Laminating machines, or “laminators,” can preserve important items by encasing them in plastic. These nifty machines use heated rollers to melt glue onto lamination film. You can use a laminator to protect important documents from tearing or fading over time. Laminators can also be used to create makeshift dry-erase checklists and grocery lists, press flowers, and preserve family photos, among other tasks.
If you’re unsure of what to look for, finding the best laminating machine can pose a challenge. In addition to offering a list of high-quality product suggestions, this guide is designed to help you find a top-notch laminating machine.
- BEST OVERALL: Fellowes Laminator Venus 2 125
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Laminator, Crenova A4 Laminator
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Fellowes 5736606 Laminator Saturn3i 125
- BEST FOR SCHOOLS: GBC Thermal Roll Laminator
- BEST HOT: ABOX Laminator, 13-Inch Thermal Laminator
- BEST COLD: Swingline Laminator, Thermal
- BEST PORTABLE: Scotch Thermal Laminator, 2 Roller System
Types of Laminating Machines
When looking for a laminating machine, decide whether you need a hot laminating machine or a cold laminating machine. Each type has pros and cons.
As the name implies, hot laminators use heat to melt the adhesive material on laminating pouches or film. When the adhesive melts, both sides of the pouch or film adhere to each other, encasing the item to be preserved. Hot laminating machines offer a quick and easy way to protect documents and often produce a more durable finished product.
However, hot laminator machines aren’t exactly user-friendly. It can take some time to learn how to use one to deliver flawless results. They also start slowly and require a lot of heat to work properly. If used incorrectly, users can burn themselves.
Instead of heat, cold laminators use pressure to thoroughly seal the adhesive onto a laminating pouch. Unlike the laminating pouches used with hot laminators, heat is not required to seal the pouches for a cold machine. The laminator helps remove air bubbles and creases to create an attractive finished product.
Cold laminating machines are usually less expensive and easier to use than hot laminators. Moreover, cold laminating machines can laminate one or both sides of an item, a useful function when making decorations or decals. On the other hand, items laminated with a cold laminator may not be as durable as those laminated with a hot laminator.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminating Machine
Once you’ve decided on the type of laminator, there are a few shopping considerations to think over as well. Each laminator offers different features, and understanding each feature is essential in helping to select a model that will deliver the desired results.
Laminating machines come in pouch and roll styles. Pouch laminators seal special, pre-sized laminating pouches, while roll laminators work with two rolls of laminating film.
Laminating pouches are sized specifically for business cards, photos, letters, legal paper, and more. If an item is not a standard size, trim off the excess material after laminating it. In a pouch laminator, each item must be placed into the pouch and fed through the machine one at a time; as a result, pouch laminators don’t work as quickly as roll laminators.
Roll laminators are wider than pouch laminators, can laminate more than one item at a time, and have two rolls of laminating film. One layer of the film sits under the item being laminated, while the other layer sits on top of the item.
As an item is fed through a roll laminator, the heat causes the two layers of film to adhere to one another. Roll laminators are more expensive than pouch laminators and require a large amount of space. A roll laminator can’t be placed in a drawer or on a shelf when not in use.
Number of Rollers
Before purchasing a new laminator, determine the number of rollers you need. Laminators with more rollers distribute heat better, which helps to melt the adhesive. The more rollers the laminator has, the more pressure is applied to the item being laminated, which results in a tighter seal with fewer air bubbles or wrinkles.
Most laminating machines have two, four, or six rollers, though some may have more. If choosing a machine for personal use, two to four rollers may be sufficient. On the other hand, for a school or workplace, opt for a model with a minimum of six rollers.
Like an iron or hair straightener, hot laminators need time to heat up. The length of time it takes for a laminating machine to get hot varies by model. Before making a purchase, find out how long it takes for each model to be ready to use. A product with a short heating time may better suit your needs.
Next, consider the laminating speed of each model. If you plan on laminating multiple items at the same time, a faster model helps complete the task more quickly.
Some roll laminators also offer adjustable speed settings. Slower speeds can be helpful when laminating multiple smaller items.
Finally, consider the versatility of each laminating machine. If it’s a pouch laminator, determine if it can be used with pouches of different thicknesses or if it’s compatible with only one size.
Additionally, consider how many different types of items the machine can laminate. Some laminators can only laminate paper items, while other models may work with slightly thicker items, such as flowers, fabric, or leaves.
Our Top Picks
After a considerable amount of research that considered the features outlined above, as well as high-quality and trusted manufacturers, this list represents some of the best laminating machines for a variety of purposes.
Using InstaHeat Technology, the Fellows Venus Laminator takes 30 to 60 seconds to warm up, capable of laminating up to 31 inches per minute. While most personal laminators have only a two- or four-roller system, this model utilizes a six-roller system to ensure each item comes out properly sealed and bubble-free.
The Fellows Venus Laminator can be used with hot or cold pouches up to 10 millimeters thick. This machine also has an AutoSense system that automatically adjusts the lamination setting based on the thickness of the pouch.
The Crenova Laminator can laminate papers up to 9.45 inches wide. Once powered on, users must wait 3 to 5 minutes for the laminating machine to be hot enough to use. A green light lets users know it’s ready for the lamination pouch. This model can laminate approximately 10 inches per minute and is compatible with lamination pouches up to 4 millimeters thick.
If any of the items being laminated get stuck in the machine, use the ABS lever to release the jam. This model is compact and lightweight, which means it’s easy to transport or stow in a desk drawer when not in use.
Laminate documents up to 12½ inches wide with the Fellowes Saturn3i 125 Laminator. This model can accommodate 3- and 5-millimeter hot lamination pouches as well as self-adhesive cold lamination pouches. Its maximum speed is 12 inches per minute.
While other laminating machines may take up to 5 minutes to be ready to use, this model uses InstaHeat Technology, which means it needs just a minute to warm up. Once it’s ready to use, a green light accompanied by a beep alerts users. To conserve energy and prevent the machine from overheating, this laminator automatically shuts off when not in use. It also comes with 10 sample laminating pouches to help users get started.
The GBC Thermal Roll Laminator can help teachers and other professionals quickly laminate a large stack of papers, posters, decals, and more. It can laminate up to 120 inches per minute and has a wide 27-inch opening to accommodate larger items. It features alignment guides to help users keep their documents straight as they feed them through. The AutoSpeed feature adjusts the speed to the ideal level based on the specific document being laminated.
A 10-minute warm-up time gets this laminator hot and ready for use. Use it with lamination films up to 3 millimeters thick. Front and back buttons allow users to stop the laminator to prevent wasting film. It also has an auto-shutoff feature and a protective shield to help prevent accidental injuries.
The ABOX thermal laminator features a bubble heating system and aluminum thermal conductivity pipework together to evenly heat lamination pouches. The machine’s motor and two rollers also help deliver consistent results, providing wrinkle- and bubble-free finished products.
This machine can laminate paper up to 13 inches wide and includes a corner rounder. It takes 3 to 5 minutes to heat up and has a maximum lamination speed of 9.8 inches per minute. This laminator operates quietly, and an attached paper cutter can cut eight sheets at a time.
Swingline’s personal-use laminator offers both hot and cold settings to laminate documents up to 12 inches wide. Switching between the two settings is as easy as flipping a switch from one side to the other. The laminating machine has a single power setting, and will automatically adjust to the thickness of the pouch being fed through it. It can be used with 3- and 5-millimeter laminating pouches and can laminate up to 10 inches per minute.
The Swingline laminator gets hot in 4 minutes and an indicator light lets you know when it’s ready to use. If the laminator happens to jam, use the release lever to remove the pouches and documents.
Weighing just 1 pound, Scotch’s Thermal Laminator is ideal for those looking for a device that’s lightweight and easily portable. It can laminate pouches that are 3 or 5 millimeters thick and has a 9-inch wide slot.
This model uses a two-roller system to evenly distribute heat and remove creases and air bubbles from the items being laminated. It’s warmed up and ready for use after 5 to 8 minutes. Choose between two temperature settings based on your lamination needs.
FAQs About Your Laminating Machine
A few frequently asked questions about laminating machines follow. If any questions remain as to which product is the best laminating machine for you, the answers to these questions may provide additional guidance.
Is the number of rollers really that important when choosing a laminating machine?
Yes, the number of rollers in a lamination machine is an important feature. Laminators with more rollers distribute additional heat and pressure to evenly and securely seal the items undergoing lamination.
What pouch thickness do I need for laminating?
The most suitable pouch thickness varies, depending on what you’re laminating and your preferences. The thickness of a pouch is measured in millimeters; some common thicknesses include 1½, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 millimeters, or “mils.” Pouches with a lower thickness are more flexible, and those with a high thickness are more rigid.
What’s the difference between a hot and cold laminating machine?
Hot laminators use heat to seal thermal laminator film or pouches. The heat melts the glue on the plastic, sealing in the item being laminated. Cold laminators remove the wrinkles or bubbles from cold laminating pouches.
One difference between thermal laminating pouches and cold laminating pouches is that the latter are self-adhesive. When using a thermal laminator, it’s more likely air bubbles or creases may occur.