You’ve probably arrived here because you’re wanting to order foil print from us and aren’t sure about what the laminate is or means. It’s often quite confusing knowing when a foil print design requires a laminate. In this blog, we’ll provide an overview of what the foil laminate actually is and give examples of the types of designs that do and do not, require a lamination layer.

Red foil business card examples

What Is The Laminate?

The laminate that we use on our foil print is a fraction of a millimetre thin. Once it is applied to the paper, other than the feeling of it, you’d struggle to tell it was actually there. The soft-touch laminate that we apply to prints that we then foil has a matt appearance and is soft to the touch, almost like velvet. It also provides a great contrast to the shiny foil making it stand out even more.

It’s important to know that our laminate is not like the encapsulation laminate that you may be familiar with from school or the office. It really is microscopic in size.

When You Don’t Need A Laminate

First, let's explain the scenarios where you won’t need a laminate as these are the easiest to understand.

The first scenario where we don’t need to print with a laminate is that everything on your design is going to be foiled. Basically, if there is only foil elements on your print then we don’t need to worry about what the foil sticks to and what it doesn’t as everything printed will end up as foil. This is ideal if you’re just wanting foil business cards on white paper, or coloured paper with foil over the top.

Scenario two is if the CMYK print and foil don’t touch or overlap. In most cases, these are designs that have a blank white background and have a mix of wording in print and foil. For example, you’ll have a blank background with your logo in foil and then your name and details in black print. Because the foil and print elements aren’t exactly touching, there is no risk of a small halo or gaps between the print and foil if they don’t land in the perfect spot.

Infographic showing when a laminate is not required for foil printing

Why Wouldn’t Print Be 100% Accurate?

We’ve mentioned above that print doesn’t land in the perfect spot. Essentially this is because as the paper feeds through the printer, it can move, wiggle, expand and contract from heat and lots more.

These minuscule movements inside the printer translate to movement in where the print lands on the page. This movement is usually less than 0.5mm, so barely noticeable, but on complicated prints, it can be up to 1mm that we’d deem as acceptable. This is the case for all printers and it's completely normal.

So Why Do I Need A Laminate?

The simple answer is that in scenarios where there is a solid printed background or foil needs to fit into a certain spot, using a laminate allows us to change the way we print and can make sure there is always a background behind the foil. Rather than printing the foil first and then hoping the cutouts in the CMYK print that gets printed over the top fit correctly.

Essentially, if the foil doesn’t land perfectly, when we print colour first and then laminate, there is still print behind where the foil goes that will give us some buffer behind the foil so that the white of the paper doesn’t come through.

Other scenarios where you'd need a laminate are if you have a really dark background that bleeds off the edge of the paper. This isn't necessarily a movement issue though, more so that darker print without laminate has a higher chance of having cracked, or frayed edges when being cut down to shape. Another is if your foil is very detailed or fine. In these cases, there would be such a small chance to land the foil and print close enough together so we'd recommend using a laminate.

Examples of when laminate is required for foil

In more detail, when printing with a laminate, our printing process is a three-stage process that is reminiscent of creating a sandwich.

The first step to our process is to put down the CMYK print. Essentially anything that isn’t foiled is printed first onto your paper. The key difference here is that there are no gaps in the colour print for where the foil will go, the design continues even behind where the foil will cover it up.

Next, we apply the lamination layer. This seals off the first layer of print to make sure that no foil sticks to that print.

Then we print anything you’re wanting to be foiled in 100% black print over the top.

Here’s where the magic happens. Our foil will stick to any toner (print) that it can touch, so everything that was just printed on top of the laminate layer in 100% black gets turned into the foil.

If we didn’t separate the print and foil layers with a laminate section, then foil would adhere to everything that was toner, and if your foil design is fully printed, that would mean you’d just get one solid blob of foil!

Does The Laminate Cause Side Effects?

The only side effect caused by the laminate is that it can make thinner materials like foiled stickers more prone to return to their original flat state. So if you’re needing foil stickers to attach to surfaces that have very extreme curves (think smaller than essential oil jars), there could be a chance for the stickers to peel themselves off. This is rare and we always suggest ordering some sample stickers in these scenarios.

The other side effect could be that if you only laminate one side of your print then this could allow them to curl. Essentially you’re stopping the ability for one side of your print to expand, contract and control its moisture level. This means that potentially the unlaminated side can expand if there is more moisture in the air. This would make one side larger than the other and introduce a curve.

While the curve is very small, it’s a good rule of thumb to laminate both sides of a print if you’re having to laminate one side. The only exception is if your prints are going to be framed as in this scenario the frame for your print will stop any curling effect.