What is Aqueous (AQ) Coating?

What is Aqueous (AQ) Coating?

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AQ coating

Commercial printers are always looking to match the right coating with printed sheets. Whether used for packaging boxes, calendars, manuals or other applications, the coating impacts the final look and appeal of the product. AQ (Aqueous) coating is a popular choice with its unique advantages and specific applications.

Aqueous (AQ) Coating Defined

Unlike UV Coating & varnish, Aqueous (AQ) coating is a clear, water-based coating with fast-drying capabilities when applied during the printing process. It can be used to achieve different looks and therefore has multiple applications.

Due to its cost-effective and environmentally friendly nature, AQ coating is widely used for food, household products and fast-consuming product packaging.

it is typically treated as the “default” coating for printing and packaging.

The coating resists fingerprint smudges and dirt, and can be used to enhance the durability of business cards. From a packaging perspective, the type of product will largely determine the suitability of aqueous coating.

Cosmetic products and perfumes, for instance, contains chemicals that may make AQ coating difficult on the exterior or interior packaging.

Different Types of AQ (Aqueous) Coating

Gloss: If you’re looking for a less showy and more muted gloss finish, AQ coating is an ideal solution. For high gloss, UV coating or film laminates are better options.

Matte: Consider matte coating for minimal shine and depth but a high degree of color.

Satin: With an appearance that’s between gloss and matte, satin offers medium shine and good scruff resistance.

Soft touch coating: Soft-touch coating creates a velvety texture with a mellow appearance compared to a glossy finish.

Pencil receptive: This coating is receptive to pencil, ink and laser. It comes in handy for applications where the quality of the pencil/laser/ink marking/imprint is important.

Dry erase: An alternative to laminate, dry erase AQ coating achieves a high gloss effect and is an inexpensive solution.

Primer aqueous: This is a coating applied prior to lamination. It may also be used on substrates to make them ink receptive.

The Aqueous Coating Process

Immediately after the inks are added to the printed sheet, the aqueous coating is applied. After the application, the sheet is passed through a heated air system for quick drying, and then makes its way to the finishing section of the facility.

The water-based coating is applied over the entire sheet, which must have the appropriate heaviness or text weight to prevent the paper from curling, wrinkling or losing its shape.

The Benefits of Aqueous Coating

  • Non-toxic & environmentally-friendly solution
    • The treated paper is easily recyclable and does not produce harmful by-products. The solid waste after an aqueous run is very less and the cleaning process does not require toxic cleaning agents.
  • Versatile 
    • It is a no-hassle solution when additional finishing is necessary to the print and works well with various printing process inks and glues. It also lends itself well to being written over with pencil and overprinting with a laser printer.
  • Cost-effective
    • This water-based coating is mostly used in-line in tandem with the printing process, delivering significant cost savings.
  • Durable and long lasting
    • By sealing the ink against exposure to air, the coating maintains the fidelity of metallic inks. Aqueous coating is also less susceptible to yellowing, making it a better alternative to varnish.

Although AQ coating provides several benefits, the chances of chemical burning with aqueous coating and UV coating is higher than other finishing such as varnish. The solvent resistance of aqueous coating is lower than that of UV coating and thermal lamination. Nevertheless, AQ coating is still the popular choice for print finish options.