Composite wood-based decorative surfaces are created with the latest iterations of ancient decorative technologies – printing and embossing.   

Designers scour the world for sources and inspiration, which range from original art, to existing natural materials, to trees and lumber than may be hundreds or thousands of years old. Although literally extinct, these samples can still allow designers to use them in wonderful new ways.

Companies that create designs for decorative surfaces are known as décor printers. A handful of these companies print the vast majority of designs for laminates on special grades of décor papers in facilities around the world.   

Textures are created either with embossed steel plates or cylinders, or textured release papers. These designs are often created from the same digital files used by décor printers for greater realism, and in some cases may be synchronized to the printed design on the final surface.

 

 
 

+ Design Inspiration and Sources

Decor printers work with artists to source raw materials (original art, veneer, stone), which are photograph or scanned and digitally manipulated for scale and “pattern repeat” to fit the finished laminate application. They also offer catalogs of standard patterns inspired by the latest design trends which can be specified as-is printed in customized colorways.

+ Capture

Scanning/scanner information to come....

+ Gravure Printing

All engineered decorative surfaces begin with a design concept, interpreted and executed by décor printers. The basic décor papers used in HPL, TFM and paper-based foils are engineered for specific properties like absorbing the reactive resins required in the pressing stage, printability, and flexibility in the finished laminate. Solid-color papers in a natural wood tone, for example, eliminate the need for a “pad coat” of ink. The actual designs are most commonly printed on rotogravure presses in one to four stages, using primarily water-based inks.

Design concepts for laminates come from an infinite number of places, and with today’s technology the printed realizations of materials found in nature, industry, architecture, or even in the imagination, are stunningly vibrant. Special pearlescent inks can recreate the sheen of metals, or the reflective flare of a piece of finely finished wood as you turn it in your hands.

Laser engraving of printing cylinders is faster and more accurate than the traditional electro-mechanical technology. It enables greater print definition and detail in even the subtlest designs than was previously possible, sharper contrasts and smoother tonal gradients for greater dimensionality and realism.

Decor printers work with artists to source raw materials (original art, veneer, stone), which are photograph or scanned and digitally manipulated for scale and “pattern repeat” to fit the finished laminate application. They also offer catalogs of standard patterns inspired by the latest design trends which can be specified as-is printed in customized colorways.

+ Digital Printing

AFor the last several years décor printers have used digital inkjet rinting to create concept and proof prints for clients during the development process, and for low-volume custom designs for branding and wayfinding applications.

As printing speeds improve and ink compatibility issues are sorted out, some décor printers are able to offer commercial volumes of digitally printed custom designs.

+ Overlays

Another way laminate manufacturers bring additional design elements to a decorative laminate surface is to apply a transparent overlay embedded with fiber or particles from metals (aluminum, copper, gold), textiles and organic sources (coffee beans, banana fibers).

The paper carrier becomes transparent in the laminate pressing stage, and the embedded elements, known as “inclusions,” add an extra decorative layer over the solid-color or printed décor layer.

+ Textures

Texture is applied to all laminate materials. In HPL and TFL textures are applied during the pressing process, most commonly by etched hardened stainless steel plates, or press moulds, up to 5 ft x 10 ft in size.

Textured release papers may also be used, NEED MORE INFO HERE

Many suppliers offer "synchronized" textures, in which the embossed design is aligned exactly with the visual print - very effective in the case of woodgrains.

You can find much more on textures in THIS CEU

 

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