The (Mostly) Invisible Power of Overlaminates

Experiential Innovation

These slick films have remarkable power when it comes to the look and longevity of your installation.

The next time you see a great-looking vinyl installation on a car, wall, window or other surface, pay closer attention. Beyond the great print job and rich color, there’s likely another element that contributes to its impact and appearance: an overlaminate.

Many people don’t understand the importance of overlaminates in their installation, but choosing the right one can make all the difference, says Mark Elvester, a technical service technologist at 3M. From changing the finish to extending the installation’s life, choosing the right overlaminate can be a critical decision for any vinyl installation project. Here, he answers some common questions about overlaminates.

What is an overlaminate and what does it do?

Mark Elvester: An overlaminate is a film that is installed over your vinyl installation. It helps protect ink from fading or damage that can be caused by sun, rain, snow, debris, or other environmental factors.

So, are overlaminates just clear sheets of film?

ME: No, not at all. It can also change the look of the graphic, depending on which you choose. If you’ve got a graphic with deep inks and a base film behind it, you might want to have a consistent gloss level across all of it. Or maybe you want a matte finish. Whatever finish you choose, you want the whole thing to look the same. An overlaminate achieves that consistency while enhancing the surface and protecting the graphic. There are options that look like a metallic, brushed metal, or carbon fiber effect. It gives you additional ways to be creative while protecting your design.

Are there other benefits to overlaminates?

ME: Absolutely. Graffiti-resistant overlaminates can be cleaned easily if your installation is marred by graffiti. Slip-resistant versions that can be used on floor installations, which also protect them from moisture, abrasion, and UV rays. These protective covers help protect and extend the life of your vinyl graphics.

What should I think about before choosing an overlaminate?

ME: Think about how long you need the graphic to last and the conditions it will need to weather. If it’s a short-term graphic, you might use an intermediate film. If you want it to last into the seven- to eight-year range, premium films are a good option. If you need a lot of pop, a glossy finish is a good idea, but if it’s going to be out in the sun and you want to minimize glare, a matte finish will likely be a better option. Overlaminates let you choose the best look for your installation, while providing valuable protection.

Explore simple, effective ways to build your brand and business with graphics.

If you do not already work with one, connect with a branding graphics professional by entering your zip code and searching for a professional near you.