Comparing Matte vs. Gloss Lamination For Printing

The image of a laminating machine

In the printing industry, lamination refers to the process of bonding a clear plastic film onto printed matter to make it stronger and more durable. In most cases, the bonding is applied to both sides of the printed piece so that it is totally enclosed in the plastic film. This protects the piece from stains, tears, moisture and other hazards that can damage or ruin it altogether. Lamination adds strength and rigidity to a printed piece and also makes the colors stand out more.

Lamination is used in a wide variety of print projects and is ideal for items constantly being handled. For example:

  • Restaurant menus
  • Price lists
  • Maps
  • Educational materials
  • Bookmarks
  • Business and membership cards
  • Marketing materials

Lamination also helps protect printed pieces that get used in dirty or damp environments. These can include machinery warnings, operating instructions, safety signage, reusable tags, and more. In these environments, the plastic film often extends beyond the edge of the printed piece so that both layers can bond with each other. This provides a tight seal that prevents dirt, moisture and other contaminants from getting inside.

In the printing world, lamination can be applied by heat or adhesion. Most printing companies prefer using heat because it produces a stronger, more durable bond. Lamination film thickness is typically measured in “mils,” which are not the same as millimeters. A mil equals one-thousandth of an inch, or .001”. The amount of thickness needed for a printed piece depends on the environment it will be used in and the desired rigidity.

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Matte and gloss: the most popular lamination choices

2 books with the same book design but one is gloss laminated and one is matte laminated.  The matte laminated print has a velvet look. The gloss laminated print has high  shine
The magazine on the left high shine due to the gloss lamination. While the magazine on the right has a velvet looking texture do to matte lamination.

There are three basic types of print piece lamination: matte, gloss and silk. Of these, matte and gloss are the most popular. In fact, the choice between matte vs. gloss lamination can be one of the most important decisions in a print project.

Matte lamination produces an elegant, sophisticated finish. It also provides a softer, more natural look that makes it easier to read the printed piece. Matte lamination has a “velvety” texture that makes it pleasant to handle. It also softens the contrast of darker colors so that they don’t stand out quite as much.

Gloss lamination produces a shiny, glass-like appearance that enhances the color and vibrancy of the ink on a page. It is commonly used for business applications such as marketing and promotional pieces. It also works well as a covering for bound information in the form of books, reports and training materials.

Both matte and gloss lamination provide many important benefits for printed materials. These include:

  • Enhanced durability. Laminated print pieces can withstand high levels of daily use.
  • Damage protection. Lamination protects against damage from fingerprints, liquid spills, stains, smudges, grease, dirt, grime, and much more. When the laminate gets soiled, it is easy to clean.
  • Improved appearance. Enhanced ink colors of the printed piece create a more professional look. The added strength and stiffness of the laminated item give the impression of better quality.
  • Easy to read. Because it is completely transparent, lamination doesn’t impair or blemish the printing.
  • Affordable. Lamination is reasonably priced and can actually save money by extending the life of print pieces and avoiding the need to reprint damaged ones. 

When to use matte vs. gloss lamination

The choice between matte vs. gloss lamination depends on the printed piece and how you plan to use it.  Both types provide a strong, clear covering that makes the text and graphics completely visible to the reader. However, keep in mind that matte absorbs light while gloss reflects it. This makes a big difference in the appearance of the printed piece and the impact it has on people.

Choose matte laminate when:

  • The printed piece will be situated underneath direct lighting (i.e., store signage). The matte finish helps deflect any glare, making the piece easier to read at any angle.
  • The printed piece doesn’t get handled very often. Matte laminates can easily be scratched or scuffed by excessive use.
  • You want a modern, sophisticated look. Matte makes a great first impression.
  • The printed piece contains subdued color tones.

Choose gloss laminate when:

  • The printed piece is an item that gets handled a lot every day. Gloss provides a higher level of protection than matte and is easier to clean.
  • You want the piece to make a strong visual impact. With gloss lamination, the colors seem to jump off the page.
  • Avoiding glare is not a problem.
  • Price is an issue? Gloss laminate costs less than matte.

Other design considerations

Matte vs. gloss laminate is just one of many decisions to be made during the laminating process. Other considerations include:

  • Laminate thickness. The more rigid the print piece needs to be, the thicker the laminate. On the other hand, pieces that need to be flexible and foldable should have a thickness of 3 mil or less. Printivity also offers a single sided, 1.3 mil lamination that is used to protect booklet covers and mini posters.
  • Type of edging. If the environment contains oil, grease, liquids or other contaminants, choose a sealed edge. Both sides of the laminate extend beyond the edge so that the bond creates a seal to prevent contaminates from contacting the print piece. Flush edges can be used when potential contamination is not a problem.
  • Corner shape. The choice here is square vs. rounded. With thick laminate, a square corner can become sharp, creating a safety hazard. Thick square corners are not a good choice for materials that get handled a lot, especially those handled by children. In general, rounded corners are safer and provide a softer look and feel.

Be sure to consider lamination for your next print project. For just a little bit more money, you can protect your print piece against the elements while giving it a more polished professional look. If you have any questions about lamination, or would like a custom quote, contact our customer service representatives at 1-877-649-5463 or service@printivity.com.

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