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Choosing Stocks

So you’ve chosen your format, finished your artwork, tweaked it another ten times, got everything signed off with the artists.. and now there’s another choice to make?!

It can be hard to decide which stock and coating to choose for printed packaging, especially if you don’t have much experience with printing. And there can be a huge difference just with how the coatings work.

Here are some tips to help you work out what will look best on your release.

Matt Laminated

Matt laminated artboard is the ‘go to’ choice for 70% of printed cardboard packaging like sleeves (jackets), Superpacks (digipacks) etc.

‘Artboard’ refers to a type of cardboard we have imported from Japan and Korea. It’s especially made for printing high quality images (hence the ‘art’ part) because it has a very high density compared with other board. High density makes a very smooth, flat surface which prints detail very well and makes laminated coatings look particularly good. The only drawback is that the density makes it appear a little thinner than cheaper boards in a similar weight that have more air inside them.

Matt lamination is a film applied after printing that protects the item from minor scuffs and scratches. Most importantly it gives your print the really classy, expensive look that our sleeves are famous for! Just watch out for artwork with fine nuances in contrast, or certain bright colors such as oranges, reds, greens and yellows which will look darker underneath the matt film.

High Gloss Lamination

High Gloss Lamination

High gloss laminated artboard is the same high quality imported board used for matt laminated prints, but of course a different lamination is used. It’s more expensive than matt lamination simply because we don’t make as many orders in gloss so it’s harder to consolidate for lower pricing.

High gloss lamination offers the same protective qualities as matt, but it’s useful when you need to preserve bright colors or photos that would look subdued under matt film. A well designed colorful LP sleeve can really ‘pop’ under high gloss film. A downside to high gloss is that it can really pick up fingerprints which is something to watch for when handling dark artwork.

If you want the classy look of matt lamination but need some parts of your artwork to ‘pop’ with a glossy look, you could consider UV spot gloss which can be applied to matt laminated prints for an extra charge.

Kraft Recycled Eco-Stock

Kraft Recycled Eco-Stock

Kraft recycled eco-stock and its sort-of-related cousin reverse print on cosmetic board involve printing on paper without the usual clay-based printable surface.

Uncoated board can impart some interesting texture with the right design. If you are planning to use completely unbleached stock then kraft eco-stock really works best with one or two color stamp-like designs that combine to give a raw and natural feel.

Reverse print on cosmetic board (not shown) works better for slightly more colorful images because it’s bleached and slightly denser than kraft eco-stock.

Aqueous Semigloss

Aqueous Semigloss

Aqueous semigloss is quite different from high gloss lamination and imparts a very low gloss shine while protecting the print from rubbing off. Instead of using a film like matt or gloss lamination a liquid (aqueous) varnish is sprayed through a nozzle after printing.

Many plants use aqueous varnish as the standard finish for record sleeves but we consider this to be a poor substitute for lamination. It does have its uses, though. For example, a lot of throwback/re-release records have been using this finish for a more retro look. Also sometimes high gloss lamination is just TOO glossy but aqueous varnish doesn’t suffer the same darkening effect that matt film does.

If you are planning to use this finish on LP sleeves then you need to expect some possible damage during the packing and shipping process, since there is no plastic film protecting the delicate paper board.

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