In the printing world, the phrase “soft touch” refers to any type of finishing that adds a softer feel to a printed material.
While many packaging customizations are focused around visual appeal, soft touch coating and soft touch laminate are gifts for your customer’s tactile senses.
But what’s the difference between soft touch coating and soft touch lamination?
Soft touch coating and soft touch lamination are both finishing methods that change the feel of your printed material, the primary differences lie in their application process.
Let’s first cover what soft touch finish feels like, then dive deeper into which option makes the most sense for your unique printing project.
What Soft Touch Feels Like
Soft touch is often called a velvet finish, because this type of finish is frequently used on retail packaging that needs a softer and more subdued sense of refinement and quality.
Soft touch printed materials have a sort of velvety softness and texture, often described as suede-like or soft leather-like. With that said, describing the feel of soft touch printed items is like asking someone to describe the color red – you’ll get all kinds of answers, from a deep crimson to an almost pink, and everything in between.
Materials with soft touch printing are the same way. Most pieces feel slick and shiny, but soft touch finished pieces are subtle and don’t have much sheen, making them a great option to create a look of luxury and elegance.
Soft Touch Finishes: The Process for Soft Touch Coating vs Soft Touch Laminate
Adding a soft touch finish to your product packaging is done by either applying a coating or laminate film.
Soft touch coating is applied as liquid during the inline process once the printing has been completed. As the coating dries, the piece is left with its velvety soft touch texture.
With soft touch laminate, a uniquely textured matte film is bonded to the top of the printed piece. This makes the surface have a softer feel and low luster.
Both methods will give you that soft feel, but it’s worth noting that soft touch coating that’s applied with liquid is usually less expensive, compared to laminate.
If your custom packaging needs to be more durable, however, the laminate option frequently holds up better in terms of improved strength.
If you prefer the feel of soft touch coating, there are different types of varnish, such as aqueous coating that’s commonly used in offset printing, that can provide increased sturdiness.
The Benefits of Soft Touch Coating and Soft Touch Lamination
With its combination of a sophisticated matte effect, together with a luxurious velvet feel, soft touch coating offers a variety of benefits in terms of durability and longevity.
Printing with soft touch coating makes for an excellent customer experience which in turn reflects well on the brand. It’s ideally positioned as the king of unboxing experiences because customers love how soft and unique it is. It’s also resistant to being scuffed during the finishing process. That makes it perfect for use in printed materials like solid colored matte boxes, regardless of using pantone (PMS) colors or CMYK variations.
If you want your product to enjoy improved durability, but you want a more subdued look and feel than the regular glare and shine of most packaging, soft touch is a great option.
However, keep in mind that if you’re interested in soft touch laminate to add an extra protective layer against fingerprints, yellowing and smudges, that this process is more expensive than simply using soft touch coating.
What Types of Printed Products Use Soft Touch Lamination or Soft Touch Coating?
Nearly any printed material that needs a soft, elegant and subdued effect will benefit from soft touch lamination or soft touch coating. Many luxury products that are made for women, such as cosmetic packaging, feature soft touch. But this is by no means the only industry that benefits from soft touch finishes.
Luxury products of all sizes and shapes that use a soft touch in their packaging appear that much more sophisticated and refined. If you want to move away from the bright, bold glares and reflective sheens of more eye-catching packaging or box design and toward something a bit more elegant and classy, soft touch finishing could be the perfect option for your needs.
Soft touch finishes are often used in the jewelry and high-end fashion industry, as well as with more expensive audio and technology components. Although this type of matte doesn’t have the reflective brightness that it’s more high UV cousins carry, it nevertheless attracts attention in its own unique way.
Soft Touch is More than Just a Hot Design Trend
Because of the popularity of social media shareability and unboxing videos, soft touch printed materials have understandably surged in popularity. What’s unique about the printing and packaging design industry is that even within the work we do here at Refine Packaging, there are numerous smaller “sub industries” that we have to understand down to the finest details in order to create packaging that fits their customer persona.
With that in mind, our customers understandably want to do everything they can to create an eye-catching look, and soft touch finishes are one of the best ways to do that on multiple levels. Soft touch works alongside other printing options and is perfectly at home among different processes.
Imagine a printed package that used a soft touch finish together with a spot UV print to highlight certain areas, or with an embossed effect and you can see how soft touch finish not only coexists happily with other types of printing methods, but the results can look nothing short of incredible.
Although we’ve talked about a soft touch finish having a more muted look, this doesn’t mean that it fades or washes out your colors. Vibrant, high contrast colors are still just as bold and vivid as they ever were (if not more so), and the soft touch brings out the tactile, as well as heightening the visual sense of these packages. Imagine running your hand along an elegant suede coated customized box – it feels like velvet and echoes refinement and style, all in one.
Interested in Learning More About Soft Touch Finishes?
It’s one thing to talk about the difference between soft touch laminate and soft touch coating, and another thing to experience it first-hand for yourself. At Refine Packaging, we’ve been helping users from a variety of backgrounds conceptualize, create and complete their vision with a variety of beautifully and artfully printed packaging that perfectly reflects their brand and what they want it to convey.
We take every aspect of your product packaging and work hard to refine it into something that is the perfect extension of your brand, not just a container for your product. To that end, whether you need help creating a design or you want something that will stand up to the rigors of the shipping process, or something elegant and soft, we’ve got your needs covered every step of the way.
Contact us today to request a free quote or learn more about our wide range of printing and packaging design services. Browse our portfolio and let’s talk more about bringing your idea to life with stunning packaging that protects and promotes your product in a way that nothing else can.
Asif Muhammad is a Co-Founder and Partner at the custom packaging box company, Refine Packaging. Recognized as a recommended packaging firm by Shopify and 99designs, thousands of companies nationwide choose Refine Packaging for their custom boxes and wholesale product packaging needs – including T-Mobile, Adidas, MetLife, Pandora, and Marriott Hotels. Asif’s leadership in the manufacturing industry stems from a mission to make the custom packaging process easier for businesses of all sizes. With 10+ years of packaging and engineering experience, Asif is uniquely suited to help companies think outside the box to create memorable retail packaging.