What are Printing Finishing Services, and Why Do You Need Them?

What are Printing Finishing Services, and Why Do You Need Them?

Creating the perfect, high-impact design is no simple task. It can take weeks of planning and designing, and can cost a lot of money, especially if a graphic designer is hired to get the job done. With all the effort that goes into making a print design look perfect, it is critical to have the print job be equally high quality. 

Once the printing stage is reached, a person may have a lot of questions about how to proceed. Getting a high-quality finished product is not as simple as ordering a generic print. Instead, it is important to consider the various printing finishing services available that can give a person’s design the eye-catching finished product they want. 

What are Printing Finishing Services? 

Print finishing is best explained as anything that is done to improve the look or functionality of a design after it has been printed. Print finishing services can involve a variety of processes, including binding, coating, perforation, folding, and more. 

Inline Process Vs. Off-Line Process

Traditionally, printing and finishing services have been done to projects after they have come off of the printing press. However, there are some processes that can now be done while the project is still on the press. The two processes are called inline process and offline process.

With an inline process, there are finishing units attached to the end of a printing press that perform the finishing functions. An inline process eliminates the need for two separate processes to get the finished product. This is typically done with digital and web presses.

With an offline process, the printing process and finishing process are separate. This requires the project to be taken off of the press and then put through the finishing process.

Bindery Processes

Bindery processes broadly refers to any post-print processes that includes gathering separate sheets, cutting them to the predetermined size, folding them, and fastening them together. There are several specialized processes that fit into this category, including:


Often during printing, the paper used for the project will need to be trimmed down to the correct dimensions. For example, a project that is meant to be 10 inches by 12 inches will first be printed on 11-inch by 17-inch paper and then cut down to the correct size. Other times, trimming or cutting may be required for the paper to fit into a folding machine. There are many other projects that may require some form of cutting or trimming to complete their design, including business cards or projects that require multiple cuts of paper to be bonded together. 

Cutting and trimming can also include scoring or perforation of a printed piece. This can be done in a specific decorative design or to create areas of a book that can be torn out by the reader. 


Folding is typically done on projects like books, magazines, or brochures. Long pages are loaded into either a knife folder or buckle folder, depending on the paper stock weight. These machines fold the sheets multiple times. There are several kinds of folds that can be done, depending on the needs of the project, including:

  • Letter fold
  • French fold
  • Gate fold
  • Accordion fold
  • Z fold
  • Half fold


In printing, collating means to gather several sheets or paper together and arrange them in a predetermined order. Collating allows for a logical sequence of multiple parts of a project. For example, if a person is printing three copies of a four-page document, the collating process would make three separate sets of pages numbered one through four. 


Binding is the process by which separate sheets of paper are fastened together. There are several types of binding that can be done depending on the project, including:

  • Saddle Stitching – Sheets are folded in half and stapled down the fold line. 
  • Case Binding – A durable type of binding used for hardcover books.
  • Perfect Binding – A lightweight binding option that involves gathering pages together and gluing them to the center of a heavier weight cover.
  • Wire-O Binding – Uses a spiral wire to bind pages together, like a spiral-bound notebook.

Decorative Process

While bindery processes create the perfect form for a printed piece, the decorative processes make them stand out. These processes include:


Lamination is a fairly familiar process to most people. It involves bonding a separate, often protective material to the printed piece. Most commonly this is done by heat-sealing the printed piece between two sheets of plastic. Common examples of laminated print pieces include diner restaurant menus, driver’s licenses, and event badges.

Embossing and Debossing

Embossing creates a relief in a printed piece. A relief is a slightly raised design, which can sometimes be accented by foil or ink. A common example of embossing is raised text on a wedding invitation or a professional seal.

Debossing is the opposite of embossing, as it creates an indented design instead. Embossing is more common than debossing, though debossing is often used on business cards. 


Varnish is applied during the printing process. It is a liquid coating that seals and protects the ink on a printed project. Varnish is available in several finishes, including matte, glossy, semigloss, and UV. Most of the time, the varnish matches  the color of the printed piece. Examples of glossy varnishes are magazine covers, whereas matte varnishes are often used on things like business cards.

Spot Varnishing

Spot varnishing is similar to the standard varnish explained above, but it allows a specific part of the design to be highlighted. For example, a project can have a matte varnish over most of it and have a glossy finish applied to a small part of the design. Spot varnishes are typically applied like ink and have a heavier body than the other varnish types.

Foil Stamping

Foils are metallic accents that are applied to books, magazines, or brochure covers. They are highly reflective and can be done in various shades of silver, copper, or gold. They are applied using metallic dyes, pressure, and heat which permanently bonds the thin foil to a surface. Foil stamping is often combined with embossing to create a design element called foil embossing. A famous example of foil embossing is on the label for Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey, which showcases its name in raised gold letters. 

Edge Staining

Edge staining is a finishing process that involves applying an ink, stain, or other type of colorant to the trimmed edges of a trimmed printed piece. This edge treatment can be applied to all non-bound edges or just select edges. 

Frequently, edge staining is done to mark different sections of a project. One common example of edge staining is the unbound edges of a Christian bible. These books commonly have gold, or red-colored edges.

Why are Printing Finishing Services Important?

Most people have printed something on a standard at-home inkjet printer. When printing at home, these individuals probably noticed that what they saw on their screen did not match what was printed, or they may have issues with white margins on the sides of their print when they wanted the design to reach the edge of the paper. 

Print finishing services are the processes that help a person achieve the result that they want. There are three key benefits to using print finishing services, including the following. 

A Professional Look

Projects printed on a general printer with no special finishes do not look professionally done. They will give the viewer the impression that the person designing did not care to put effort into the final product and give them a bad first impression about the content of the finished piece.

Print finishing services help take a project to the next level. They have a professional, high-quality look that sets the tone for what the reader can expect.

A Long-Lasting Impression

Anyone who has ever sifted through a stack of resumes knows how easily they can blend together. Pages of black text on matte white paper are boring and do little to catch the attention of the reader.

However, with print finishing services, printed pieces have extra visual interest that catches the eye on the person reading the material. Not only will it stand out from the rest, but the design will leave a long-lasting impression on the viewer.

Maximized Value

When a person takes the time, energy, and money to come up with a high-quality print design, they should not waste it on a boring, low-impact print job. By using print finishing services, the designer avoids wasting the resources they have invested into the printed piece by giving it an eye-catching, professional finish. 

The Bottom Line

Printing is often the final step in designing a project like a magazine, sign, book, or brochure. It is important to invest in printing finishing services to ensure the final product is as high quality as the original design, and to make the best impression on the viewer. The wide range of finishing services from which to choose can help a person tailor a project to their individual needs. 


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