By Melissa Donovan
Specialty films breakout into many different categories and we cover them often in Digital Output, from chalkboard and whiteboard options to reflective, retro-reflective, and color shift. Metallized films are one segment in this category.
Holographic, sparkle, shimmer—these features made a name for themselves in the last few months as leading media vendors introduced products to their portfolios. While traditionally used in the cut vinyl space—ergo not printable—the newest available options are printable and available in rolls over 24 inches, ideal for wide format print service providers (PSPs).
While these materials aren’t currently commonplace, buyers from multiple backgrounds are interested in using them in display and point of purchase (POP), packaging, and architectural applications. With the pricing of metallized films higher than traditional media, they are mainly seen in high-end promotions or standout campaigns.
“Metallized specialty films are increasingly considered for their ability to bring light and movement that enhances static graphics. They can also give a premium look and feel for a brand that differentiates it in an often crowded space on the shelf or in the store,” explains Jodi Sawyer, strategic business unit manager – retail, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
Above: General Formulations’ GF 765 Rainbow Holographic is a 6-mil holographic film coated with a permanent acrylic pressure sensitive adhesive on a 90# layflat liner.
Metallized film like those with holographic, sparkle, or shimmer features are generally utilized to add a bit of pizazz to a job.
“They are commonly used in retail, events, stage design, shows, and exhibitions—everywhere where either high attention or classy appearance is necessary,” states Rene Bourgeois, VP sales North America, ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH.
Griff Decorative Films specialty films are used in sign making, automobile pinstriping and decals, POP displays, and crafting markets. They are also seen in national concert and television production displays, shares Ashlee Haney, brand manager, Griff Decorative Films.
Sawyer notes that these types of films are usually in the advertising specialty promotional market for stickers and decals. They are also popular for holiday/seasonal displays and are used as a decorative element or background effect on specialty consumer packaged goods labels.
A more practical use, metallized films replaced metal nameplates in the durable goods labeling market years ago, adds Sawyer. Metallized and other specialty films are used in lieu of real metal for displays or architectural applications.
“Holographic films are used in many applications. One application is labels—we see many of these showing up in the cannabis industry labeling some of their products. You will see these used on temporary signage advertising special events, many are found on decals at music festivals advertising the festival itself or the artists that are performing,” continues Michael Aldrich, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
While metallized films with touches of holographic, shimmer, or sparkle have always been available, recently we’ve seen them used in the digital space, especially wide format.
“These materials have historically been limited to cut applications or UV inks, and companies have responded by increasing access to these films for printing on HP Latex equipment or cross platform film. This allows more PSPs to use existing equipment for small run packaging and decal work, large displays, and even some partial wrap vehicle decals,” explains Jay Kroll, product manager for cut, transit, and wall solutions, General Formulations.
According to Roy Ritchie, president, DreamScape, there is no question the design community’s use and desire for special effect materials is growing. “This is in step with technology advancements in large format printing. As new machine capabilities and materials are released, designers explore previously unavailable options.”
“Traditionally, specialty films were primarily screenprinted. However, promotions have evolved, and specialty films are popular for targeted, seasonal promotions that can be accomplished with smaller print jobs, making them ideal for wide format digital printing,” notes Sawyer.
Sawyer credits the increased popularity of gaming, extreme sports, and specialty food products as directly influencing the demand for metallized specialty films that provide visual effects—light and movement—to provide an eye-catching differentiation for a brand.
“In recent years we have seen more of a demand for these types of materials. This could be because of the supply chain issues with other substrates in the industry making people more creative in how they sell their products and drawing more attention to their business or their client’s business,” suggests Aldrich.
The cost for metallized specialty film is higher than traditional, solid materials due to how they are manufactured.
Manufacturing special effect materials like metallized film is challenging. The process and raw materials used are unique, and often not produced in large batches, says Ritchie.
According to Aldrich, it can be a multi-step and multi-layer process to accomplish the effect needed.
“The price for metallized specialty film is slightly higher than solid non-metallized material. This is due to the production process and additional material needed to produce the effects,” agrees Haney.
Print providers should not treat the higher price as a deterrent. Instead, be strategic on how and where to use the product to generate maximum impact. “The value of using specialty films is determined by the application and how it functions for the end product. If it is used to replace real metal in a display while still providing the same look and feel, it’s likely not a barrier because the material and shipping costs for the display will be lower,” explains Sawyer.
Despite the cost, there are always customers looking to pay the price. “Cost is not a deterrent to being used because of the uniqueness of the material and the opportunities it can bring in comparison to tradtional materials,” shares John Sharkey, director of sales print and graphics, Nekoosa.
Printing to a metallized specialty film does present some nuances.
Whether or not the material in question is compatible with your ink type is important. “Not all ink systems provide the necessary bond to the types of films used to create metallized specialty films. It’s important to work with the manufacturer to understand the compatibility of your printing equipment,” advises Sawyer.
Other specifics to note, “printer settings need to accommodate the reflective nature of the film, as well as address proper ink adhesion to the surface. Special handling is also required as fingerprints are easily seen,” explains Kroll.
Color profiling may be a challenge. “If trying to accomplish color matching on these films, printing can be difficult because inks are translucent, and the color could change shades. One of the best ways to accomplish the color you are looking for over the metallized or holographic effect is if you have white ink in your printer, to print this as a base and lay your colored image over the white base,” recommends Aldrich.
“To get the full effect of reflective and glittering material, there must be different amounts of transparency throughout the graphic to cause translucency and create depth in the design,” adds Sharkey.
What About Finishing?
Differing from a solid film in appearance, metallic specialty films also present some unknowns for new users in the finishing part of the process.
The focus of a specialty film like metallized materials is appearance. “Any laminate would have some impact on their appearance, so they are mostly used without lamination,” says Bourgeois.
“Overlaminates are generally not used because the graphics are not durable long-term applications, and some laminates could take away from the visual effect/performance of the film,” shares Sawyer.
Kroll argues that laminates are suited for both protection and to give the material more body, making it easier to handle and apply than a thin metallized film alone.
Haney adds that while some customers may choose to use a laminate depending on their specific application, it is not required.
“Most of these films you can treat just like you would any other film. Cutting them is also very simple, yet you may want to check with the manufacturer to see if they would recommend a 45- or 60-degree cut blade in your cutter,” advises Aldrich.
With printable options growing, metallized films with holographic, shimmer, and sparkle features continue to add a level of high value to any application. If you want to learn more about this topic, visit digitaloutput.net/webinars to view an archived broadcast with input from vendors interviewed in this article.
Sep2022, Digital Output