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, or to preserve family photos or press flowers, among many other applications.
Finding the best laminating machine for your needs can be a challenge if you’re unfamiliar with the pros and cons of the different types of laminators in common use today. Read on for some tips and guidelines that will help you navigate and choose among the available options—and don’t miss our roundup of top-favorite picks below!
- BEST OVERALL: Fellowes Laminator Venus 2 125
- RUNNER UP: Fellowes Laminator Saturn3i 125
- BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: GBC Thermal Roll Laminator
- BEST FOR CRAFTING: ABOX Laminator Machine
- MOST VERSATILE: Swingline Laminator
- BEST PORTABLE: Scotch Thermal Laminator
- ALSO CONSIDER: Crenova A4 Laminator
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 those features can help you select a model that will deliver the results you desire.
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
Early on in your decision-making process, determine the number of rollers you would like your lamination machine to come with. 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.
Laminating machines typically 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, you’re best off opting for a model with a minimum of six rollers.
Hot laminators need time to heat up. The length of time it takes for a laminating machine to get hot varies by model.
Consider the laminating speed of any model you are considering. Particularly if you plan on laminating multiple items in a single session, a faster model may be more suitable for your needs.
Some roll laminators also offer adjustable speed settings. Slower speeds can be helpful when laminating multiple smaller items.
Finally, consider how many different types of items the machine can laminate. Some laminators can only laminate paper items, while other models work only with slightly thicker items, such as flowers, fabric, or leaves.
Our Top Picks
Using InstaHeat Technology, the Fellowes warms up quickly (within 60 second) and is capable of laminating up to 31 inches per minute. While many personal laminators have only two or four rollers, this model utilizes a six-roller system to ensure each item comes out properly sealed and bubble-free.
The Fellowes laminator can be used with hot or cold pouches up to 10 millimeters thick. This machine also has an AutoSense system that automatically adjusts its settings based on the thickness of the pouch being used.
Laminate documents up to 12.5 inches wide with heavy-duty laminator from Fellowes. 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 can take up to 5 minutes to be ready for use, the Fellowes uses InstaHeat Technology, which means it only needs about a minute to warm up. To conserve energy and prevent the machine from overheating, the Fellowes automatically shuts off when not actively in use. It also comes with 10 sample laminating pouches to help you get started.
The GBC can help teachers and other professionals quickly laminate stacks of papers, posters, decals, and other materials up to 27 inches wide. It works quickly too. This machine can laminate up to 120 inches per minute. During the lamination process, alignment guides help users keep their documents straight as they feed them through, and the unit’s AutoSpeed feature automatically 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. The GBC also boasts an auto-shutoff feature, as well as a protective shield to help prevent accidental injuries.
The ABOX thermal laminator uses a bubble heating system and thermal conductivity to evenly heat lamination pouches and deliver consistent, wrinkle-free results. Though it operates quietly, the ABOX doesn’t work especially quickly. It takes 3 to 5 minutes to heat up and has a maximum lamination speed of 9.8 inches per minute. Note that the machine accommodates paper material up to 13 inches in width.
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 both 3- and 5-millimeter laminating pouches and can laminate up to 10 inches per minute.
Weighing just 1 pound, the Scotch laminator is well worth considering if you are looking for a something lightweight and portable. This model has a 9-inch-wide slot and can laminate pouches that are 3 or 5 millimeters thick. Based on your lamination needs, you can choose between two temperature settings.
The Crenova can laminate papers up to 9.45 inches wide and is compatible with lamination pouches up to 4 millimeters thick. Once powered on, users must wait 3 to 5 minutes for the laminating machine to be hot enough to use. A green light lets you know when it’s ready for the lamination pouch.
Once it’s ready for use, this compact and lightweight model can laminate approximately 10 inches per minute. If any of the items being laminated get stuck in the machine, use the ABS lever to release the jam.
FAQs About Your Laminating Machine
If any questions remain as to which 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, it’s very important to consider the number of rollers in any model you are considering. Laminators with more rollers distribute more 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 your preferences and what you are laminating. The thickness of a pouch is measured in millimeters. Some common thicknesses include 1½, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 millimeters. Thinner pouches are more flexible, while thicker pouches are more rigid.
What’s the difference between a hot and cold laminating machine?
Hot laminators melt glue onto the plastic, sealing in the item being laminated. Cold laminators, on the other hand, remove the wrinkles or bubbles from cold laminating pouches. When using a thermal laminator, it’s more likely that air bubbles or creases may occur.