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Choosing the Right Graphic Protection Choosing the Right Graphic Protection

In this business‚ image is everything. Protecting your customer’s brand and your reputation means knowing which graphic protection products to use and when to use them.

Overlaminates provide graphics with the ultimate line of protection against the elements. Not only do they help extend the life of graphics‚ they can even enhance graphics by making colors pop or improving readability.

Choosing the right graphic protection can be pivotal in determining the success of the graphics you produce and the level of satisfaction your customers experience.

To help guide you in the selection process‚ here are some things you can talk to your customers about when considering graphic protection:


3M offers more than 30 graphic protection options and three levels of warranty protection. See Product Bulletin GP-1 for 3M’s overlaminate and clear coat offerings.

Do you need the image to really pop?

Overlaminates with a lot of gloss make graphics stand out in a crowd. Try our 3M overlaminates 8518‚ 8580 and 8914.

Will the graphics be exposed to direct sunlight?

UV rays can degrade films and inks. Choose graphic protection with UV absorbers.

Could the graphic be a target of graffiti?

Most overlaminates make the process of removing contaminants somewhat easier‚ but when you expect a lot of it‚ consider a product such as graphic and surface protection film 8991.

Will the graphics be exposed to the elements – rain‚ snow‚ wind‚ runoff‚ pollution?

The dirt and grime of city pollution is easier to clean off of awnings and signs when you protect them with overlaminates 3640GPS and 3642GPS.

Will the graphic be used only for promotional purposes?

Graphic protection probably isn’t necessary from the durability standpoint. But it can be used to enhance or change the gloss and add some pizzazz. Overlaminate 8509 is a cost-effective option for promotional graphics.

Will the graphic be expected to last for several years?

Graphic protection can greatly extend the expected performance life‚ and in many cases‚ the warranted durability of a graphic. Check the Product Bulletin for the base film to see how graphic protection impacts warranted durability.

Does the customer need the assurance of a strong warranty?

3M specifies that graphic protection be used on many warranted graphics‚ often depending on the base film used‚ the imaging technology and where the graphic will be used. In many cases‚ adding graphic protection can more than double the warranted durability of the graphic.

Are you using a polyolefin base film?

All films shrink to a certain extent‚ but polyolefin and vinyl shrink quite differently. In general‚ try to use a polyolefin overlaminate with a polyolefin film‚ or a vinyl overlaminate on a polyolefin film. However‚ it is not advisable to apply a polyolefin overlaminate to a vinyl film.

Do you need to apply the graphic protection as soon as the film comes off the printer?

With piezo inkjet printing‚ it’s important that solvent inks be thoroughly dried‚ not just dry to the touch. Applying graphic protection before the ink dries can result in bubbling. However‚ the bubbles will dissipate and flatten when exposed to heat and/or sunlight.

Do you need to change the gloss of the printed graphic?

Your print media could have anywhere from a matte to a gloss finish. The inks are likely to have a somewhat different level of light reflection. When your graphic needs high light reflectance under both sunlight and track lights‚ a very glossy graphic protection is a must. But if you have graphics that convey important information that must be readable from some distance‚ a matte or even ultra-matte overlaminate can substantially reduce unwanted glare. See Product Bulletin GP-1 for details.

Does the graphic need extra stiffness to make the installation or removal to the substrate easier?

Many overlaminates will add sufficient stiffness and make handling easier‚ but your roll laminator may also be able to apply an application tape concurrently with an overlaminate. A stiffer graphic can reduce installation and removal times‚ which translates to lower costs. Clears‚ on the other hand‚ typically do not improve handling.

Is your graphic destined for application to a curved‚ contoured‚ channeled or rough surface?

You absolutely need an overlaminate that can match the film’s ability for application to challenging surfaces. Anything less and the application will be time consuming and may even pop off or not meet the quality image test. You can count on flexibility when it comes to the 3M overlaminates that are recommended and warranted for contours on vehicles. For product recommendations‚ please see our Graphic Film Selector.

For more information on graphic protection‚ visit 3Mgraphics.com or locate a 3M distributor.