Laminated print uses a transparent, plastic film that is bonded on printed sheets. This cover protects the sheet from moisture, stains, and increases durability and strength. It also adds vibrancy and sheen, making printed documents look complete and professional.
Not all laminate is made the same. There are varying levels of thickness to choose from depending on the purpose you intend to use it for. Some are flexible and thin, while others are rigid and thick. If you do need your printed piece to be rigid, you could save money by using thicker paper like cardstock and then a thinner laminate film on top. If you are unsure of the type of laminate you need, discuss with your printing professional about your desired thickness. They should be able to meet your needs while keeping your budget in mind.
Lamination Film Measurements
Lamination film uses mil to measure its thickness, but that is not the same as a millimeter. One mil is 1/1000ths of an inch, so film measuring 10 mils is 0.01″ thick. Also, consider that your piece will be sandwiched between two pieces of lamination. That means if you pick laminate that is 1.5 mils will actually be a thickness of 3 mils.
If you want your final product to be sturdy, you should choose a thicker laminate. Although, if your piece needs to be folded, it is better to go with a laminate that is 3 mils or less.
Lamination Film Thickness and Uses
Here are the most common thicknesses of laminating film and popular applications for each size:
1.5 mil – Because of how thin this size is, it does not add much sturdiness to the printed piece. Although, it is an economical choice, making it ideal for heavy papers like flash cards, business cards, presentation folders, and book covers. Because of how inexpensive this type of laminate is, it is ideal for temporary pieces like a holiday menu or a map for a marathon. Its thin and flexible nature also makes it perfect for decals and labels.
3 mil – This thickness provides adequate protection, but is still flexible and thin enough to be folded. It is often used for restaurant menus, maps, wall posters, and flip books since it can be Bi or tri-folded.
5 mil – The next level of lamination thickness adds a moderate amount of sturdiness that can hold up well against frequent use. It can still be folded and scored, but the thickness may make it spring open for some pieces. This size is ideal for flat pieces that will be handled often like charts, diagrams, event passes, instructional manuals, memo boards, and some menus.
10 mil – Offers great rigidity and protection since it cannot be creased easily or bent. It is usually used for ID cards, badges, reference sheets, reusable tags, and restaurant menus that are not meant to fold. This thickness is ideal for printed pieces that could quickly become damp, greasy, dirty, or used in other rugged environments.
When choosing a laminate thickness, keep in mind how sharp the corners will be as well. The thicker it is, the sharper the corners will be, which is why we recommend rounded them off to prevent injuries while being handled. Generally, if you choose laminate that is 3 mills or less, it should be relatively safe to leave the corners as is. But, if children will handle the pieces, it is better to get rounded corners regardless of thickness.