If you make stickers, you’ve probably wondered how to protect your sticker’s surface and make them more durable. Even if you’re not using your stickers for outdoor use (or need them to be dishwasher safe), it’s nice to have custom stickers that are scratch-resistant and can handle some wear and tear. In my last tutorial, I showed you how easy it is to use self-adhesive laminating sheets. This post will deep dive into one of those methods, and show you how easy it is to use a thermal laminating machine to heat laminate stickers. AND to make it fun, I created a FREE digital download sticker sheet with blooms and butterflies that you can use to follow along with this tutorial!
Curious about what the 3 Best Methods to Protect and Waterproof Your Stickers are? I have the pros and cons of each in my post.
Table of Contents
Are You Curious About Heat Laminating Stickers?
I put together a few quick questions and answers when I was first looking into this method. Let me know if you have a question that isn’t answered, and I’ll add it to this section.
What is Thermal (Heat) Laminating?
Thermal laminating is a process that adds a protective vinyl layer over your stickers or labels by using heat to melt a permanent adhesive layer over your product. This makes them a higher quality product and gives them a more professional look.
Most people know the term heat laminate better than thermal laminate but they are the same thing.
I love this method for making DIY stickers because it’s such a time saver over the spray sealant method. With that method, you have to wait in between each coat, and you have to test the stickers to make sure you have enough coats on them. With the trick in the tutorial below, I’ll show you how to laminate twice as fast.
Why Heat Laminate to Protect Your Stickers
It’s a serious time-saving hack for making stickers in quantity. If you’re doing more than just a couple of sheets at a time, this method really shines because you can do two sheets simultaneously. It’s also pretty foolproof in the application process. as it uses a two roller automatic process for feeding the sticker sheets through the machine.
This means you can knock a lot of stickers super fast and you don’t have to worry about getting air bubbles.
My most important tip is to MAKE SURE your machine is warmed up before you use it.
Most laminating machines will tell you when they’re ready for use with indicator light.
If you laminate before it’s ready the plastic coating can peel off your stickers later. Not cool (ask me how I know 😂)
When You Shouldn’t Heat Laminate Your Stickers
This laminating process protects your stickers or decals, but because the laminate is a little thick, it isn’t the most ideal choice for curved surfaces.
*** Super Important- For a water bottle or food container that you need to be waterproof, you’d probably want to use the Self-Adhesive Laminate over printable vinyl.
When Heat Laminates is a Great Choice for Your Project
Heat laminating is a great choice for laptop car window decals, bumper stickers, school supplies, or any other place where you would want to protect your stickers.
Although laminating stickers does make them more fade-resistant, it is still a good idea (especially for window stickers) to check if the printer inks you’re using have UV protection.
What Type of Sticker Papers Can You Use to Make Laminated Stickers?
You can use printable sticker paper or printable vinyl. Make sure that whichever paper you choose is compatible with your printer. On the sticker paper packaging, it should tell you if it’s made for inkjet or laser printers.
For sticker paper (or printable vinyl sheets), you can use glossy or matte finishes but keep in mind that the matte will have a satin-like finish because you’re adding a layer of plastic over the top.
Note: When I realized this I thought maybe I could save a little money by using matte sticker paper- thinking that the laminating would make it glossy. So I did some comparison testing and you can see the results below!
In the comparison photos below, and you can see that it does make a difference whether you use matte or glossy sticker paper.
Personally, I love full-color stickers and feel like the glossy sticker paper (or glossy printable vinyl) adds a little extra vibrancy to the finished product.
You can purchase pouches or laminating sheets in a matte laminate, satin laminate, as well as a gloss laminate. AND if you’d like to make clear labels, you can still have perfectly clear laminate when you use the heat method.
You can also purchase 3 mil or 5 mil thicknesses, but only do this if the machine you purchase is made to do both sizes.
How Much does a Laminating Machine Cost?
Not as much as you may think! I assumed for a long time that they would be expensive, but found out that a nice quality machine is between $25 and $45.
I purchased a Scotch-brand machine that has an automatic shut-off and has two rollers so it presses both sides of the laminating pouch as it heats it. But the Amazon Basics laminating machine has also gotten great reviews and has some nice features.
You can get 100 pouches in a box pretty inexpensively, and because we’re doing two sheets per pouch*, that’s 200 laminated sticker sheets. I’ve even heard rumors you can buy these in bulk at the dollar store.
* See this in action in the tutorial below!
Why You’ll Love Your Thermal Laminating Machine
One of the best reasons for investing in a laminating machine over self-adhesive sheets is that it’s fun.
I know- totally not a practical consideration, but I craft for enjoyment, and I really enjoy seeing the laminated stickers come out of the machine. 😂
But the final product turns out consistently beautiful, it does the job of protecting my stickers really well, I can choose the matte or glossy, and it is inexpensive (after you purchase the machine).
Add the fun factor and this is a GREAT option for protecting your stickers or labels.
And BONUS! You can also use a thermal laminating machine to add foil to your craft projects!
Curious? Abbi Kirsten Collections has a great Foiled Christmas Cards tutorial where she shows you how to do this with a laser printer (or send the files to your local print shop) and a laminator.
How to Heat Laminate Stickers
Tools and Materials for Laminating
- Blooms and Butterflies Sticker Download from Free Library
- Thermal Laminating Machine
- Laminating Pouches
- Sticker Paper or Printable Vinyl*
- Printer- Home Inkjet Printer ( I love my Canon Crafter’s Printer) or Laser Printer
- Cricut Cutting Machine- Cricut Explore Air 2 or Cricut Maker
- Green Standard Cutting Mat
- Fine Point Blade (comes with Cricut)
* For help deciding which sticker papers are right for your project, check out this handy dandy post!
Instructions for Heat Laminating Stickers
Step One: Upload Your Sticker Design into Cricut Design Space
I have so many free sticker downloads in my Free Library, but I added the Blooms and Butterflies Sticker Sheet as a freebie to the library for this post.
To begin, open a new canvas in Cricut Design Space, and the right-side toolbar, select Upload.
Then choose your design file to upload. This will start the image upload process. Choose Complex, and then skip the Clean-Up screen.
On the next page, choose Save as a Print then Cut by clicking on the image, and then on the Save.
This brings your image into your Uploaded Images Gallery, and you can click to Select it and then choose Insert Images in the lower right corner. This opens the design in your canvas.
Step Two: Size and Save Your Design
The sticker design will import larger than it needs to be and you will need to size it down as Cricut Design Space limits Print then Cut to 6.75″ x 9.25″ (you’ll see the DANGER! icon on the layer if it’s too large.)
In the Size box in the top toolbar, change the width to 6.75,” and because the constraints are locked, this will automatically adjust the height as well.
Then hit the Save in the right of the top toolbar. (I love the new Collections feature!)
Step Three: Print the Sticker Sheets (Print 2x)
Follow the instructions on the screen to Print your sticker sheets.
Turn off bleed.
Hit Print. If you turned on the System Dialog, it would open behind your browser, and you’ll have to minimize the window to see it.
You can toggle on System Dialog or not. If you do, it engages your printer’s* dialog so that you can use the settings on your printer.
For instance, if you want, you can set the paper type, the print quality, or the tray you want to use. You will also have to set the # of copies here.
*Because my Canon Crafter’s Printer has a rear-feed option, I like to use it for any thicker papers as it eliminates any possibility of the paper jamming. You do not need a printer with this option to print most sticker papers- but it is awesome for heavy cardstock.
Step Four: Laminate Your Sticker Sheets
Turn on the laminating machine. As it warms up, open a laminating pouch. This is basically a folder that’s been sealed at the top. Place two of your sticker sheets back-to-back and snug them up against the top of the pouch.
Once the machine is ready to laminate, place your pouch so that the sealed side goes in first. For the machine that I have, I have to position it, and then the machine will automatically pull it through.
Note: Make sure that the back guide is fully extended and clicks into place or you will most likely feed your pouch in crookedly.
Step Five: Cut Your Sheets Apart
Use a scissor to cut off the extra laminated plastic around your sheets. This separates the two sticker sheets.
Step Six: Prep Your Sticker Sheets to Cut
In Cricut Design Space, you’ll see the Mat Preview Screen. It shows you how to position your sticker sheet on a cutting mat. Use a green cutting mat and place your sticker sheet in the upper right corner as shown.
Note: I usually recommend the Light Grip Cricut Cutting Mat (light blue) for stickers, but because of the added thickness of the laminated sheets, the Cricut Standard Grip Cutting Mat (green) seems to hold it in place better. If you only have Light Grip mats, see the note below.
Note: If you’re having an issue with the backing of the sticker paper sticking to the mat too much, you can use the Light Grip Cutting Mat but secure your sticker paper’s edges to the mat with blue painter’s tape.
Step Seven: Choose Your Material Setting and Cut the Stickers
On the next page, you choose the Material Setting. For die-cut laminated stickers, I found that using the Holographic Kraft Board setting works well, and for kiss-cut sticker sheets, the Stencil .04 setting worked well.
Follow the rest of the prompts and Cut your stickers.
ALWAYS check your stickers to make sure that they cut through before you Unload the mat. If it hasn’t cut all the way through, you can repeat the cut by pressing the Go (Cricut) button as many times as needed.
Note: If your Cricut says it can’t read the registration box, try reloading your machine or cancel the cut and then start over again. If this doesn’t work, then you can try using transparent matte tape to cover the lines. This cuts down on any glare that may be confusing the Cricut’s Print then Cut sensor.
Step Eight: Remove the Stickers and Trim the Sheets (if necessary)
There is a bit of a trick to removing stickers from a mat.
For Kiss Cut Sticker Sheets: Flip your mat over and peel it back, keeping the stickers as flat as possible as you do it. This keeps your stickers from curling. If they do curl, you can press them flat under a stack of books.
For Die-Cut Stickers: 1) Peel off the extra material around the individual stickers.
2) Then, use a sharp weeding tool or spatula tool to get underneath the sticker and give a little twist. This will loosen the stickers so that you can remove them from the cutting mat without tearing or pulling off the backing paper.
Get Free Stickers!
Download the FREE Blooms and Butterflies Sticker Sheet that I used in this tutorial and make your own stickers!
MORE Ideas for How to Use Heat Laminating Machines
Again, laminating your stickers makes a great product (your stickers!) even better. If you sell your stickers, it’s a great purchase point to say that the stickers are high quality and protected with a laminate coating.
Laminated stickers make great custom labels that are the perfect size for your organizational needs as well. Use a dry erase marker, and you can write on the laminated surface and then wipe it off later.
This is great for making the children’s handwriting practice mats that are super popular too!
Troubleshooting Your Laminating
Since I wrote this article, I have gotten a few emails and questions about using a thermal laminator. So here are a few of those questions and the answers I found.
How Did I Get Bubbles in My Sheet?
This actually happens when your ink isn’t dry enough, and the heat on the laminator is too high. If you’re using a laminator with temperature settings, you’ll want to turn it down. If you just have the option to choose 3 ml vs. 5 ml, toggle to the 3 ml as this is a lower setting.
Then run it through the laminator again.
Why are My Stickers Cloudy After Laminating?
This happens when the machine is not hot enough. Check to be sure you’re using it on the right setting, and that you let it heat up enough.
Why are There Streaks On My Laminated Stickers?
There may be adhesive on your rollers. Check the manual for your laminator or on the manufacturer’s website to see how to clean your machine.
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