Embellishing Your Inkjet Print

By Pat McGrew / Published:

Ah, embellishment! Glitter, foil, iridescence, varnishes, and coatings. Embellishments turn the basic into beautiful. They add value to communication. The right embellishment can change profit margins dramatically. To add embellishment isn’t a simple application step, but if you want to take it on, here is a path to follow.

Begin by understanding your options because across the vast range of print products there are many embellishment solutions. While it might be possible to use any of them, some are more challenging than others and all will require some discussions. Embellishment as a process is sitting on top of the print, which means it interacts with the substrate and the ink. Unanticipated chemical reactions may occur creating a science experiment that you don’t want!

Begin by talking stock of your products. Which might have up selling opportunities with flood coating, added glitter, foil, or other types of embellishment? Direct mail is a common starting point, but you may produce non-mailed marketing collateral, posters. Perhaps you do fold carton or corrugated products. Embellishment could be an option for them, as well. The reason to take stock is because there is investment involved in bringing embellishment to the menu of services. If you print transaction, TransPromo, and letter mail, embellishment might be a hard ROI.

Once you determine that there is value in pursuing embellishment, talk to your hardware vendor. Tell them you are interested in embellishment and be specific about your range of interests. If gloss, matte, or silk coating is your target your vendor will have recommendations based on testing and support. They know their ink and they know how it behaves with their partners. They will be able to draw a box around the specific coating fluids that work well with their ink.

Let’s say you don’t want to have that conversation with your vendor. Can you go it alone? Sure, but be prepared to test. Companies like Harris & Bruno and Epic will always be willing to have a conversation. If you have a hardware vendor in mind, talk to them about your inkjet environment. Most will know what to recommend. Then, test! Test! Test! Most fluid providers have a wide range of options and coating professionals who can guide you if you see problems during testing.

That testing should be more than one print run reviewed at one point in time. You will want to look at the coated output over time to see if it peels or yellows. You will want to see if it causes page curl or causes problems in downstream finishing. If you are coating mailed pieces, send some through the mail so you can see how they look when them arrive back in your mailbox.

These same rules will apply to any other type of embellishment options. In the early years of high-speed inkjet, I wanted to try embellishing. The kind folks at Scodix worked with me to set up a test to add several variations of embellishment to an inkjet job. It worked! We were all delighted. No peeling. No rubbing. No discoloration.

Another set of proof points come from MGI. The MGI Alpha JET inline print and embellishment solution uses Memjet Dural ink heads in combination with the MGI core technology to enable inline spot and flood coating, and digital hot foiling! The JET varnish 3D solution is rated for post-embellishing offset, toner, and inkjet pages.

In addition, there are a host of companies that make smaller format embellishment devices. You may see them in hobby suppliers or online. They can be useful to test ideas, but they aren’t generally suitable for production.

In most cases the road to offering embellishment includes design education. Each vendor has slightly different requirements for how to set up the file that contains the embellishment directions. Be prepared to get the prepress and design teams educated, but also to educate your customers. They will need some training, too.

Is the road to embellishment worth your time and effort? It could be, especially if your work with marketing teams who constantly look for differentiation. Embellishment is a value-added service that commands higher margins. Sure, there is the investment, but the ROI can be calculated.

About the Author

Pat McGrew


Pat is a well-known evangelist for inkjet productivity. At McGrew Group, she uses her decades technical and marketing experience to lead the industry toward optimized business processes and production workflows. She has helped companies to define their five-year plans, audited workflow processes, and developed sales team interventions and education programs. Pat is the Co-Author of 8 industry books, editor of A Guide to the Electronic Document Body of Knowledge, and a regular contributor to Inkjet Insight and WhatTheyThink.com.

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