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  • Jason Mills

The Aqueous Coating Advantage

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

It might seem cliché to say that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Cliché or not, ensuring your brand is memorable is any company’s number one priority. Customers engage with brands in various ways and whether through advertising, word-of-mouth, or product packaging at a brick-and-mortar store, it's critical that you take advantage of that first impression. One technique to accomplish this is to ensure that your product boxes are ready to impress potential customers the moment they see them. However, this poses the question, which finish is best for your brand?

Today, we'll cover one of our favorite finishes with exceptional qualities. What we call the “Aqueous Advantage” is more commonly known as aqueous coating, featuring an array of benefits for product packaging.

What Is AQ Coating?

While you may have heard about other finishes such as UV coating and varnish, aqueous coating (AQ coating) is unique because it's water-based. The aqueous coating paper varnish procedure makes the finished product appear to "jump" off the page while protecting it against scratches, sticky fingers, scuffs, and other blemishes that may detract from its sleek appearance.

An aqua coating is a more cost-effective option than traditional varnish because of its quick drying time and ability to be applied in-line on the printing press. Furthermore, the coating is constructed of water and biodegradable vegetable cellulose, ensuring your company can go green and increasing customer satisfaction — they can actually recycle your product box.

Types of Aqueous Finish

Although this stylish finish has its own distinct category, there are multiple varieties of aqueous coating, including:

Gloss Coating

A gloss aqueous coating may be just what you're looking for if you want your packages to have an eye-catching look while still being protected, without the costs involved with UV or varnish coatings.

Matte Finish

In comparison to other forms of aqueous coating, matte coating minimizes glossiness and allows colors to display their bright brilliance more. This is a more understated vibe, and is great for luxury retail packaging.

Satin Coating

Satin AQ coating is between gloss and matte finishes, so the packaging’s graphics may not "jump" off the paper as it would with other types of glossy coatings, but it still protects them from fingerprints, scuffs, and other defects. The half-matte look also lends that same air of luxury, so this is a great option for the more high-end, yet colorful brands out there.

Pencil Receptive Coating

Pencil receptive coating is a unique matte aqueous coating that can be used with pencils, ink, and lasers. This is a great option if you’re opting for custom display boxes. Keep in mind that the quality of the writing or artwork on this coating should be impeccable, as it will reflect your brand.

Soft Touch Coating

The soft touch coating offers the package a more velvet-like feel than the other aqueous finishes. It’s less glossy and shiny, and looks more like an extreme matte finish. However, it has a softer, almost suede-like feel to it.

How Is Aqueous Coating Used for Packaging?

Machines apply an aqueous coating and following the application, the aqueous print is passed through a heated air system for fast drying before being sent to the facility's finishing area. The aqueous coating forms a translucent "shell" across the packaging's surface, protecting the product from smudges, dirt, fingerprints, and scratches, allowing it to be used and reused. The shiny, polished finish enhances the package’s worth.

It's worth noting that AQ coating is sprayed to the whole sheet surface, not just specific sections.

Additionally, choosing the right paper weight and font-weight helps avoid curling, wrinkling, and losing form.

The Benefits of Using Aqueous Coating for Packaging

Aside from being wear-and-tear preventive, aqueous coatings improve packaging aesthetics and can boost a brand visually. If you're searching for an ecologically friendly solution, this is a fantastic choice. It's a water-based paint that's not only healthier for the environment, but also offers a lot of additional benefits.

Environmentally Friendly and Non-Toxic

Using an aqueous finish means that the product box is easily recyclable and produces no hazardous by-products. After the application of the aqueous coating, there is very little solid waste and the process does not require harmful chemicals.


It's a no-fuss option for when additional print finishing is required, and it works with a variety of printing methods. The coating also makes it simple to write and print on top of it, opening up packaging for a wider range of finishes.


This water-based coating is generally utilized in conjunction with the printing process, saving money.


AQ coating sets itself apart from UV coating and varnish, which are also used in other print applications, because it's a water-based coating that dries rapidly, allowing it to be applied in a number of ways to make the design stand out while still providing protection.


The coating preserves the integrity of metallic inks by protecting the ink from air exposure. Aqueous coating is also less prone to yellowing than varnish, making it a preferable solution.

The Epic Difference

While it's understandable that you want your product packaging to stand out, take into account that the primary role of packaging is to keep your items safe and secure. You might be surprised to learn that one of the most important aspects of package protection is the coating. Many people will handle a package as it travels from manufacturing to your customer's hands. Therefore, it's critical to keep it free of fingerprints, scuffs, and any other damages that could happen along the way.

Epic Packaging understands that an aqueous coating can enhance the aesthetic of a package while also protecting it. An aqueous coating is a more cost-effective option for luxury packaging than traditional varnish thanks to its quick drying time and ability to be applied in-line on the printing press.

Allow us to build a one-of-a-kind packaging masterpiece for you. We cherish our customer relationships and are dedicated to giving you the time and attention you deserve. Contact Epic today to give your products the best chance at a great first impression!

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