Which print finishes should you use on your flyers?

By The LDN Team | 1 December 2016
Which print finishes should you use on your flyers?
Cut, shaped, embossed, debossed, glossed, laminated, foiled … when it comes to print finishes, the sky is the limit. So how do you choose the right finishes to add impact to your letterbox campaign? Here, we explain the design terms you need to know. 

First what is finishing? Quite simply, it’s the term used to describe what happens to the item after it’s been printed. 

Here are the design terms you need to know:

Shapes and cut-outs

Die-cut paper adds and extra element to a flyer
Die-cutting allows you to shape the outside corners of your flyer or cut internal shapes out of it.
When it comes to flyers, you really can think outside the square. Angles, shapes and even curved corners can all make your piece stand out. Of course, in the design world, there’s a word for this process: form cutting. 

Form cutting is where a shaped blade (“die”) is stamp pressed against the paper to cut a shape (“form”). Kind of like a biscuit cutter. When it comes to flyers, a popular use of form cutting is custom shaped outer contours. It could be just rounding the edges of your flyer or giving them sharp angles, or you can really push the boundaries with cool designs. 
A fantastic example of form cutting is this letterbox piece for the Drop Inn Hostel in Singapore. They have ingeniously and stylishly used O-shaped flyers to tell the recipient that the hostel has dropped its “O”. Then, invite people to return them for a discount room rate. 

Another popular choice is to cut out a window or design from the finished print, also known as die-cutting. In this process, the die is used to knock out the hole for an image to show through. This is extremely effective if the paper behind is a different colour or foiled. Die cuts can also be used to reveal bits of information and make people want to investigate further. 


Paper comes in many finishes

Shiny coatings add polish, but can impair readability.
Matte, uncoated, gloss, cello-glaze, satin gloss, silk ... there’s no end of coatings you can choose for your flyer. Aside from uncoated, the most budget-friendly is gloss. 

A gloss coating can enhance the appearance of brochures or flyers, particularly for images, as the coating reflects more light so colours appear more vivid. 

A matte coating achieves a non-glossy, smooth look on printed surfaces. It’s a good way to soften the appearance, and can mean smaller text is easier to read, as there’s less glare.


Laminate is a protective film applied over the surface of the print. It’s a great way to protect the piece and can make a stronger visual impact when compared to coatings. Laminate can be applied to one or both sides, and is also available in both a gloss and matt finish. 


Foiling, or foil stamping, creates an eye-catching visual. The process uses heat to adhere a foil material directly onto the surface of the paper. The great thing is that foils come in lots of styles to suit your creative – think metallic, reflective, holographic and multi-coloured. Foiling tends to work best when used sparingly, for example, when you pick out a single element to highlight in foil. 

Spot UV

Spot UV is another way of coating the paper. This time, ultra-violet radiation is used to cure the gloss finish. It can look similar to a gloss laminate finish, but spot UV has the added advantage of being applied in chosen areas of a printed piece, rather than all over. This draws attention to a certain message or part of the design, especially on monochrome pieces. 


Embossed paper adds an extra element

Paper can be embossed (see above) or debossed to add texture.
Embossing is a more tactile finish achieved by raising the surface of the paper on certain words or images. So if you run your fingers over the embossed areas, you can feel the design. Embossing is especially effective when used with other processes, such as foiling. 


The opposite of embossing, also known as “negative embossing”. Debossing is where you indent into the paper creating a depression. 

Final word of advice

Some paper stocks work best with finishes than others – it all comes down to the composition of the paper. To save you time and money, we recommend talking to LDN about your design from the outset. 

Now you know the most popular print finishes and effects, it’s time to drill down into what works best for your campaign goals and budget. Need help? Speak to our team at LDN for advice. 

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