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Technical Information


UV curing overprint varnishes provide many nature which under certain circumstances
advantages when compared to more render the two different product groups
traditional products such as oxidation drying incompatible.
offset varnishes or evaporation drying
Certain precautions can be taken both in
varnishes : instant drying, exceptional gloss
formulation and before and during use to
and superior mechanical resistance. In
avoid incompatibility.
certain cases UV varnishing can even
replace lamination. Before being able to establish good
Due to these positive benefits UV practices it is essential to have an
varnishing over dry conventional inks is a understanding of the potential problems
long standing and popular print finishing which can be encountered and their
technique. Nevertheless, even with this long probable causes.
experience, there can still be difficulties. This
is due to the wide range of work now being Common UV varnishing
off-line varnished either by printers problems
themselves or by specialist varnishing
• Refusal of the varnish to “wet” the
houses which can involve different
surface of the dry ink and to flow out to
substrates, coating systems, drying
give a smooth even film. In extreme
systems, work practices and in particular
cases this can result in one or more of
the inks and varnishes themselves. The
the following adverse effects:
most serious problem is in the
apparently unpredictable nature of these • Reticulation of the varnish ; the
difficulties. appearance of “craters” in the varnish
film; uneven coverage and widely
Thus, it is not possible to provide guidance
different gloss levels over printed areas.
which will guarantee a perfect result every
time but by being prudent with the choice of • Poor adhesion of varnish to ink. This
materials and following good practices the is seen by poor scotch tape resistance. It
incidence of failure can be reduced should be noted that the very best
significantly. adhesion of UV varnish only occurs
when applied over UV curing inks.
Good practices include choosing
appropriate inks and coatings, controlling • Flaking, scaling or “candling” of the
printing and drying conditions, controlling varnish evident when the varnish is
varnishing conditions and above all scratched with a fingernail and the
establishing a management system to be varnish is removed as flakes rather like
used each and every time printed work is to candle wax. This is caused by poor
be subsequently UV varnished. intercoat adhesion between varnish and
Successful UV varnishing wet-on-dry over
conventional offset inks requires a detailed • Complete removal of ink and varnish
understanding of potential problems and together in creases and folds which is
attention to detail during each step of the related to the lack of flexibility in the
process. In effect, conventional offset inks surface coating of the paper or board or
and UV varnishes are formulated from raw caused by the embrittlement of the
materials of a totally different chemical combined ink and varnish film.

• Shade changes in the print particularly pile height should be limited and stacks
when Fanal pigments such as should be well ventilated prior to any
Rhodamine and Purple, or other print finishing. Ideally the use of Infra
pigments with poor resistance properties Red drying should be avoided if work is
such as Reflex Blue etc. have been to be subsequently UV varnished.
used. • The presence in the ink of certain waxes
• Sticking or blocking in the delivery or other additives in excessive quantities
pile, in particular after varnishing both can cause poor adhesion or adhesion
sides of the sheet. This is usually failure can develop on storage due to
caused by inadequately cured varnish migration of the wax or other additive to
either on the first or second side or both. the surface.
• Where there is a long delay between
printing and varnishing such that the ink
Possible causes and surface is excessively dry and
prevention crystalline the surface energy of the ink
surface may be too low to correctly
Problems of refusal can be detected as accept the varnish leading to poor
soon as the UV varnish is adhesion.
polymerised/cured over the print. Refusal is
linked to the difference in surface tension of • For each new work where subsequent
the print and the interfacial tension between UV varnishing is specified it is
ink and varnish. Since refusal can be recommended to advise the ink
detected immediately after curing a proof manufacturer prior to printing the product
print prior to a full print run can confirm the to be varnished.
presence or absence of this problem. The
use of wetting agents as additives in the UV The printer should avoid :
varnish can sometimes resolve this • Using too much spray powder has a
problem. serious negative effect on adhesion. If
Problems of poor adhesion or flaking, absolutely necessary the minimum
scaling or candling of the varnish can be quantity of an uncoated grade of spray
detected soon after varnishing or can occur powder should be used.
several hours or even days after varnishing. • Too short a time between printing and
Proof printing will thus not always provide varnishing. The minimum delay is 48
protection from adhesion problems. The hours unless successful UV varnishing
problem occurs principally in the printed with all the same variables has already
areas of highest ink coverage or been completed.
superposition. These problems can be
caused by one or more of the following • Too long a delay between printing and
factors : varnishing, normally beyond 72 hours,
can cause a lack of adhesion due to
• Residual petroleum distillate or mineral surface crystallisation and hardening,
oils from poorly dried or aired and a lowering in surface tension.
conventional offset inks “sweating” out or
• Excessive varnish filmweight which can
exuding from the print. This is a
cause insufficient flexibility in the cured
particular risk from the most press stable
UV varnish. There is an optimum
offset inks and also from metallic offset
filmweight giving maximum gloss and
inks. The risk is highest on printed
mechanical resistance. Using a level
substrates which have low oil
above the optimum, apart from the
absorbency and with high ink
negative economic factor, will not give
an increase in gloss and can cause
• Using paper or boards which retard ink reduced flexibility and reduced
drying can also lead to these adhesion. If the varnished print is to be
phenomena. This can be caused by folded, as in carton box production, the
excessive acidity in the substrate or use of excessive filmweights of UV
retention of excessive fountain solution varnish, even a specially flexible product,
or both these factors or even other must be avoided if good adhesion is to
substrate characteristics not well be retained in the folded areas. For
understood. these same reasons the risk of flaking,
• If there is poor control of the fount on the scaling or candling are higher for screen
press during the print run the ink may printed UV varnish due to the intrinsically
suffer over emulsification leading to poor higher filmweight applied.
ink drying particularly at the edge of the • Excessive ink filmweights and
sheets. multicolour builds which can cause
• Using Infra Red drying with an excessive accumulation of ink distillates
excessively high setting can also cause and additives at the ink surface during
these problems. When using Infra Red drying, and reduced surface tension.
assisted drying on work to be • Poor lamp curing efficiency. In particular,
subsequently UV varnished the delivery in areas printed with strong

dark colours or heavy superposition Below 36 Indication of likely problems
which strongly absorb UV light a
localised curing problem may be evident 36 to 38 Generally no problems but
in the UV varnish resulting in adhesion many borderline cases can
occur in this band
Above 38 Problems unlikely
• The use of low quality UV varnishes
which are very aggressive in contact Corona discharge is a technique used by
with print. Those UV varnishes which many off-line varnishing trade houses to
contain certain volatile amines should raise the surface energy of the print but
also be avoided since unwanted whilst effective in recovering print that has
changes in colour or colour bleed may dried too hard, it has less effect if the ink
occur (see below). As with the choice of drying has been retarded or if there is
ink and substrate the choice of the fundamental ink / varnish / substrate
correct grade of UV varnish for incompatibility. It cannot be used over
successful UV varnishing is paramount. metallic inks.
In all cases a prior test of a few sheets
Printing ink resistance should be completed to check for the
properties absence of problems such as candling or
reticulation etc. If in doubt, varnishing should
Printers must avoid using printing inks which be discontinued and the problems
do not have adequate resistance to UV investigated.
varnish. Serious shade changes can result
from the reaction of certain pigments with
components of UV varnish. This is
Choice of inks and varnish
particularly evident in pastel and pale This is the most important element in the
shades. Shade changes may not be pursuit of successful UV varnishing. The
apparent soon after varnishing and can manufacturer of printing ink should avoid the
occur on long storage in the delivery pile or excessive use of particular waxes and
as finished product. These changes are mineral oils. Certain waxes can have the
accelerated by heat. Shade changes can most serious negative impact on
also occur by contact of the varnish on the varnishability by causing poor trapping or
surface side with a tint colour on the reverse wetting of the varnish over the ink. Some
side in the stack. wax is necessary in the ink formulation to
provide adequate rub resistance and
Generally it is recommended to use
surface slip. These characteristics are
pigments that are resistant to UV varnish
required to provide the ink surface with
even for colour matchings and especially for
sufficient scuff resistance during post print
pastel colours and tints. Certain UV
handling which may include cutting,
varnishes are formulated to be less
creasing, folding, embossing, stapling,
aggressive to sensitive pigments usually by
binding or other processes.
the use of different initiators or synergists.
When ordering printing ink it is therefore
Double sided varnishing necessary to specify a set of inks that are
formulated to allow subsequent UV
Perfecting UV varnishing or varnishing with varnishing. It is accepted that the
UV varnish on both sides of the paper or requirement for one set of inks for both work
card, and in particular with foil blockable or that is not to be varnished and for work that
glueable types of UV varnishes, requires is to be subsequently varnished will
great care in avoiding blocking or sticking in always be a compromise between the
the stack. Pile sizes should be seriously requirement for rub resistance and
limited to avoid heat build up. In any event varnishability.
UV varnishing of the second side should not
be attempted until the pile has returned to The majority of inks designed for fast work
ambient temperature. and turn and for rapid post print handling will
be varnishable for the majority of work.
There can however be exceptions to this
Identification and recovery of and as with all work for subsequent UV
substandard print varnishing using conventional ink, great
care is required. This is especially true
Before varnishing it is essential to check the
when using Infra Red drying. Where
surface tension of a print taken from the
possible the use of Infra Red should be
middle of the stack. There are a number of
avoided if work is to be subsequently
ways to test for the surface tension, but the
UV varnished.
most convenient is to use a series of test
pens available from various suppliers. For work known to be difficult for varnishing
Although these are not 100% accurate they the best solution is to order a series of inks
give a good indication of the wettability. specially formulated to minimise the risk
Surface tension is measured in Dynes/cm when UV varnishing. These inks would
and the following figures should be used as normally be of greater intensity than
a guide : standard inks so that the filmweight used

can be kept to a minimum. With all work identified, it must be remembered that the
requiring post print finishing the filmweight majority of UV varnishing jobs are
should be kept to a minimum. Inks specially completed successfully.
formulated for varnishing will be of necessity
more expensive than standard inks and are Recovering failed work:
unlikely to have the level of rub resistance
With high added value printing where the
normally required for work that is not
wrong inks have been used and this is
discovered before varnishing, it is
sometimes possible to seal the print with an
Choice of substrate off-line applied nitrocellulose matt varnish or
Not all printing substrates are suitable for a conventional oil based offset sealer prior to
work to be varnished. It has been shown subsequent UV varnishing. If the print run is
from experience that even using appropriate already UV varnished the only possible
inks not all substrates provide trouble free route to recovery is to film laminate over the
varnishing. The key factors are the varnished print. This is difficult but can
uniformity of the surface and the absorption occasionally provide a solution.
characteristics. There is little that can be To ensure successful UV varnishing wet-on-
done if the characteristics of the paper dry the principal recommendations that
surface are so variable that a uniform should be followed are:
impression and a uniform application of the
varnish are not possible. • Never varnish the print unless the
printed stack is properly aired and the
Assuming that the paper is reasonably ink properly dry. There should be a
uniform then the key factor becomes the minimum of 48 hours delay after printing
ability of the paper to absorb the fountain with appropriate pile turning.
solution on the press, to accept the varnish • If there are any new elements in the
immediately after varnishing and most “mix” of factors which differ from
important of all, the ability to absorb the previously successful practices then a
components of the ink and to retain them. full test should be carried out prior to
Different paper coatings have different starting a print run. This test should
absorption characteristics. Paper coatings include the actual inks, substrate,
that are poor with regard to ink absorbency varnish, printing and curing equipment,
may give rise to varnishing problems soon and as closely as possible the actual
after printing due to the excessive quantity of conditions that will be experienced in the
printing ink distillate which remains in the ink commercial print run.
on the surface thus potentially causing
varnish refusal. In addition, some substrates Remarks taken from Coates Lorilleux
can absorb distillate but not retain them technical information leaflets for conventional
ink products (for reference purposes only)
such that ink distillate can « sweat back » to
the surface sometime after printing causing Resistance to alkali (ISO 2838) is used to assess,
latent failure of varnish adhesion. to a first approximation, the suitability for over
varnishing using water based acrylic varnish and
Tests can be carried out by the ink maker to some UV varnishes and, in a general way, for
determine the oil absorption of the surface resistance to alkaline products. Even if resistance
and therefore predict whether the substrate to the standard ISO 2838 conditions is a
is liable to give problems or not. There is no necessary condition for the expected use of the
substitute for previous experience with product in an alkaline environment this result
regard to being able to predict successful alone may not give sufficient confidence : some
additional specific tests may sometimes be
varnishing. Where an unfamiliar substrate is
necessary (for example, resistance to soap or
to be used both testing the substrate by the other cleaning products, resistance to adhesives,
ink maker and a test run by the printer using etc.)
all the elements which will be used in the run Resistance to solvents (ISO 2837) is used to
including actual substrate, ink and varnish, assess to a first approximation, the ability of the
is recommended. print to resist solvents and certain print finishing
processes (varnishing, lamination, etc.) However,
Concluding remarks the composition of the materials used can be
variable : complementary tests may sometimes
Although many potential pitfalls have been be necessary.

This information has been carefully compiled from experience gained in the laboratory and under
commercial conditions. However, the product’s performance and its suitability for the customer’s
purpose depend on the particular conditions of use and the material being printed. We recommend
that customers satisfy themselves that each product meets their requirements in all respects before
commencing a print run. All sales are subject to our standard terms and conditions of sale.

89-91 AVENUE DU MARÉCHAL JOFFRE – 92027 NANTERRE CEDEX – TEL: (33) 1 55 47 71 00 – FAX: (33) 1 55 47 71 10