There are many printing techniques available for you to get the desired result for whatever product you require, such as business cards, invitations, posters and restaurant menus. Some are more expensive than others, but the results and finishes are limited by just your imagination.

Designers are taught their craft using computers, but it’s important to understand printing techniques to fully realise the potential of your designs. Choosing the correct printing technique can take your designs from what is a really good design, to a great finished product.

Here are eight common and affordable printing techniques that could work for your designs and products (in alphabetical order).

  1. DIE CUT

die cut

While not strictly a printing technique, a die is used to for cutting, scoring, stamping, embossing or debossing irregular shapes into paper. It can take an average piece of paper and turn it into a unique, beautiful piece of art.

It can be expensive if you’re going for a unique design, but your printer may have standard dies, such as for cutting rounded corners, so make sure you ask.



These two similar processes create an impression on paper by applying pressure between a metal plate mounted in the press and a counter. The difference is in the finish, with embossing creating a raised impression, and debossing producing a depressed impression.

When designing for both techniques, you need to remember this mechanical process will alter the paper, so the design itself will also be manipulated. Ensure there is more space between the letters than you might otherwise normally leave, as this technique can merge letters that are too close together, while design elements can look smaller and out of focus.

Dry embossing and heat embossing can both be done at home. For dry embossing a stylus is used to trace a stencil over the paper, creating a raised effect. Heat embossing involves stamping an image onto the paper, and applying powder across the image which is then heated.

The finish gives your printed work a third dimension, and can add a point of difference to your prints on products such as business cards.

  1. FOIL


Foil stamping is the application of, most commonly, gold or silver pigment foil to create shiny and unique designs that would be difficult to produce with regular colours. Other colours can also be used, but they are far less common than silver and gold.

The foil is attached to the surface during a heating process, and usually requires vector graphics and outlined fonts.


This technique is great for any printed design that needs to be protected from water, the weather, or other elements that could damage it. There are two ways to laminate your design. The first is to add a film to your work to produce a soft, silk-like finish that compliments vibrant colours. This is called silk lamination. The second way is to coat the surface with a liquid that dries to form a tough surface. Either way the end result is a water resistant surface with a glossy, dull or satin finish.

Lamination is perfect for book covers and menus for restaurants, as both require protection from water and the weather.



Most commonly used with metal type, but can be used with wood or stone blocks, letterpress involves ink being spread across raised letters, then stamped onto paper to produce a reverse image.

This is the oldest printing process dating back to the 15th century, and is often used on wedding, birthday and other varieties of invitations. While it can produce beautiful results, the technique is more time consuming than modern techniques, and isn’t a skill taught in all printing outlets.



Silk screen printing (also known as serigraphy) is performed using two different methods, either with a stencil or a transparency sheet using photo emulsion. Using the stencil is the most common and easier of the two, and involves placing the stencil on a surface, such as paper or cotton, laying the silk screen over the top, and forcing ink through the mesh onto the stencil with a squeegee.

This is also an incredibly old technique and has been performed for centuries. While normally used for small quantity print runs, the bonus is the printing can be done on multiple surfaces, not just paper, to create products that are impossible using other techniques.



A special powder is mixed with the ink to be used on your paper, that when heated produces raised printing after drying.



An incredibly versatile technique is varnishing, that can make a printed surface appear glossy, matte, satin or neutral after the application of a liquid coating.

The varnishing process takes place after printing, but before any folding and cutting has taken place, and takes quite a long time to dry. One clever use of the varnishing technique it to apply a gloss varnish to a specific part of the card, such as letters and/or logos, to highlight that particular area and attract the viewers attention.

For an ultra-glossy and incredibly reflective finish, ask about the ultraviolet varnish process at your printer.


These common printing techniques are affordable and can enhance your designs to produce the desired effect. Depending on your objectives, one of these techniques can help you with producing a classy, fun, practical, unique and/or rustic finish.

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