Insights: Articles & Resources by Oliver Inc.
What Is Spot UV Printing?
- UV spot printing relies on ultraviolet light to cure or dry ink, creating a spectacular visual element for folding carton design, and can be employed with both traditional and digital printing methods.
- The benefits of UV spot printing include enhanced visual appeal, customization, durability, tactile effects, brand differentiation, versatility, sustainability, quick drying, and consistency.
- While it comes at a premium price, UV spot printing gives you unparalleled print quality that will resonate with consumers and foster brand affinity.
Spot UV Printing Explained
Relying on ultraviolet light to cure or dry ink or varnish instantly, UV spot printing is a specialized printing technique that can add a unique and eye-catching element to your folding cartons. It's called "spot" printing because it enables you to apply UV-cured ink or varnish only to specific areas of your packaging design, secondary or primary, creating a striking contrast between the treated and untreated parts.
Just as this advanced printing capability helps specific parts of your packaging stand out, it ensures your products outshine all others on the retail shelf.
Digital vs. Traditional Printing Methods
Notably, UV spot printing can be used in conjunction with either traditional offset printing or digital printing approaches. Spot UV printing is a finishing technique rather than a standalone printing method.
UV Spot Printing With Offset Printing:
Offset printing, which includes “flexo,” is a traditional method known for its high-quality and cost-effective production of large print runs. UV spot printing can be applied as a finishing touch to offset-printed materials.
In this process, the main design and colors are typically printed using offset technology, while UV spot printing is used selectively on specific areas of the printed material. This combination creates a visually striking contrast between the UV-treated and non-treated areas.
UV Spot Printing With Digital Printing:
Digital printing is a modern, flexible printing method well suited for short to medium print runs and variable data printing. UV spot printing can also be incorporated into digital printing processes.
Similar to offset printing, digital printing produces the main design and colors of your packaging. UV spot printing is then added as a post-printing step, applied selectively to enhance certain design elements.
Tint and Tighten, a beauty product company, uses 18pt SBS C1Stock with spot UV printing to enhance some of its visual elements.
The Spot UV Printing Process
- Design & Prepress Preparation: The process begins with the creation of a digital design for your folding carton. You'll work with a graphic designer or a prepress team to finalize your design, specifying the areas where you want the UV spot printing to be applied.
- Plate Making: If using traditional printing methods, once your design is ready, it's transferred onto printing plates. Digital printing, on the other hand, relies on color transfer through digital images, bypassing the need for plates. These plates are then used to transfer the design onto the folding carton material during the printing process. In the case of UV spot printing, additional plates may be required for the UV coating.
- Printing Setup: Your folding carton material is then loaded onto a printing press. In the case of UV spot printing, the press is equipped with UV printing capabilities, including UV ink or varnish tanks, UV curing lamps, and special printing units.
- Ink Mixing & Application: Specially formulated to cure rapidly when exposed to UV light, the inks or varnishes are mixed to the desired consistency and color. The printing press then applies the UV ink or varnish only to specified areas of the folding carton material, based on your design. This is where the "spot" aspect of UV spot printing comes into play. The press precisely deposits the UV ink onto the chosen elements of your design.
- UV Curing: Immediately after the UV ink or varnish is applied, the packaging substrate passes through UV curing lamps. These emit intense UV light, which triggers a chemical reaction in the UV ink or varnish, causing it to dry and harden almost instantly. This curing process is crucial to achieving the desired glossy or matte finish and enhancing durability.
- Quality Control: As your folding carton substrate progresses through the press, quality control checks are performed to ensure the UV spot printing is applied accurately, consistently, and in accordance with your design specifications.
- Finishing & Packaging: After UV spot printing, the packaging materials may undergo additional finishing processes such as cutting, creasing, folding, and gluing to form the final carton shape. The finished cartons are then packaged and prepared for shipment or distribution.
- Cleanup & Maintenance: The printing press and equipment used in UV spot printing require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Cleaning and maintaining the UV curing lamps, ink delivery systems, and printing units are essential for consistent results.
The Benefits of Spot UV Printing for Folding Cartons
UV spot printing offers several benefits for folding cartons, making it a popular choice for brands looking to enhance the consumer packaging experience. Here are some of its key advantages:
Enhance visual appeal. UV spot printing can selectively highlight specific design elements such as logos, text, graphics, or images. This creates a striking contrast between the treated and untreated areas, making your packaging more eye-catching and memorable to consumers.
Customization. Offering a high degree of customization, UV spot printing enables you to choose the areas of your design that receive UV treatment, the thickness of the UV layer, and even the type of finish (glossy or matte). This flexibility helps you achieve the exact look and feel you want for your packaging.
Durability. UV-cured inks and varnishes are highly durable and resistant to abrasion, moisture, and fading. This means your packaging will maintain its quality and appearance throughout its lifecycle, which is essential for preserving your brand's image.
Tactile effects. When used to add texture to your packaging, UV spot printing gives your packaging design a tactile quality that can engage consumers' sense of touch. This can create a more interactive and memorable unboxing experience for your customers.
Brand differentiation. By incorporating UV spot printing into your folding carton design, you can differentiate your brand from competitors on the shelf. The added visual and tactile elements can convey a sense of luxury, quality, or uniqueness that truly sets your product apart (especially when produced using a Heidelberg Speedmaster Press).
Versatility. UV spot printing can be applied to an extensive range of packaging materials, including paperboard, post-consumer recycled paper, and/or other sustainable alternatives such as hemp or cotton, making it suitable for a wide range of products and industries.
Sustainability. More environmentally friendly than some other printing processes, UV spot printing produces fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and uses less energy, which aligns with your brand's sustainability initiatives.
Quick drying. UV curing is almost instantaneous, which means your printed cartons can move quickly through the production process without the need for extended drying times, reducing production lead times.
Consistency. UV spot printing offers consistent and precise results. The curing process ensures that the ink or varnish adheres uniformly to the treated areas, resulting in a high-quality finish unrivaled by other techniques.
Increased shelf appeal. The visually entrancing and distinctive appearance of UV spot printing draws consumers' attention and improves your products’ shelf presence, potentially leading to increased sales and stronger brand affinity.
Notably, while UV spot printing offers numerous benefits, it's essential to consider the cost implications, as it is generally more expensive than standard printing methods.
However, many brands find that the added value and visual impact it brings to their packaging justifies the added investment. Ultimately, the choice to use UV spot printing should align with your branding strategy and the image you want to convey to your target audience.
A seasoned printing and packaging partner will help you talk through the costs and benefits, guiding you toward packaging design that suits your brand and company values.
Oliver Inc. is the nation's leading independent supplier of custom paperboard packaging solutions. Equipped with a commitment to excellence and advanced printing technology, we are eager to help you integrate spot UV printing into your next packaging design. Contact us today to learn more.