Anyone familiar with varnishes?

Hey, can anyone give me the rundown on varnishes, how and what they’re used for? And if anyones used transparent bases, or extenders I’m curious to know how they worked. I’m looking to print straight varnish, of a texture under text, any advice? Also anyone in the chicago land area? Thanks!

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I’ve printed images with Transparent White on paper and it tints the paper one shade darker. It’s nice and subtle.

See link below for sample.


Casey thanks for the reply and the example, thats close to what I’m looking for, now all i need to do is figure out how to give it a sheen!

varnish prints the same as ink. there’s just no color to and some chemicals to ad the fish you choose. usually gloss, semi matte or dull. We’ve done lots of work with combinations of gloss and dull varnish over plain paper and over printed pieces. Hardest things, on offset, is keeping it even because it’s hard to see what your printing.

Pigment added to varnish is ink. Varnish is the “vehicle” that carries the color. Pantone white is the varnish without any pigment, it’s not really white at all. No color had been added but some mixing whites are quite noticeable as a color when printed on paper (note Casey’s example).

For a really clear (less yellowy) varnish, you need to use a product that is specifically made for this application, “overprint varnish”. There are several versions, depending on the intended use, and finish desired. Check out Gans ink’s website,, and click on the “commercial ink” icon on the top of the page, and then on “varnish” for more info. I’d suggest calling them for further information.

For all you ‘enviros’ out there, here’s an easy varnish with which to impart sheen: Karo corn syrup. Apply thinly, allow sufficient drying time, and watch the set-off. It works great. It’s also the only time you may lick your fingers during clean-up. (The flies are your problem.)