A First Timer’s Guide to Laminating Digital Prints

Sign manufacturers and clients have a lot to say about the primary means of production – printing, cutting, or both – but the finishing stage is often overlooked. This is a shame; finishing can be the difference between a glossy, eye-catching sign that can weather 30 years of abuse, and the flimsy, dull product that falls apart a year or two after you install it.

In today’s post, the Signworld teams explains the basics of laminating and trimming digital graphics to help inform your sign design strategy.

Lamination 101 – Why Laminate, and When to Do It

Lamination offers sign buyers and franchisees a number of advantages, protecting precious graphics from scratches, chemicals, UV exposure, and general weathering, all of which can fade designs or wash pigments off of prints. Lamination is highly recommended for any signs intended for outdoor use.

If you’re interesting in lamination, you should know what outgassing is all about, as it will dictate when the lamination process can be completed. If your sign is manufactured with a solvent-based ink, you have to be sure that you laminate only once the outgassing processes has finished. Outgassing refers to the evaporation that occurs after solvent-based inks penetrate the print medium to carry the resins below the surface. 24 hours after the inks have embedded into the medium, the excess resins will evaporate away, leaving the color behind. If you rush the lamination process, you won’t give these solvents time to escape, and they will materialize under the laminate coating as a “haze” spot.

What’s Best for Me – Film or Liquid Laminates?

At Signworld, we use two kinds of overlaminate to finish our digital graphics: adhesive backed film and liquid/clear coat. Most people opt for overlaminate films because they’re so easy to apply en masse, and they’re a versatile solution when you need to protect prints with smooth surfaces.

On the other hand, liquid laminates are ideal for prints with textured surfaces. Scrim banners and canvas are two of the most common mediums that we finish with liquid laminates.

Finishing Up With Finishing – Trimming Your Laminate

A simple safety ruler and shop table are all you really need to trim your laminate, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient approach.

Ideally, you want to leave your trimming to your manufacturer. Signworld experts use large format trimmers that allow easy feeding and adjustment of the print media, which means greater precision and a better end result. That said, not everyone has access to our team.

If you’re trying to trim on your own, we recommend giving your laminate a full day to sit first. Don’t cut too early, or you risk being stuck with the dreaded “edge curling.” Wait at least 24 hours after printing, as this will give the uncured solvents in the inks time to migrate into their final position. If you irritate the perimeter of the adhesive layer for the sake of an untimely trim, the material with curl up or shrink away.

About Signworld

Signworld is a national organization with more than 240 independently owned sign companies, which provide commercial custom signage and graphics. It’s personable, creative, rewarding and ideal for people-oriented individuals who have the desire to learn how to manage a sales and production business. Signworld has been a part of the industry’s profit and fun since 1988. With over 27 years in the business, Signworld has established itself as the leader in the no-royalties and no-rules sign business concept. The ongoing support and training along with state-of-the-art equipment helps leave the competition behind. For more details visit – https://signworld.org/

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