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Liquid Courage: Coating Technology for Print Protection

(February 2008) posted on Wed Feb 13, 2008

Liquid lamination offers graphics producers the ability to protect prints at a competitive cost and minimize waste and labor in finishing. Read on to find out more about the technology and the applications for which it is suited.

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By Ben P. Rosenfield

As a general rule of thumb, any substrate that is demanding in terms of coverage requirements or flexibility in end use may be better matched up with water- or solvent-based coatings. Also keep in mind that the high solids content of UV coatings can inhibit the soft hand of fabrics and other specialty media. Speaking of which, those who use inkjet printers to produce fine art (giclée) or photographic works on canvas should take special note of the requirements for protecting that family of media with a liquid laminator.

“If you’re printing on an aqueous printer like an Epson, Roland, HP, or even Canon—anything with a waterbased ink—then the image requires a liquid laminate on canvas to protect it from bleeding and also to give it some UV protection,” says Jim Manelski, president of BullDog Products. “Having said that, there are within the aqueous printers two types of canvas that can be used and two different flavors of coatings that go on the canvas, depending on the type.”

A water-resist type of canvas calls for an aqueous coating. This kind of canvas is designed to absorb a lot of ink and is therefore less subject to bleeding. Manelski notes that short-term applications on water-resist canvas may survive short-term display without liquid lamination, though any measurable longevity requires coating.

The other kind of canvas, called swellable, needs a solvent-based top coating. That’s because the inks tend to sit on the substrate’s surface and are more susceptible to bleeding from moisture until protected. Swellable canvas can be more prone to bleeding than its water-resist counterpart, but Manelski says many still prefer swellable canvas because, in most cases, it produces a wider color gamut.

Liquid laminators in general are key to the protection of fine-art prints, according to Manelski, because they greatly reduce the possibility of contaminating the print with dust or other matter. Spraying on a liquid coating, for example, poses the risk of catching airborne particulates and depositing them on a graphic’s surface and permanently locking them in. “There’s a whole lot less of a chance with a liquid laminator, because you’re going dry to dry,” he says.


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