Any printed piece which has added protection from moisture and stains with a bonded plastic film has been through the lamination process. There are many reasons to laminate something; sometimes, an item needs to be difficult to impossible to bend. Other times, it’s used to emphasise the clarity of an image or increase colour vibrancy.
Lamination Thickness Matters
Laminate for printed materials is available in thicknesses measured in mil. A mil is a unit of measurement that’s equal to 1/1000th of an inch. The thinnest common laminate is the 1.5mil, followed by three mils, five mils, and ten mils. The sturdier product you desire, the thicker the laminate you will choose. However, it’s important to know that different thicknesses are best for certain items. The rigidity of laminate will change with its thickness, and the price will change as well.
Folders, Business Cards and Manual Covers
The thinnest lamination available, 1.5 mils, is best for anything that will be printed on heavy paper, such as a flash card or book cover. As well, this thin and affordable laminate can be ideal for situations where a printed piece will only be used temporarily, such as a seasonal menu or map. Inkjet labels and decals are also perfect candidates for this label type.
Posters and Book Pages
A thickness of three mil laminate is the best choice where protection is required, but where an item will need to be folded easily, such as a bi or tri-fold menu for a restaurant. Maps can benefit from three mil laminate, as can manual pages.
Charts, Passes, Bookmarks
The five mil laminate offers a moderate degree of sturdiness to printed materials that are used frequently. These materials can be anything from diagrams to instruction and safety manuals. A five mil thickness is commonly seen on menus, and even on memo boards. The one caveat with using this thickness of laminate for folded materials is that its sturdiness can cause them to be difficult to keep closed.
Badges and Tags
Any items needing long-term protection and a lot of rigidity will benefit from laminate in a ten mil thickness. This laminate is a great choice for ID badges, tags and many other items that are not meant to be folded whatsoever. It is also the ideal laminate for any items which will ‘live’ in environments that are damp, greasy or dirty.
Saving on Lamination Cost
You can save on the cost of your laminated materials by choosing thicker paper to print them on. For example, a heavy paper like cardstock can be chosen, and then the item can be laminated with a thinner film. In order to ensure your chosen thickness will work with the stock you’re using, you can consult your printer as you keep in mind the following tips.
Mind the Corners
When a really durable piece is desired, the best combination can be a heavy paper and laminates of a higher thickness. However, as good as this can be for making a permanent and protected piece, it can also result in the corners being sharp. However, these can be rounded. Many of these print runs will deliver pieces as they were printed and laminated; with square corners. These corners can be left as is if the lamination is thinner. But another thing to consider is what the pieces will be used for. In the case of flash cards which will be handled by children, it’s best to round the corners so as to prevent injury.
Regardless of the materials you are printing, it’s a good idea to first consult with your printer to ensure that you’ve chosen the best laminate thickness for your needs. A printer will be able to tell you what thickness is best for the materials you are printing, as well as which printing method will suit your project best.