Materials have always been communicators. We subconsciously translate the feeling of touch into distinct impressions. In other words, materials stimulate our senses and spark an emotion, or even revive a memory. This brings us to the question of whether or not the materials you are using for a printed project are communicating the right message, and in turn, evoking an emotion.

When thinking about/creating your print collateral, consider the following:

How you can use texture to elevate your message

Every brand has its story. Apple is slick. Nike is powerful. Audi is smooth. How would you describe your brand with one word? Elevate the impact of your story through texture. Think about the character of your projects and what emotion you want them to evoke. Find a texture that best represents that…and be open to experimenting! There’s no rulebook that says you need to stick to just one.

Contrast: Pairing dramatically different textures can capture your audience’s attention in an instant. Grooved vs. smooth, grainy vs. stark  …individually, these each give you a different vibe. Together, they are unexpected and transform your message.

Unify your message through texture: Repeat the same texture for different elements of your project to unify your message. If your message contains a lot of information with various topics or sections, this is a great tactile technique to reinforce the brand, and maintain a cohesive experience for the reader.

This stationery set for Finger Lakes Land Trust combines 3 contrasting textures: a natural-looking kraft stock, a smooth deep blue stock, and an earthy recycled paper. The combination of these, along with the mixture of traditional and whimsical typography and illustration, infuses this piece with life, warmth, and beauty. The Finger Lakes Land Trust was founded to conserve the lands and waters of the Finger Lakes region. The selection of these materials reflect the ideals of this brand perfectly. Receiving this set in the mail feels special and thoughtful. By implementing these natural elements, you immediately feel that warmth before even seeing who it’s from.

Unique printing techniques that will separate you from the rest

If your budget permits, let your brand speak clearer with the following printing techniques.



Embossing creates a raised relief of the design against the background. What used to be a very traditional method of printing, has become very popular again. It is commonly seen on materials like greeting cards, invites, business cards, stationery, etc. This relief-based printing method adds a very distinctive look that can take any piece from handsome to engaging; encouraging people to pick it up and interact with it.

By using this technique, you separate  your piece from its competition. You also overcome the greatest challenge that comes with all print material: getting people to pick it up. Making that connection early on makes it easier to continue to tell your story with the rest of the piece.

Die cutting

A die cut can be used to cut out a shape or create unique edges to your print piece. It can reveal a message or an image in a more dynamic way, and curate a more guided experience as the die cuts reveal and hide information in different ways. It forces the user to interact with the piece and adds an element of surprise.


This is a relatively inexpensive technique that is often overlooked. Paper on its own is such a versatile medium. A single sheet of paper can transform in many ways. Clever or unusual folds can reveal content to make the message more impactful. Each type of fold offers an opportunity for a creative idea from the designer, so making a decision on the type of fold should be done early on in the project.

Foil Stamping and UV Coating

Foil stamping uses a combination of heat and film to adhere thin metal foil to paper. This technique is commonly used in the wine industry for labeling, and when used, products are perceived with higher quality and/or price points. While there are many types of foil colors and effects to chose from, copper or gold foil, for example, can add a layer of sophistication, when used tastefully.

UV coating

UV coating can be a cheaper alternative to foil stamping. It is a finishing technique that applies a thin plastic film to the surface of the paper, protecting the surface from wear and tear which in turn creates a smooth, soft coated surface. Depending on what’s right for the brand, there are a number of UV coating sheens to choose from; high-gloss, satin, matte, etc. UV coating is specially used in packaging which is often a consumer’s first point of contact with a brand. Think about it: you’re at your grocery store and can’t decide between two wines. What influences you to make that decision if you haven’t tried either of them? Even if you have tried one of them, better packaging will entice you to try something new.

Deciding What’s Right for You

It is important to remember that each project has a different purpose, and therefore requires its own unique solution. There’s a strategy behind choosing what is right for you. You should establish who your audience is, what tone you want to set with the piece, and align the print techniques with the brand message. If budget is a concern, pick one nice print effect that makes sense for your message and brand and use it as a tool to strengthen your product! Take a chance and trust the value that it will add to the final product.

One of our recents projects that serves as a great example of several of these print techniques includes Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD)’s 2017 annual report. Their trust in creative solutions has enabled our team to raise the bar with every annual report they create. This year, we really thought about what material would best represent their annual event’s theme: “A Creative Vision to Build our Economy.” Our approach was to use the all-seeing creative eye and translucent substrates to imply the creative vision needed in community development. ‘Creative thinking’ and ‘community development’ aren’t often used together in the same sentence, but with a collaborative client, we were able to explore interesting stocks and diecuts to help cut through the clutter of traditional annual reports.

Good storytelling and emotional connections can greatly increase the value of a brand or product. Capturing the audience’s minds and hearts takes more than traditional printing. While beautiful design of a print piece is important, a tactile component can improve your audience’s experience with it. How it engages with a person is what really creates a lasting connection to your audience.

Ok, so you’ve gotten this far and you’re probably feeling overloaded with all this print talk. We hope this has at least sparked some thought on ways you can elevate the message of your next print piece through conscious decisions on materials and print techniques.