Digital Enhancements Create a Tactile, Emotional Experience When Used for Printed Materials
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Digital enhancements are the digital application of spot colors, white or clear toner, spot or dimensional varnish, embossing, debossing, foil, or other effects to printed material. When incorporated correctly with a design, they can add stunning visual and tactile appeal to the printed sheet.
Depending on the solution used, many of these effects can be applied in one pass, in-line with four-color process, or off-line using a separate hardware solution. Because these enhancement techniques are 100% digital, any of these effects can be incorporated with variable data printing (VDP) — something that just wasn’t possible a few short years ago.
For years, we have known that a consumer’s experience is both visual and tactile. The importance of incorporating striking visual and tactile effects — beyond CMYK ink or toner on paper — should not be underestimated. Touch, in particular, is a very persuasive tool in the marketing arsenal. Combining tactile effects with visual effects is one of the most powerful additions to print because it triggers deep emotional engagement with the end-user.
In 2009, assistant professors Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin - Madison School of Business) and Susanne B. Shu (UCLA Anderson School of Management) published a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research showing that merely touching an object connects you to it in a very personal way. This experience of touching an object increases perceived ownership. The higher the perceived ownership, the more likely one is to react and engage. It’s all about cutting through marketing clutter, standing out, getting attention, and getting responses — results anyone trying to convey a message would want.
Digital Enhancement Effects
Here are some examples of digital enhancements being used on printed materials:
Spot colors. We all know spot colors can be created by mixing CMYK inks and toner, but with enhancement effects, a separate digital ink or toner color can be printed in addition to CMYK. Why? Not all spot colors can be reproduced faithfully with CMYK toners and ink — especially with fluorescents and other colors beyond the CMYK process color space. A spot color is printed to get the most accurate color match.
White and clear toner. White toner can create dramatic effects when printed on colored paper stock. White solids can also be printed on colored paper, then CMYK process color can be printed on top of the white, creating another unique visual effect. Clear toner can be printed as a spot (on images, for example) to create visual impact or over the entire piece to provide more protection. Note that clear toner cannot add dimension, only a gloss effect, and only spot UV can add both gloss and dimension.
Spot and dimensional UV. Digital spot UV can be added to the final printed piece to add visual impact. Dimensional spot UV (see Figure 1) is typically applied to a specific image or graphic element to add physical dimension or a raised, tactile feel to the page. Depending on the process used, there are many possibilities for the coating thickness. The thickness of the UV coating can vary, anywhere from 15 microns to 100 microns or more, to create a dimensional, embossed effect. Adding these effects appeals to more of our sensations: visual and touch.
Foil effects. Traditionally, foil effects were created using letterpress and a hot metal die to transfer a thin layer of metallic foil to the surface of the printed sheet (see Figure 2). Today, foil effects can be applied digitally or via adhesive foil that sticks to toner, eliminating the need for dies. And because a die is no longer needed, either process will support variable data printing of these foil effects, something that was impossible just a few years ago. The most common color types of foil are silver and gold, but there are also a variety of other metallic colors and tones available.
Toner over foil. First, a solid foil is applied to the paper. Next, a CMYK image is printed on top of the solid foil, which creates a sparkling spectrum of hues with a shimmery, metallic image effect. This effect is achieved with the blend of CMYK toner and the reflective qualities of the foil.
How Are Enhancements Applied?
Applying enhancements to printed materials has opened up a world of new possibilities. And since setup costs are minimized, the application of the effects is less expensive, which is especially important for shorter runs. Also, because some of these finishing techniques are 100% digital, the effects can be incorporated with VDP. This creates an opportunity to apply customized enhancements to print where every product produced is different.
Some digital enhancement solutions can combine effects; for example, incorporating dimensional varnish and foil in one pass. The effects can also be applied as a spot, meaning you can control precisely where the varnish or foil is included on the printed piece. And with some systems, the thickness of varnish can be controlled and adjusted, giving the final printed piece a more exciting and engaging tactile feel.
Duplo’s DFL-500 is an off-line solution that can dry coat, foil, and laminate — all in a single machine. The DFL-500 utilizes a specially formulated film for gloss dry coating that applies full coverage on a sheet of paper. When the film runs through the heat roller, the adhesive is melted and applied to the sheet. This same machine can also apply foil without using a die by using a formulated foil that can stick to toner from most digital presses. Duplo also offers its line of Ultra UV coaters for flood UV varnish, which provides protection and brilliance to printed pieces.
For electrostatic technology single-pass cut-sheet printing and visual enhancement solutions:
- The Ricoh Pro C7100X has a fifth color station capable of printing white toner, clear toner, or neon color.
- The HP Indigo 7K digital press also offers five-color printing with a fifth station to print white toner, metallics, and other specialty inks. There’s also an option to add HP IndiChrome six- and seven-color printing, which adds orange, violet, and green to four-color process inks, further expanding the gamut of colors produced.
- Kodak Fifth Imaging Unit Solutions on the NexFinity and NexPress enable the addition of metallic and dimensional clear dry ink, plus white, gold, and red fluorescent dry ink and gloss.
- Finally, the Xerox Iridesse offers up to six stations and can print white, clear, metallic silver, and metallic gold, and has the ability to print CMYK toner over foil.
For digital enhancement solutions based on inkjet technology, both MGI and Scodix have solutions that can apply dimensional varnish and foil. The Scodix Ultra series and the Scodix E106 print enhancement system are designed for the cut-sheet packaging and folding carton market. All offer digital enhancement applications that include spot foil and dimensional varnish.
MGI’s JETvarnish series of digital enhancement solutions offer spot foil and dimensional varnish options. The JETvarnish 3D is a cut-sheet device supporting substrate sizes of up to 25x47ʺ. Also in the MGI portfolio is the JETvarnish 3D Web, designed to embellish self-adhesive labels and flexible packaging over flexo, offset, or digital narrow web-fed printed output.
Attention and Response
For years, we’ve known that a consumer’s experience is both visual and tactile. For the customer, it’s all about getting attention and response. These unique digital enhancement options help cut through the marketing noise and clutter.
A customized piece that contains spot colors, varnish, foil, white ink, and other effects creates a connection and adds value to the printed piece. This connection becomes ownership; the experience of both seeing and touching an object increases the perceived ownership — and the higher the perceived ownership, the more likely one is to react or buy.
Joseph Marin is the senior VP of education and training for PRINTING United Alliance.