for example.
Spot UV is a more budget friendly process than some other high-end finishing techniques, and because today’s UV coatings are environmentally friendly, it is also a sustainable way to add value as well. If you haven’t considered spot UV for your projects, it is worth taking a look at and asking your printer for samples before you start designing your next project.