Applications exposed to elements for a prolonged period of time should consider protective coating. Whether a graphic is displayed indoors or outdoors, it is subject to UV rays, dust, dirt, fingerprints, abrasions, and weathering. With these threats present, protection is important. Films or laminates and liquid coatings are two options to consider. Here, we look at scenarios that call for liquid coatings.
Despite advancements in ink durability, print service providers (PSPs) choose liquid coating as a source of protection. Certain substrates are more applicable. “Coatings provide the scratch and scuff protection and make it easier to keep the print clean. Their real benefit is keeping the print looking good even in the normally rated life of the inks and media,” says Ike Harris, president, Daige, Inc.
In addition to protection, liquid coatings enhance image quality depending on the desired finish, for example matte, gloss, or luster. Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation, believes this trend is catching on due to rising consumer expectations.
Fine art is a popular application for liquid coating, as the media commonly used benefits from both protection and appearance. “Inkjet papers and canvas are porous like a sponge, even after the ink has been applied. You need to protect and seal your print from moisture, atmospheric contaminants, abrasions, and even fingerprints. Coating will extend the life of your prints and add value to them,” explains Tom Feikls, president, Premier Imaging Products.
Wallcoverings are another consideration. Liquid topcoats, according to Peter Spotto, director of sales, DreamScape, are an ideal preservation choice for this application because they are installed in high-traffic areas. “Hallways, or public places where there is a chance of incidental contact, are good examples. It’s natural that customers want to protect their investment and a liquid laminate is a quick and cost effective solution,” he continues.
PSPs and their customers wish to ensure the quality of the look and life of various applications, which means a consistent market for liquid coating manufacturers.
Currently on the Market
Daige offers Rollaguard coating. Available in gloss and satin finishes, it is ideal for protecting canvas, vinyl, banners, and digital wallpapers. The coating safeguards against UV rays, abrasions, and water while also allowing media to retain its flexibility. At $75, this water-based coating is an affordable alternative to film laminates. The water-based coating, in the gallon bottle, covers roughly 950 square feet of media.
DreamScape’s DreamGuard Protex3 liquid topcoat preserves its digital wallcovering material. In satin or matte finishes, this water-based, non-hazardous protective topcoat is specially designed to prevent damage to wallcoverings from scratches, smudges, abrasions, and food stains. It is priced at $75 per gallon.
Drytac offers UV-curable and aqueous liquid coatings. The InstaCure UV-curable line is eco-friendly, producing minimal odor. It features 17 varieties with finishing options such as matte, gloss, and satin as well as options for hard coating, photo, point of purchase, dry erase, and toner finishing. A gallon of InstaCure is priced at $95 to $219, depending on the finish.
EnduraCoat aqueous liquid coating features several varieties specifically designed to protect fleet graphics, canvas prints, signs and banners, and digitally printed wallcoverings. In finishes such as gloss and lustre, the coating provides UV protection and scratch resistance. EnduraCoat prices per gallon depend on specific finish, starting at around $70 and going up to $130.
LexJet Corporation’s Sunset line of liquid coaters—offered in gloss and satin—are non-yellowing, fast-drying, and water-based. Both options do not require dilution or mixing, whether applied via brush, roller, or spray. Cost per gallon is $75.
Marabu North America’s ClearShield CSX 5000 is the newest generation ClearShield product. Utilizing the latest polymer technology, it is a self cross-linking, high-performance, water-based clear liquid laminate. ClearShield CSX 5000 exhibits excellent chemical resistance, abrasion resistance, and long-term UV protection for prints.
Frank Shea, digital and print coatings manager, NuCoat, Inc., discusses the newest addition to the company’s barrier coating family and its benefits. “Direct Thermal Top Coat with Non-Silicone Release properties for self-wound label applications dramatically cut raw material costs and offer sustainability advantages as liners typically constitute 40 to 50 percent of waste in these applications,” he shares.
Premier Imaging’s water-based PremierArt Eco Print Shield is an environmentally friendly coating engineered for inkjet water-resistant canvas. Created using acrylic resins and cross-linking advanced polymer technology, it does not crack when stretched or become brittle over time. Canvas coated with Eco Print Shield is protected against moisture, humidity, atmospheric contaminants, light, abrasions, and fingerprints. This non-toxic coating is available in stain, glossy, and matte finishes. Pricing per gallon of Eco Print Shield is based on distributor and varies depending on the finishes.
The company also produces PremierArt Print Shield, a lacquer-based spray that increases water-resistance on inkjet media such as fine art cotton paper and photo resin coated paper. Its low solid formula maintains the original look of a print’s surface while also eliminating pigmented ink gloss differentials. A UV blocker doubles lightfast rating and the non-yellowing formulas ensure longer lasting prints. The spray is available through distributors in cans priced at $14.99.
Fine art is one segment that favors liquid coating. Alan S. Maltz, president, Alan S. Maltz Gallery, the official wildlife and fine art photographer of FL, utilizes Daige products to safeguard his photographs.
The Key West, FL gallery employs a ten person staff and makes its home in a 3,400 square feet building with a 300 square foot printing area. Founded in 2002, the gallery subsequently added canvas prints and liquid coating as a finishing solution in 2003. Maltz chose liquid coating for its ease of application and durability.
The gallery uses an Epson Stylus Pro 9800 with Epson’s UltraChrome K3 ink to print Maltz’s vibrant nature-themed photographs and a 55-inch Daige EZ Glide for coating application. “The EZ Glide coater fits well into our workflow and limited space. It is easy to use and maintain,” says Maltz.
Print preparation for gallery or retail installations follow similar steps. The gallery maintains a library of original images. Using the Epson Stylus Pro 9800 printer, ColorByte Software’s ImagePrint establishes placement of the image on the canvas.
Once an image is printed it requires several hours of drying before applying Daige Rollaguard liquid coating through the EZ Glide. Images are coated in groups of three of four, kept small so that large canvas orders have plenty of room to dry. After a batch is finished the EZ Glide coater is drained and washed, ready for the next group of prints to come through.
After coating, canvas is rolled and stored until the gallery’s framing and shopping department is ready to dispatch them. Some customers may purchase only the canvas, but a good amount make use of the gallery’s in-house framing services.
The Topcoat Choice
Maltz is one of many artists, retailers, and printers who defer to liquid coating as a finishing solution. Without compromising an image’s integrity, this tough topcoat adds not only a protective layer, but also years and value to any print.