Enhancing Your Print Projects: Choosing From 9 Game Card Finishes

Every printed element requires a proper finish, particularly game card components. The presence of a game card finish is essential to prevent ink smudging and excessive stickiness in the printed materials. Nevertheless, numerous creators lack the knowledge of the optimal and most fitting card finishes for their games.

This article aims to address the concepts of the most suitable 9 Game Card Finishes, offering you a comprehensive elucidation of each option.

Choose The Most Suitable For You Among 9 Game Card Finishes

Required Game Card Finish


When deciding between oil varnish and lamination, the primary factors to consider are the intended usage of the components and the demographics of the players engaging with the game.

Lamination involves a plastic-based finish that is notably robust and thick. It proves particularly advantageous for games aimed at children, who often handle objects with a certain degree of roughness.

Lamination effectively safeguards the cards from tearing, ensuring their structural integrity even when bent over extended periods.

In contrast, the function of an oil finish primarily revolves around safeguarding the ink without notably reinforcing the inherent durability of the cards.

However, lamination does present certain drawbacks. Due to its plastic composition, it does not align with eco-friendly principles. And it impedes the ease and speed of shuffling.

The lamination layer’s static friction occasionally leads to cards adhering to one another, hindering seamless shuffling. In contrast, oil varnish serves to smoothen cards, reducing friction and thereby improving shuffling capabilities.

Another aspect to contemplate is the desired level of glossiness or matte appearance. While lamination offers the choice between matte and glossy finishes, oil varnish resides in an intermediate realm. Often referred to as a Semi-Glossy finish, oil varnish straddles the two options.

When considering packaging such as board game or card game boxes, opting for lamination is consistently recommended. These boxes demand heightened protection, even for the most meticulous card game enthusiasts who handle them delicately during storage and retrieval.

Moreover, the most irksome scenario is the splitting open of a box corner, a predicament that lamination effectively averts.

Opt for Varnish WhenOpt for Lamination When
Game components are handled with care by players.The target audience includes children.
Shuffling plays a crucial role in the game.Cards are intended for frequent and consistent use, remaining readily accessible.
The choice between matte and glossy finishes is challenging.Card shuffling is not a dominant aspect of gameplay.
A lighter-weight game box is preferred, with a semi-glossy appearance being important.The game box falls within the medium to heavy weight range.
Prioritizing eco-friendly production is a key consideration. 

Linen Game Card Finish

Game Cards Linen Finish

The process of achieving a linen finish on cards involves employing a press machine equipped with steel plates featuring a specific pattern. During this process, the paper is fed through the machine and compressed to replicate the pattern on the surface.

Linen finishes are applied to cards for two primary reasons: to facilitate smoother shuffling or to impart an appealing visual texture. However, it’s important to note that the linen finish can slightly reduce the thickness of the paper.

To counter this effect, we advise using a card stock of at least 350gsm and adjusting the press pressure for the linen finish to prevent any potential damage to your cards.

The application of a linen finish is an independent process and can be utilized with various surface treatments. Whether your cards possess lamination, oil varnish, or an aqua-based finish, the linen finish can be seamlessly integrated.

Decorative Game Card Finishes

Incorporating decorative finishes can significantly elevate the visual appeal of your cards. By synergizing various treatments, you have the opportunity to craft truly remarkable and captivating card designs.

1) Metallic Inks

Metallic ink is formulated by incorporating metallic particles into the ink composition.

Metallic Inks

These particles reflect light, resulting in a distinctive metallic appearance for your cards. It’s categorized as a spot color, which signifies it’s a pre-mixed ink utilizing a single printing plate, as opposed to the four plates utilized for traditional CMYK colors.

Spot colors, also known as the Pantone Matching System (PMS), allow for printing colors beyond the standard CMYK spectrum. This is particularly effective for highlights or metallic effects.

Metallic Ink vs. Foil Stamping

While metallic ink is blended and applied similar to CMYK inks, foil stamping involves applying metallic foil to printed paper stock using heat and pressure. Both techniques yield unique visual appeal, but specific projects are better suited for one method over the other.

Metallic ink offers a subtler outcome because it’s applied early in the printing process and subsequently covered with a finish (lamination or varnish). Conversely, foil stamping produces a more vivid impact and an exceptionally realistic metallic sheen, applied after the printing process.

Delicate, intricate designs are better suited for metallic ink as it’s applied during the printing press operation. Foil stamping involves cutting the design out of foil stock. If the design is small and intricate, metallic ink is likely the more suitable choice.

For designs predominantly intricate and metallic, opt for metallic ink over foil for a softer shine. Designers sometimes find excessive foil use can create an overly flashy appearance, hence favoring metallic ink for such applications.

Metallic ink offers a wide array of color possibilities as it combines the ink color of choice with gold or silver metal particles. Even holographic foil options are available for a truly impressive effect.

If your project involves additional specialty printing techniques like embossing or debossing, foil stamping is more compatible. Metallic ink contains real metal fragments, which could potentially lead to cracking during embossing or debossing.

Foil stamping tends to surpass metallic ink in terms of durability. Over time, the ink’s metal particles might result in cracking.

From a cost perspective, metallic ink is generally more budget-friendly compared to foil stamping.

2) Foil Film

A frequently used form of foiling involves applying a foil film as an extra layer across the entirety of a card’s surface.

Foil Film

This imparts a luxurious holographic sensation to the card. However, depending on the specific finish and application method, certain disadvantages can arise, notably including the potential for card warping.

Gold, silver, and holographic foil cards (also referred to as hologram cards, holofoil cards, or simply foil cards) are a popular variety often seen in TCG trading cards or sports cards. These cards essentially feature an ultra-thin layer of rainbow foil meticulously applied onto the card prior to undergoing the printing process.

3) Cold Foil Stamping

The card passes beneath a foil roller, which binds the foil to the designated area. Afterward, the card undergoes curing, typically using UV light, followed by the application of a finishing layer.

Cold Foil Stamping

One of the most notable distinctions between hot foil stamping and cold foil techniques becomes evident in their terminology.

The term ‘hot’ alludes to the requirement for heat and pressure in the former process, while cold foil relies on ultraviolet light instead of elevated temperature.

Whether employed in sheet-fed lithographic or flexographic printing, cold foil application can be seamlessly integrated inline.

The foil is dispensed from an inline roll and placed over the substrate, where a UV adhesive has been printed in the desired pattern. A pressure roller secures the foil onto the sheet before the adhesive is cured by exposure to a UV lamp, effectively locking the design in position.

The versatility of foils extends to customization, allowing for the application of CMYK or PMS colors onto traditional silver or gold foils.

4) Hot Foil Stamping

The application of a hot foil stamp involves imprinting the card with the foil, creating an embossed effect.

Hot Foil Stamping

This imparts a certain level of texture to the card. The pivotal tool in the process of hot foil stamping is the hot foil stamping machine, requiring manual operation by a skilled operator.

Remarkably, the same machinery can facilitate both foil stamping and embossing (or debossing), making it possible to combine embossing with foil stamp printing for an even more captivating printed outcome.

Hot Foil Stamping Vs Cold Foil Stamping

Hot foil stamping works great for precise applications, defined patterns in small areas. Cold foil, on the other hand, is the preferred technique for large areas, such as moderate or full coverage of folding cartons.

Then there are customization considerations: Hot foil stamping allows for debossing or embossing in a single pass; cold foil gives you control over color.

5) Gilding

Once the card sheet has been trimmed, the cards are arranged in a stack, followed by the application of either foil or ink to the card edges.


This imparts a colored or metallic edge to the cards. For certain uses, the edges undergo beveling before being adorned with gilding.

Elevate your custom game cards with gilded card technology, infusing a touch of opulence to their edges. Our impeccably finished gilt edges are bound to captivate anyone who beholds them, providing your cards with the awe-inspiring flair they truly deserve.

6) Spot Varnish

A supplementary layer of high gloss varnish is meticulously added to targeted sections of the card, introducing contrast and expertly accentuating specific elements on the card’s surface.

Spot Varnish

This strategic application of gloss not only enhances the visual allure but also contributes to a heightened tactile experience, further elevating the overall quality and sophistication of the cards.

The interplay between the glossy and matte textures lends an engaging dynamic to the design, ensuring that every aspect of the card exudes a captivating and refined presence, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who engages with it.

Which Game Card Finish Suits Your Needs Best?

Reach out to WJPC today to discover how we can empower your products to stand out prominently on store shelves and instantly capture the attention of discerning customers.