A printed graphic fresh off the press typically has a few more stops before it is considered ready. Wide format print providers often rely on laminates for a variety of reasons, predominantly to protect and/or enhance. Specialty enhancer laminates offer everything from glitter to holographs.
Jeffrey Stadelman, marketing manager, MACtac Distributor Products, suggests that the most popular use for enhancer laminates is added flash. He describes this as a special effect that helps attract attention to the overall look of the graphic. “There is nothing better than seeing a nice, glossy black vinyl or dark print on a vehicle laminated Brilliant Crystal and seeing the tiny glass shards sparkling in the sunlight,” he notes. “It is that little extra something that attracts attention without going too far overboard and becoming garish,” he adds.
Sam Covello, product manager, product branding, FLEXcon, agrees, suggesting that because enhancer laminates provide “pop” and “pizzazz,” they are ideal for promotions and events. “They can be applied to counters, windows, and walls. Because of their versatility, designers and creative agencies often utilize them.”
While everything from a gloss finish to crystal can be considered an enhancement, for this article, we take a look at those a bit more out of the box.
Traditional laminates offer protection and a basic finish enhancement that either glosses up or mattes down an image, points out Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Southern U.S., Drytac Corporation. “However, the specialty finishes offer protection as well as notably different finishes to traditional laminating films. “These differences stand out, making the image unique,” he adds.
As noted above, enhancer laminates are well suited for promotional graphics that are meant to grab the attention of a passerby or event attendee.
“Popular uses/applications for enhancer laminates include dry erase, replicating the look of canvas or a giclée print, or simply enhancing a print with an unusual finish in order to set it apart from the standard gloss/luster/matte finishes,” offers Colbath. “These effects are used to differentiate a print from traditional finishes or to tie an image seamlessly into a design space.”
Specialty laminates are used to create a competitive differentiation. “Designers and creative agencies, as well as those who commission them, understand that these effects have a more powerful influence than traditional films,” says Covello.
In terms of actual processing for these specialty laminates, Stadelman says there is very little difference from traditional laminates. “Enhancer laminates get applied over the graphics on the laminator the same as any other laminating film. These special laminates are typically a little thicker, which is necessary to make room in the film for the added special effect ingredients,” he explains. “In addition, they are often a little more expensive than the standard matte, luster, and gloss laminates, simply because they are unique. However, the flipside is that they offer users a great opportunity to up sell their customers with a unique product offering.”
Looking for a Lift
Several media vendors offer specialty laminate products to help print providers add that extra pop to a piece.
Among them, Drytac provides several laminate films with specialty finishes. These include laminates with anti-graffiti—discussed in detail in part two of this series—and dry erasable properties. Additionally, the company offers specialty finishes in its Protac pressure-sensitive line, such as Sparkle—holographic sparkle; Hearts—holographic hearts; Ice—crystal with an anti-scuff finish; Steel—brushed steel; Canvastex—canvas finish; and Linentex—embossed satin.
According to Covello, one of the more interesting products FLEXcon currently offers is a result of experimentation. “We recently combined our unique specialty films, such as SHIMMERcal glitter flake films and holographic films and laminated them to our low-tack window product,” he explains. “The resulting laminated films are vibrant and pop due to their unique look when printed using digital methods.”
The company also recently produced a new line of decals that utilize SHIMMERcal, laminated with an adhesive backing to create a flashy sticker that boasts a variety of uses.
Grafityp Selfadhesive Products provides its GL film. This glow in the dark product is for special effects indoors and outdoors, and last two to three years. It features a solvent-based permanent acrylic adhesive. GL is a 70 micron polymeric cast glossy phosphorescent film.
MACtac offers PERMACOLOR Enhancer 6300 Series overlaminating films, which feature a clear, 3-mil high-performance overlaminating film with two finishes—Silver Metallic with fine metal flakes and Brilliant Crystal with glass shards built into the films for “very special finishing effects,” according to Stadelman.
He says MACtac customers use enhancer laminating films in a variety of applications, including but not limited to vehicle wraps, point of purchase, promotional signage, and high-end brand awareness graphics to give messages a high-quality look.
RTape Corp. VinylEfx films come in a variety of metalized finishes. Outdoor durable products include smooth, fine brush, diamond plate, florentine leaf, hammered leaf, and carbon fibre. These are offered in gold or silver varieties.
For a Special Creation
Laminates can be much more than added durability for a graphic; they can transform a print into something truly unique. While specialty laminates that offer the look of crystal or dry erase properties may not be used for everyday graphics, it is a consideration to keep in your back pocket for the right customer and occasion.
Part two of this series looks specifically at laminates designed with anti-graffiti properties.