Varnish or Laminate - What's The Best Choice for My Labels?

Varnish or Lamination - What's the Best Choice for my Custom Labels?

How do you choose between varnish or laminate finishes for your labels? What are these in the first place? Do I even need to have to have one?

If you haven't purchased custom labels before, you're probably not accustomed to the different materials and finishes that go into manufacturing a professional custom label. It can all seem a bit over-complicated at first, but ultimately, material, finish and adhesive options exist so that your custom label will fit your business's specific needs.

Sometimes, your custom label won't need either a varnish or a lamination to help protect it. Other times, you will need a custom label that has a specialty finish like a UV Laminate. It all depends on what's important to you and the environment your label will be placed in.

[caption id="attachment_2287" align="alignright" width="80"]Varnish Label Example Varnish enhances the look of the paper stock.[/caption]

Let's start with the basics:

What is a Varnish Label?

Varnishes are thin coatings of clear silicon placed over top of the printed label to seal the label. A varnish will prevent scuffing and smudging. It will also enhance the appearance of the label by giving it a more polished, professional look. A varnish will also help give the printed surface a smooth, consistent texture. Varnishes can be glossy, matte or satin in appearance.

What is a Laminate Label?


Lamination is actually a thin layer of film adhered to the surface of a label, giving a plastic barrier for protection. Laminates also protect against scuffing and smudging, but will actually better prevent smearing from oils and other agents as well.


At we offer...


Gloss Laminate - Gloss laminate is a clear glossy film applied to the face of the label that protects the label from scuffs. Gloss laminate provides a protective coating while giving the label a rich glossy finish.


Matte Laminate - Matte laminate is a clear matte film applied to the face of the label that protects the label from scuffs. Matte laminate provides a protective coating while giving the label a classic matte finish. Used in all indoor applications.


UV Outdoor Gloss Laminate - Gloss laminate used to provide the ultimate protection for the label - scuffs and UV protection from the sun for up to 2 years. Used in all indoor and outdoor applications.

[caption id="attachment_2288" align="alignright" width="101"]Laminate Label Example Laminated labels have a shinier plastic-like appearance.[/caption]

Advantages of Varnish Labels

Varnishes oftentimes leave a more professional appearance to a quality paper stock. A varnish will enhance the print and stock of the label and paper it is added to. It prevents against moderate scuffing and smudging. Varnishes are typically cheaper than lamination as well. However, if your label will encounter more intense circumstances, you'll want to look into the advantages of lamination.

At we offer...


Gloss Varnish - Gloss varnish is a clear coating of the label that protects the label from scuffs. Gloss varnish provides a protective coating while giving the label a smooth finish.

Advantages of Laminate Labels

Lamination provides an added layer of protection to your labels. If you have a label that will be exposed to oils, agents or liquids, a laminate will better protect the appearance and quality of your label.  However, some people feel that the lamination "cheapens" the look of the label, as it gives it a plastic-like appearance. If you're wanting to show off the aesthetic characteristics of the paper stock you chose, lamination may not be the best choice.

Which one is Best for My Labels?

Ultimately, this depends on what you're looking for from your custom labels. Depending on the look, feel and durability you need from your custom labels, either option may fit your needs. Now that you know the difference between the two, however, you can better decide on which finish is right for you.

Alternatively, you may decide that you don't actually need a finish. That's totally fine too! It's good to weigh your different options against your goals and your budget to come to the best conclusion for whether a varnish or laminate will work best for your labels.

Looking for custom printed labels? At we manufacture custom printed labels from a wide selection of print processes, materials, adhesives and finishes. We also offer design services for creating your custom labels. From conception & design to manufacture & fulfillment, is the full-service custom label provider you can turn to for creativity, quality and reliability.

Talk to us today about your custom label needs at 800-750-7764, by emailing us at or by getting an online label quote here. We look forward to helping you with your custom labels soon.