When it comes to giving your products that extra finishing touch, it’s hard to go wrong with a metallic finish. A bit of sparkle creates a luxury feel that can be hard to ignore, making an item stand out on the shelf and drawing the customer towards it.

However, traditional methods of applying this finish may clash with the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible packaging. Foiling packaging can result in excess discarded material, as well as raising questions about how well the finished product can be recycled.

Pulse Roll Label Products has recently launched a new solution to revolutionise the metallic ink printing market. Our UltraBright ink, part of the PureBright range, is a metallic UV flexo ink that is perfect for adding a premium finish to any label. The bright silver, chrome-like finish, gives a premium look that we believe matches the quality of foil without the environmental drawbacks.

If you are thinking about adding a bit of sparkle to one of your products, it pays to consider the best method for doing so.

There are three primary ways to apply a metallic finish to a substrate: hot stamping, cold foil printing or metallic ink printing.

Hot foil stamping uses a custom heated die to press foil onto the substrate, permanently bonding the two. This method means hot foil stamping is particularly well suited to creating an embossed or textured appearance.

With cold foil printing, a UV-light activated adhesive is applied to the substrate, with foil then placed over the top. The adhesive is then triggered with a UV light and excess foil is trimmed away, leaving the final design in place.

Foiling’s primary benefits are the textured finish it can add to the product, and the haptic effect that it creates. Research shows that touching a product can create a psychological sense of ownership in a consumer, making them feel like it is already theirs before they pay for it. Because foiling has been around longer than metallic inks, it can also have a stronger association with the ‘premium’ finish expected of luxury products.

However, applying foil is not always a simple task.

Hot foil stamping can struggle to provide consistent coverage over wider areas as the level of adhesion falls. Because of this, it is generally advised to keep the area of application no larger than two to three inches and to restrict areas of fine detail to be as small as possible.

Cold foil can experience similar problems with wide coverage because excess foil must be cut away from the substrate, which can cause tearing and complicates production of fine details, as well as considerable cost.

The third option, metallic inks like UltraBright, contain suspended reflective particles that maintain their effect when the ink dries, giving that signature metallic look. They are applied using a single printing plate like any other spot colour and, in contrast to foiling, lend themselves to wide areas of coverage as they are applied like any other ink. They are also easily capable of creating fine details with the same quality (if not more) as hot foiling, with the speed and simplicity of cold-foil printing.

Another mark in metallic inks’ favour is the ability to be overprinted. UltraBright can be printed over other colours, giving a greater impression of depth than if they are applied directly onto the paper. This process can also be used to minimise the shimmer effect of the ink in certain areas, restricting the metallic sheen to where it will be most impactful, by overprinting a base white layer.

That is not to say that metallic inks are perfect for every situation. For example, if printing on uncoated stock, metallic inks may lose their ‘shine’ once dry because the reflective particles sink into the pores of the paper. This reduces the metallic effect and could cause a silver ink printed over uncoated paper to instead appear as grey.

Metallic inks may also rub off or crack when handled, but this can be prevented by applying a protective coating.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, foil stamping is already more expensive than using inks as each new job requires a bespoke die, and more complicated prints can increase costs even further. With metallic ink printing, it is easier to print on demand, reducing overheads and time allocated to each job.

Finally, with the rising prominence of environmentalism in the print and packaging industry, minimising waste and recycling material where possible are increasingly important for running an environmentally responsible business.

Metallic inks are generally easier to recycle than foiled products. Although the paper packaging recycling process may allow some metal contamination, with foil particles swept out in stickies, plastic packaging recycling is a non-metal friendly process. Any contamination in the plastic recycling process affects the quality and consistency of the recycled material, detrimentally affecting its value and potential end markets. While inks can also be viewed as a contaminant, technologies are being developed to deink plastics and paper, enabling them to be safely recycled.

Fundamentally, the label industry is under pressure to perform. In a high-growth market, more efficient processes can help an organisation rise to the top of their field. We believe UltraBright can help printers stand out from the crowd – providing the premium standards expected of them through a simpler, cheaper, and more sustainable process. To find out more please contact the team at Pulse Roll Label Products.