What Does Paper Lamination Involve And How Is It Different To Encapsulation?

Lamination is the process of adding a clear plastic coating to printed matter. It's done for decoration, for protection or to make printed material more durable. Lots of different prints can be laminated, and here at Aura it's something that we do lots of every day. This quick guide will explain everything you need to know about lamination, starting with the crucial difference between 'lamination' and 'encapsulation'.

What's encapsulation?

Many people first encounter lamination when using a desktop laminator. These are known as encapsulation laminators, because the sheet of paper is placed into a slightly oversized plastic wallet (to fully encapsulate it) before being fed through the machine's heated rollers to seal it shut. Because this clear plastic wallet is a few millimetres bigger than the sheet of paper, the plastic sticks to itself around the edges to create a totally watertight, encapsulated seal.

However, the only place you'll really encounter this type of laminating is with these desktop laminators. Commercial printing companies, on the other hand, will print full sheets of paper first and then laminate them, before finally cutting them to size. This trims the edges of the laminated paper, so encapsulation isn't possible.

How we apply lamination

Laminate is basically sticky-back clear plastic, which in our case is bought on long, industrial-sized rolls. We have two lamination machines: one designed to laminate sheets of SRA3 paper, and one designed to laminate wide format prints up to 1200mm wide. Both machines use pressure rollers to apply the laminate, and the SRA3 machine is heated too to allow the laminate to stick better to digitally printed materials. (This can sometimes be tricky, especially when items have full print coverage, since as a rule laminate sticks best to plain paper.) The printed material is fed through the rollers, and the laminate is added at this point. Once finished, the jobs are trimmed to size.

Minimum thicknesses for lamination

With wide format printing we can laminate any thickness of poster paper, vinyl or plastic – it's not a problem. The limitations are really with digitally printed paper, where the minimum thickness we can laminate is 300gsm. Any thinner than this, and the heat of the laminating process can cause the paper to curl.

Matt vs gloss vs soft-touch lamination

Lamination is available in matt, gloss and soft-touch options. All three laminates do the same job of finishing and protecting your prints, so it's really just a matter of personal preference. Gloss laminate makes it quite obvious that the print is laminated, while matt laminate is non-shine and creates a much more subtle effect. The third option, soft-touch, is a type of matt laminate with a smooth and velvety texture for that added tactile appeal.

So, which laminate is best? Ultimately it comes down to your own preference, and what you need your prints for – so the choice is yours!

Single or double sided lamination?

It is possible to laminate only one side of a print, but we would generally recommend laminating to both sides if at all possible. When applying the laminate to just one side there's a chance that the print can curl, (but on A6 prints and smaller you'll probably be okay doing one side only, if this is what you'd prefer). Wide format jobs can safely be laminated on one side only, since the weight of the print generally keeps them flat regardless.

Typical lamination jobs

You can laminate any type of print you like really, but typical lamination jobs tend to include:

Wide format print jobs

  • Posters – Gives them extra durability and makes them splashproof (from the front, at least).
  • Stickers – Makes them thicker and more durable.
  • Printed adhesive vinyl – Makes the surface more scratch-resistant and makes it easier to apply to a substrate, such as glass or aluminium panel.


Digital print jobs

  • Menus – These are a great example of a laminated job. Laminating a menu makes it splashproof and easy to clean, so that they can be re-used again and again. Lamination also adds thickness and gives menus a more premium finish, especially with matt or soft-touch lamination options.
  • Business cards – These are typically laminated to add durability and thickness, but ultimately with business cards it's all about achieving that perfect look and feel to represent your brand. Just bear in mind that gloss laminate can make it tricky if people need to write on your business card, (for example if it will also serve as an appointment card.)

So there we go – lamination in a nutshell! We hope this article helps shed some light on the topic of professional print lamination, but if there's anything else you'd like to know then you're welcome to get in touch with our team. Just click here for our contact page and we'll be happy to tell you more.