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Engaging the senses with 3dUV

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Engage the senses with


We field a lot of questions about best practices for setting up a 3dUV™ file. During these conversations, we review a client’s file to see what would be the best use of the UV application. Most of the time, we will focus on a foreground element to make it pop forward and create a dynamic focal point. There are also times when varying screens used to accent features in the foreground, middle ground and background create a highly visual, dimensional effect. Other times, creating a pattern or texture over a layout adds a tactile feature. All of these applications have the power of employing both a physical and emotional response with two senses: sight and touch.

The following are some ways to engage with 3dUV™’s multisensory marketing capabilities.

File Types

Vector vs. Raster

Vector files tend to work better for the 3dUV™ process rather than raster files, but both can be used in striking ways with different preparations. Most vector files have elements that can easily be sampled without much additional preparation; whereas, raster files need additional work in defining those areas unless there is a mask or shape for the area already present.

These preparations begin with creating a new layer in your file above the CMYK artwork and assigning a special spot color called Scodix to elements that will have the polymer applied. Screening the UV layer creates a dimensional effect when applying tints ranging from 30%-5% to the Scodix spot color. There are some tricks to getting the best results when employing screens and encountering a fold or cut area.

While creating screens using the Scodix color, be sure to put a hairline white stroke on areas touching that are of different percentages. This helps delineate the screens enough so bleed-in from one area to the next doesn’t occur. Also, the polymer can chip and flake if it is applied on a fold or cut area. It’s best to keep a safe zone of 2mm from potential cuts or folds.

We’ve also found that screens above 30%, large areas of UV and applying UV to small strokes or type creates an unappealing effect. Screens over 30% do not have a consistent coverage which creates a spotty application of the polymer ink. The use of large areas of 3dUV™ can be wavy and have void hickeys. Whereas small areas like hairline strokes and small fonts can have breaks in the UV polymer ink. Mostly, these applications look like mistakes in the printing process and should be avoided to maintain a good quality print.

Let’s look at some examples for using both raster and vector files.

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Vector Logo

Easy to define areas make this vector logo ideal for applying the 3dUV™ technique. It also has multiple opportunities for enhancements with screens. Using the dark areas for the overlay can create a striking impact when paired with soft touch or matte laminate.
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Raster Image

This photo has a distinguishable foreground that can easily be defined with a shape layer. A clear focal point without overlapping areas works best for 3dUV™. If there is no clear focal point, using the pictures shadows can create a dynamic textural effect.
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Vector & Raster Mix

This business card has a mix of both raster and vector elements. It also has a great pattern that can be echoed in the 3dUV™ overlay. Applying the polymer to all of the type and logos is a great way to achieve a smooth embossed look much like old-school thermography.

File Setup

InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop

3dUV™ setup normally starts in one of the three Adobe applications: InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop. Each has their own special setup requirements, but all workflows end with two pdf files – one for the CMYK portion and one for the UV.

It’s best to start with two layers, one called CMYK and one called UV. This ensures that one can be turned on or off depending on which pdf needs to be created. It also helps identify any potential issues with the UV setup by guaranteeing the area is laying on top of the CMYK area properly.

The following are our recommended steps for each software.

Setup steps for


Step 1

Create a custom spot color in InDesign that is 100%K and name it Scodix (case sensitive).

Step 2

Create a shape or copy an element from the CMYK artwork layer and put it on the UV layer. Color this artwork using the Scodix spot color.
Setup steps for


Step 1

Create a shape of the area you want to apply the 3dUV™ to. This can be done using the pen or brush tool in Photoshop or by creating and copying a shape from Illustrator to Photoshop as a Smart Object. Vector Smart Objects tend to have a more defined edge in the finished product.

Step 2

Using the defined shape, create a path that can be converted to a Spot Channel that is set to Scodix using 100%K. When creating your final UV PDF file, turn off the Smart Object layer and use only the Spot Channel for creation. Check the separations in Acrobat to ensure only the Scodix color is used for the UV file and not built from CMYK.
Setup steps for


Step 1

The steps for creating a UV file in Illustrator is similar to InDesign. Create a custom spot color that is 100%K and name it Scodix. Apply screens from 30-5% to the Scodix spot color to achieve more depth.

Step 2

Create a shape or copy an element from the CMYK artwork layer and put it on the UV layer as demonstrated previously. Or create a pattern to overlay artwork that doesn't have a clear focal point. Color this artwork using the Scodix spot color.

Final Steps & Imposition

Exporting PDF's & printing with OPA dots

Now that the files are set up and you’re ready to submit your artwork, there are a couple of final preparations depending on your production method.

If you are sending your files to Acculink for printing both the CMYK & UV layers, export your artwork separating the CMYK and UV parts by turning on and off the layers as necessary. We recommend using Acrobat preset PDF/X-4 to create your pdf files and adding “_UV” and “_CMYK” to your file names to easily identify them.

If you are printing the CMYK portion and sending the printed sheets to Acculink for applying the UV enhancement, OPA dots must be added to both the CMYK prints and UV pdf file. OPA dots help register the CMYK print to the UV file and ensures precise layering.

The OPA dot should be 4mm in diameter and have a 3mm diameter of whitespace around it; as well as, being a minimum of 12mm from the edge of all four corners on the printed sheets. When creating the OPA dot on the CMYK imposition file, be sure it’s set to 100%K. For the UV file, you’ll need to use an OPA dot colored with the Scodix spot color. 

The UV pdf file must include only the OPA dots and artwork. Remove any color bars or registration/crop marks from the UV portion that might be needed for the CMYK printing. Any extraneous information other than the OPA dots and artwork interfere with the press’s registration. It’s also advisable to avoid heavy dark floods close to the edges. The heavy ink can prevent the press from recognizing where one sheet ends and another begins.

We recommend submitting your UV files prior to printing to avoid any costly reprints and file errors.

Ready to get started?

We have downloadable guides and assets so you can quickly create your own 3dUV™ pieces. If you need more help or would like us to design the UV layers for you, please contact us. We’d love to put it all together for you.

*Also, see our other helpful FAQs & Guides and Templates.

About the author

Creative Director for AccuLink | [email protected]