The possibilities of print design are almost endless these days, with technology moving so fast, you can nearly produce whatever your imagination suggests. A lot of print techniques and finishes come down to what your budget may be for the project and also what sort of finish best represents your company. So, while it might be great to have a wooden business card for example, the costs are going to be monumental. Also, does it paint a  Furthermore, different cultures and countries have different specifications. I’ll try and run through them all without too much jargon to make it as easy as possible to understand.

I’m going to use a business card as an example, but the guidelines are applicable to any type of print based output.

Here we go…!

Matte / Gloss Finish

The first and most common decision is whether or not the substrate should be a matte or gloss finish. Both types of finish have pros and cons associated to them, as they both alter the output in terms of colour, touch and business representation.

A gloss finish typically allows the colours of the print to lift off the page more. So, more vivid colours, darker blacks and whiter whites.

On the other hand, a matte finish will appear to absorb the colours and therefore give the product a duller, more subtle finish.

It can be argued either way as to which finish has the more ‘professional’ look associated to it. And, it’s probably best discussed on a case by case situation.

Gloss Business Card ExampleMatte Business Card Example


A die cut is essentially a ‘template’ of the substrate (the material being printed on). So, for example, a business card is typically a rectangular shape, but if you wanted the business card to be cut out like a leaf or a heart, you would need a custom die cut. This can be useful to help customers remind you of your brand because of it’s unique properties. A custom die cut can be used for more than just business cards, including banners, brochures, stickers and decals, labels and so on.


Rounded Corners

Typically used purely in business card design, rounded corners is a type of die cut, usually to add a touch of elegance (debatable!) to the card. They do give the card as a whole a softer look, though.

Rounded and squared off business card

Spot UV Varnishing / Spot Varnish

Spot varnishing is relatively popular when it comes to printing. It can come in different methods including matte, silk or gloss varnish. It can be used to protect the paper for a longer and also enhance the look and feel of the design as a whole.

Spot UV is a more advanced type of varnish where it protects the cards from ultra-violet rays.



The effect which raises or indents a particular part of the substrate is called embossing. This can be elegant, as it changes the nature of the card significantly from what is considered ‘normal’. It does have one significant drawback, which if not typically desired, is that effects both sides of the substrate. Depending on the intention, this can mean that one side of the substrate isn’t as usable as you’d like it to be. In turn, you’ve got wasted paper real estate space.