What is Aqueous Coating in Printing?

In the world of printing, you may notice that there are hundreds of words, terms, and phrases that are unfamiliar to anyone who doesn’t work in the industry themselves. These are often technical and not necessarily important for the general customer to know but having a grasp on the basic and more common ones can help you navigate a print order and ensure the final product is exactly what you’re going for especially if you’re the one doing the ordering. One of these terms that we’d like to take a deeper dive into is “aqueous coating”. Keep reading to learn more about what aqueous coating is, how it stands out from other types of coatings, and how we use it at Conformer Folders.

Aqueous coating defined

One of the best definitions we’ve found for aqueous coating was published by Trabon Group. “Aqueous coating is a water-based, environmentally friendly coating that dries quickly when applied to printed materials. This coating is clear, but also has the capability to create a satin, soft-touch or glossy finish. Gloss coating is most common and is a typical default finish as it brightens colors.  Conversly, satin, also known as matte finish, tends to mute colors, and is therefore a less common choice.  Aqueous coating is known as a flood finish, meaning it covers the entire paper instead of being applied to specified areas.“ Simply put, aqueous coating is a water-based coating that seals the ink against smearing and gives a glossy finish.  You may sometimes see aqueous coating referred to as “AQ Coating”.

Varnish and aqueous coating compared

There are many different types of printing finishes in addition to aqueous coating. One of the other more popular finishes is varnish which comes in different varieties like matte varnish, satin varnish, and gloss varnish. Since aqueous coating is a clear, water-based coating that is environmentally friendly, it is one of the most popular coatings for printed material and is best used on papers with a text weight of 80# or heavier so there is no curling or wrinkles. One of the best qualities of aqueous coating is that it protects your print from scratching, scuffing, fingerprints, and dirt, making it ideal for mailings and other projects like folders that are handled a lot.


Varnish is a coating that can be printed on a press like ink is. It can either cover the entire print or be applied as a spot varnish which allows you to varnish only specific text, images, or graphics and requires a plate to print in those specific areas. Regardless of if the varnish is gloss, matte, or satin, it will provide extra protection for the printed piece, although it is susceptible to potential yellowing whereas aqueous coating is not.

Printing finishes at Conformer Folders

To ensure the quality of each print job is top-notch at Conformer Folders we offer a variety of different printing finishes including aqueous coating, lamination, soft touch laminate, spot varnish, and UV coating. It’s important to note that all of our folders and mailers that are produced on coasted stocks (C1S) have an aqueous coating and our team is happy to answer any questions you have regarding the best print finish for your specific needs.


Make your business stand-out with luxury folders that match your professional brand and take advantage of luxury print options like these. With a high-quality look and reliable product, you gain versatility and luxury all in one. We are proud to provide amazing custom folders our clients love and use often. Click here to browse our different products, or here to learn more about our artwork guidelines for more information.

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