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Using a Pearl Coatings to Enhance Design

Written by Michael DiFranco, VP of Marketing at JohnsByrne

A strand of pearls signals luxury, class, and taste. Take a cue from the fashion industry in your packaging design with a pearlescent coating to give your packaging, mailer, or other printed material the appeal associated with luxury and exclusivity. Pearl coatings mimic the reflective qualities of pearls, with fine refractive grains lending the project a subtle shimmer or sparkle, more refined than a glitter effect.
Pearl coatings are often associated with health and beauty products, but the reality is these coatings can add class and exclusivity to the appearance of packaging materials for a variety of industries, including those related to seasonal décor, specialty foods like chocolate, car industry collateral, sporting goods, and countless other products and activities.

Pearlescent Coating: Achieving Different Looks
Pearl coating is one of many on-press effects that can be applied in different ways to achieve a wider gamut of looks and degrees of intensity. Depending on its application, the final look can be completely different. Here are different ways to apply pearlescent coatings that produce unique effects on print and packaging.

Overall vs Spot:
Depending on the artwork, copy, and branding, there is the the option of laying pearl coating down ‘overall’ on a sheet giving a uniform ‘overall’ shimmer effect and creates a luminescent backdrop for the branding and specific design elements. A ‘spot coat,’ on the other hand, lays down the coating in very specific areas while leaving other areas without pearl for dramatic contrast. This is an ideal way to bring attention to specific elements of the print or packaging design. These two options give two very different looks depending on the desired reaction.

Pearl Down First or Last
Pearl coating also can be applied at different stages on press for an even different variation to the final look. Providers that have a press with an upfront and a backend coater system, like Press384, can offer the option of ‘pearl down first’ or ‘pearl down last’.

By laying down the pearl coating in an upfront coater, the printing process comes after and results in the printed areas being ‘crisp’ as the pearl effect is underneath.
Alternatively, pearl coating can be applied last in the end of press coating unit. All printing processes would occur first and then the pearl coating would be applied overtop at the end of press. This produces a different look from pearl down first and gives yet another great option for a menu of looks.

When applied to individual areas of a packaging design, mailer, or other printed material, pearl coating can be useful in drawing the eye towards a specific area, creating visual interest. It can add the appearance of depth and/or texture to an image or piece of text by breaking up the uniformity of the printed product.

A Cost-Effective Alternative to Expensive Pre-Pearlized Stock
When looking for high-quality stock paper to print luxurious projects that need to make an impression in a high-end market or competitive health and beauty market, many customers believe they have to use expensive paper stock that is pre-coated with pearl or other captivating effects.

However, a provider who has new press technology, like Press384, will have better options with an upfront coating unit. Using standard stock, the upfront coater can apply pearl coating to ‘create-a-sheet’ that yields the same pearl look but far more cost effectively. The cost of paper typically represents as much as 50% of the overall project costs, so this option means getting your look but done in an innovative-cost effective way.
Innovation and cost can co-exist and this is a great example.

Expanding Creative Options
One of the many advantages of pearl coating is that it allows for a lot of variability and control over the specific effect. Pearl coatings differ from glitter coatings in that the reflective grains are significantly smaller – while glittery effects appear “bolder”, pearlescent coatings have the same refractive properties but on a smaller scale, for a subtler, more exclusive effect.

Pearl Coatings Beyond the Basics
Pearl coatings are available in different colors to perform cohesively with the rest of the overall design. Variations of white and silver hues are common, but different shades of blue and pink can also be used to create the desired effect with a unique twist and personality.

It is also possible to develop a rainbow pearl coating that reflects a broad spectrum of light for a multi-colored, shimmering effect. Depending on the application, pearl coatings can be created that appear to vary in color, based upon angle of view, bringing more eye-appeal. When considering adding a pearl coating to add the extra touch to a luxury product packaging design, it is important to select a color that brings the design together, rather than clashing or standing out.

In addition to different color options, the effect of a pearl coating can be customized by altering the thickness (the volume) with which it is applied, changing the concentration of the particles within the coating, or by adding multiple layers. Increasing the concentration of the reflective particles within the coating enhances the effect for a higher level of sparkle or shimmer. Applying a thicker layer or multiple layers will have a similar effect, while decreasing the concentration, thickness of application, or number of layers creates a subtler effect.

The Bottom Line on Pearl Coatings
Increasing the visual appeal of print and packaging is paramount for brands and marketers. Pearlescent coatings offer an array of options when it comes to creating upscale and unique visual effects. Whether it’s used as a “full-on” look or a spot-specific, pearlescent coatings expand the creative possibilities for print. Given the right equipment and the right process, these coatings can be just a cost-effective with the added visual impact.

About the author
Michael DiFranco serves as the VP of Marketing at JohnsByrne. Celebrating its 56th year of operations, JohnsByrne Company is a custom packaging and print solutions provider catering to major brands in health & beauty, food and beverage,  and consumer products. With a culture built around innovation, quality, design and speed, their offerings span value added folding cartons, specialty packaging and high impact direct mail. To learn more about these and other services, visit

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