In addition to traditional binding methods, another option for post-press finishing is coatings, specifically lamination or UV coating. Both require specialized equipment, and come in varieties of textures.
Film lamination is the process of laminating a clear plastic film to either one side or both sides of a finished press sheet. The process is similar to using the small, desk-top laminators you might purchase to make office signs or luggage tags, but on a much larger scale. The laminating film comes in rolls and is applied by feeding the plastic through the laminator, passing over rollers that are heated to high temperatures to soften the plastic, and then pressed together to bond or “laminate” the plastic to the press sheet. Skilled laminator operators have to factor in the thickness of the sheet and the pressure settings of each roll of plastic in order to insure that the sheet doesn’t curl as it exits the laminator. Applying laminate to the single side of a sheet requires even more skill, and is more susceptible to curling. There are two types of laminating available: flush trim or sealed edge. Flush trim lamination is where the entire sheet is laminated and then cut on the guillotine cutter so that the laminate ends at the trim. Sealed edge lamination allows for a small margin of laminate around the trimmed sheet, which in essence “seals” the sheet. This is used for menus and other high-usage pieces like luggage tags or ID badges. By using sealed edge lamination, you prevent the laminate from being torn back by excessive use, and it can prevent exposure to moisture. Laminate comes in varying thickness, from 1.3 mil to 10 mil, and in various finishes, such as clear, glueable/stampable (which you need to use if there is going to be die cutting, folding and gluing following lamination), satin, matte or even super matte. Some lamination houses even have some unique finishes such as metalized or linen. Lamination can enhance and protect your final printed piece, however, since it is a film adhesion process from a roll, it cannot be used to “spot” laminate a piece.
UV coating is becoming more and more accepted as a coating option. It has benefits in that it is a simple post-press option, and can be done for pennies a sheet. You can either “flood” coat a sheet 1 side or 2 sides (and there is no pressure or film to cause sheet curl), or you can do a spot UV coating, which does require specialized screens that apply it to specific areas to help create design elements. UV is actually a liquid coating that is applied to one side of the sheet per pass, and then is cured under UV lighting (hence the term). The sheets can then be flipped over immediately for the back side pass. Print service providers that have digital print and mailing services often have UV coaters, and coat the press sheets before finishing. The UV coating gives the sheet an ultra-glossy look, which gives the perception of high value. It also protects the mailed piece as it passes through the USPS automated systems. Spot UV coating can be used for dramatic effects, but since it requires a screen and tight registration to the printed piece, it is a more costly option – but can have an impact, particularly if the sheet has a satin or matte aqueous on it. UV coatings come in basic finishes such as gloss clear, satin and matte. But you can also get specialty UV coatings that can be used dramatically as design elements. There are coatings called StepTex, which is a raised UV; Sand Paper which looks and feels like, well, sand paper!; Etch Coat, which offers a fine patterned coating; then there’s glitter coating, tinted coating, colored UV, heat- or cold-activated (thermochromic) ink – plenty of creative options to use for your design. Some coating houses even have glow-in-the-dark coatings!!
So, as you begin to design that next job, keep in mind these various coatings. As always, it is very beneficial to consult your print services provider about these coatings as you design your piece, so they may collaborate with you in using coating effectively!
Thanks to Creative Coatings in San Diego for their contributions to this blog posting.