Laminate is a clear plastic film bonded to a printed piece. Laminates protect the piece from stains and moisture and increases its strength and durability. Laminates can add sheen and vibrancy to the ink colors below bringing them to life.
Laminate is available in a variety of thicknesses. From thin and flexible, to heavy and rigid. Here is a helpful tip – if you need a printed piece to be rigid, you can save money by printing on a heavy cardstock and then applying a thinner laminate film… this is less costly than printing on thinner paper and using a thicker laminate and yields a competitive finished product.
How lamination films are measured can be confusing.
Lamination film is measured in mil thicknesses. One mil is equal to .001” or 1/1000ths of an inch (a mil is not the same as a millimeter). As an example, a lamination film measuring 1.5mil would be .0015” thick. A film measuring 10mil would be .010” thick.
Essentially, the more sturdy you would like your printed piece to be, the thicker the laminate you should choose. But, if your printed piece needs to be folded, it is better to use a laminate film thickness of 3mil or less because folding can become extremely difficult as the laminate thickness increases.
In the list below are the most common laminating film thicknesses and some examples of popular uses for each size
1.5 MIL (.0015”) – A thinner laminate that does not add much rigidity to the printed piece. It is an economical choice when applying laminate to print materials that are constructed of heavy paper or cardstock, such as presentation folders, book or manual covers, and business cards. It is also the least expensive laminate choice wich makes it a good choice for printed pieces that have an intended short life.
3 MIL (.003”) – This provides good protection yet is still flexible enough to allow a printed piece to be folded. It is frequently used for restaurant menus that require folding. A 3mil laminate is also a good choice for maps and wall posters.
5 MIL (.005”) – This laminate size adds moderate sturdiness to print materials and holds up to frequent usage. This thickness is an ideal choice for flat pieces that get handled often. This includes instructional materials, charts and diagrams, bookmarks, event passes, and dry/wet erase memo boards.
10 MIL (.010”) – Wow! A heavy one offering extreme rigidity and long life. 10mil laminate is often used on identification cards and badges, reusable tags, and reference sheets, as well as indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar menus that do not fold. It is ideal for printed pieces that are to be used in dirty, damp, or greasy environments.