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Laminated Printing: What Options are Available?

A pilot in the cockpit holding a laminated preflight checklist

Many print projects have a clear laminate applied as a finishing step. Made of durable plastic film, laminates protect the paper and ink against dirt and moisture. Laminates also help guard against scuffs, wrinkles, and tears.

In addition to increasing resilience and longevity, laminates can also enhance the function and appearance of printed pieces by adding rigidity, sheen, and texture.

Printed items that are frequently laminated include restaurant menus, placemats and counter mats, book covers, reference sheets, cards and tags, brochures and marketing pieces, bookmarks, and training materials.

If you are planning to laminate an upcoming print project, there are a variety of options from which to choose. Below is an overview of the available options to consider for your next laminated print project…

Finish Options

Gloss -

A gloss laminate provides a highly-reflective surface and a slick feel. The shiny finish is almost glass-like and adds incredible clarity and vibrancy to printed ink colors.

Because a gloss laminate will deepen colors, it is often applied to marketing materials to enhance the colorful designs and photographs. This is especially true for full-color brochures, postcards, rack cards, and other promotional pieces that are image heavy.

The slick surface of a gloss laminate is also very easy to clean, making it a good choice for restaurant menus and placemats as well as other printed items that will be handled frequently or subject to stains and spills.

Matte -

A matte laminate provides the same degree of paper and ink protection as a gloss laminate. But unlike a gloss laminate, a matte laminate reflects little or no light. This means a matte laminate adds minimal sheen to printed pieces.

Because a matte laminate has no reflective qualities, it minimizes glare and makes printed pieces easier to read. Hence, a matte laminate is an excellent choice for printed items that contain large blocks of text and/or will be used or displayed under a direct light source.

A laminate restaurant menu lying on a table

Compared to the shiny surface of a gloss laminate, the softer, more natural appearance of a matte laminate creates an element of sophistication. This makes matte lamination a good choice for books, business cards, or any other printed item that needs to convey professionalism in a subtle and understated way.

Soft Touch -

In addition to protecting the underlying ink and paper, a soft touch laminate appeals to the sense of touch. A soft touch laminate adds an interesting texture that feels similar to suede or velvet.

The unusual feel of a soft touch laminate creates intrigue and encourages interaction with the printed pieces being handled. This makes soft touch a good option for high-impact items such as brochures, presentation folders, or book covers.

Unlike a gloss laminate that will brighten colors, a soft touch laminate will soften ink colors. It also provides a sense of depth to a printed piece. An unexpected benefit of soft touch laminate is that the textured surface actually improves the "grip" of a printed piece.

Thickness Options

Does your project require a laminate that is thin and flexible, thick and rigid, or something in between?

1.5 mil or .0015" -

This is the thinnest and most flexible laminate. It is frequently used on projects made from cardstock, such as postcards, business cards, folders, or book covers. This is because the cardstock itself is fairly rigid and the thin laminate is merely applied to add a layer of protection, sheen, or texture.

3 mil or .003" -

Though twice as thick as the 1.5 mil laminate, this thickness is still considered a light-duty laminate. It offers protection against moisture and stains and is flexible enough to be used on bi-folded or tri-folded items, such as restaurant menus, brochures, or instruction guides. Being relatively light in weight, it is also a good choice for laminating posters, maps, diagrams, charts and other printed sheets intended for display on a wall.

5 mil or .005" -

This all-purpose laminate is used for a variety of print projects. It adds a moderate degree of stiffness to printed pieces and works best for projects that do not fold, such as flat restaurant and bar menus, placemats, reference sheets, and rack cards. Because it offers good structural integrity, it also works well for laminated sheets or card sets that are joined together with a metal ring.

10 mil or .010" -

This heavy-duty laminate is extremely thick and rigid. Because it is so substantial, it offers the most protection and durability of all the laminate sizes. It cannot be creased or folded, so it is only used on printed pieces that will remain flat. Also, because a 10 mil laminate is so thick and tough, it is the preferred choice for print materials used within harsh environments, such as an industrial setting or the outdoors.

Edge Options

Will the laminate be cut flush with the edge of your printed piece or will the laminate overhang slightly to seal the edge?

Flush Cut Edge -

The flush-cut option means the laminate is trimmed even with the edge of the paper or cardstock to which it is bonded. This option offers a very clean appearance. However, it leaves the perimeter edge of the printed substrate unprotected. Thus, a flush-cut laminate is not recommended for print materials that may be subject to moisture, grime, or other contaminants.

The flush cut option is used primarily for the covers and pages of books, brochures, business cards, postcards and other printed items where aesthetics are important.

Laminated music flash cards lying on a piano

Sealed Edge -

The sealed-edge option refers to two pieces of laminate that are cut slightly larger than the printed substrate. The printed substrate is then centered within the two pieces of laminate. As the laminate sheets are bonded to both sides of the substrate, the perimeter edges of the laminate sheets also bond to each other. This technique totally encloses the printed substrate within the plastic laminate so that no contaminants can come in contact with the paper or ink.

Though not as aesthetically appealing as the flush-cut method, this technique is very popular because it provides a complete layer of protection.

Corner Options

Which type of corner fits your project better - standard square corners or corners trimmed with a radius?

Square Corners -

Square 90-degree corners are the standard option. It is worth noting that the majority of laminated print projects are made with square corners.

Rounded Corners -

As the thickness of a laminate increases, the more rigid it becomes. And the more rigid it becomes, the more dangerous a sharp 90-degree corner can be. This isn't a big concern if the laminated piece is to be secured to a wall, but if it is going to be frequently handled then the corners should be rounded for safety. This is especially true if the laminated printing will be used by young children.

Rounded corners can be created using various radii. Also, rounded corners are almost always recommended for 10 mil laminates. Projects that use a 5 mil laminate should be carefully evaluated to determine if the intended usage will pose a risk of injury. In most cases, laminates with a thickness of 3 mil or 1.5 mil are flexible enough not to cause harm by themselves, but if the substrate is exceptionally thick then rounded corners might still be worth considering.

Color Vision offers excellent prices for printing and laminating services. We are always happy to discuss your projects, so give us a call at 800-543-6299. Or, submit a quick quote request by clicking here and we will email you a quote. As always, we look forward to assisting with your printing and laminating projects!

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