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Lamination, Encapsulation or U.V. Varnish?

Lamination, encapsulation or varnish?

Have you ever seen a super-glossy brochure and wondered whether it’s gloss laminated … or perhaps gloss U.V. varnished? Even printing experts have trouble spotting the difference! To all intents and purposes, they look the same, but their production methods, costs and properties are very different.

Lamination

Lamination is a process whereby a thin, transparent, plastic film is bonded, under pressure, to the surface of your printed paper or card. The plastic film can have a variety of finishes including high gloss, soft-touch and matt.

  • Gloss lamination adds an incredible shine to documents and tends to enrich printed colours, also giving photos a greater depth due to the extra contrast they lend them.
  • Matt lamination gives printed documents a lower contrast and, as such, tends to give them a contemporary, lighter appearance along with a high quality look and feel.
  • Soft-touch lamination is similar in appearance to matt lamination but has a softer, more tactile feel to the touch. Some describe it as velvety, others suggest that it’s perhaps even a little rubbery in feel … but in a good way!

Either way, once laminated, the printed sheets are cut and finished so that the edge of the printed sheet is an exact match to the edge of the bonded lamination, with no difference or overhang of either. Lamination can be applied to one side of the sheet, or both.

Lamination gives the printed job additional protection against wear and tear. In fact, one way to be sure that a printed document is laminated is to try to tear it. If it’s nigh on impossible to tear, chances are it’s laminated. Lamination also gives documents protection against moisture, simply due to the presence of the plastic film that’s bonded to the surface.

Lamination is suitable for even reasonably high quantities of printing because it’s a high speed, mostly automated process. It’s used for protection, to give printed documents a lovely finish and to give them a feeling of high quality.

Encapsulation

Encapsulation is similar to lamination but the plastic film tends to be significantly thicker and is applied to both sides of the printed sheet. Uniquely with encapsulation, the plastic covering protrudes a few millimetres beyond the edge of the underlying printed sheet and indeed the plastic on the front and the plastic on the back bond to each other where they meet. This forms a tough ‘frame’ of thicker plastic around the edge of the printed sheet.

As with lamination, encapsulation protects the printed sheet from wear and tear and from moisture, however even more so than lamination due to the greater thickness of the plastic and the edges of the sheet also being protected by a double thickness of heat-bonded plastic.

Encapsulation is usually used for one-off or low quantity printing because it’s relatively expensive and time-consuming compared to lamination. It’s ideally suited to printed items that perhaps need to be displayed, manhandled regularly or used in environments that might otherwise lead to the printed item becoming dog-eared or spoiled by water ingress. Menus would be a good example.

U.V. Varnish

U.V. varnish is almost always encountered in a high gloss finish. However, it is also available in matt finish although that’s rarely seen. To even a trained eye, an overall gloss U.V. varnish looks almost identical to gloss lamination, giving the printed document a high gloss sheen that enriches the saturation of printed colours and gives photographs a deeper contrast and ‘punch’. However, the U.V. varnishing process is remarkably different to that of lamination. Unlike with lamination, the gloss sheen is actually Read more