Laminating is an extremely useful way of preserving and protecting key photos, documents, and other paper items (or even certain non-paper items), whether for professional or personal reasons. The process involves coating the document or item in question in a plastic sheet, cover, or wrapper. This thin plastic layer keeps the item in mint condition and protects it from rips, bends, moisture, and other accidental damage. It also gives the paper or item a wipe-clean surface, allowing people to draw or write on it with dry-erase pens or markers. Some people even find that lamination enhances the colors and presentation of their documents and photos or makes them appear more professional.
From cherished vacation photos to ID badges, menus, business cards, scrapbooks, recipe cards, and beyond, there are plenty of situations where you might find yourself wanting to laminate an item or items. And the best way to laminate items is, of course, with a laminating machine. Somewhat similar in design and shape to printers, laminating machines use an internal roller plus heat and pressure to adhere the plastic to your papers or photos. Odds are good that your work office or school has at least one on hand, but there are plenty of models that are designed to keep at home for your personal use. Here are a few home laminators we recommend.
What to Consider in a Laminators
Here are a few things to think about before buying a laminator:
- Compatibility: Before you buy a laminator, think about the types of documents, papers, or items you’ll be laminating and how large they are. Not all laminators work with every single size of paper or laminator pouches. Some will work only with standard-sized paper and are thus no good for laminating business cards, for example. Others are made for specific items, like photos. Some work only with paper, some with non-paper items as well. Basically, certain laminators will have a wide range of compatibility while others will be more limited, so be sure to check that any laminator you buy will work for the papers and items you’ll need laminated. You’ll also want to ensure they’re compatible with the type and thickness of the pouch or cover or wrapper you plan to encase your items in.
- Features: There are some highly useful features and functions you can look for in a laminator that will make the process work more quickly, smoothly, and efficiently for your convenience. While laminators can only handle one sheet of paper or items at a time, there are some models that you can feed several pieces of paper into at once, handy for projects that require a high volume of laminated objects. Some are designed to heat up and be ready to use quickly, within a few mere minutes, or automatically shut off when inactive for a certain amount of time in order to save energy. Others have anti-jam technology or temperature control in case you have items that you’re nervous about overheating inside the laminator. And some come with laminating pouches or covers, so you don’t have to go out and buy your own right away.
- Uses: Some laminators aren’t just laminators but can serve two or three other purposes as well. Some have built-in paper cutters, which may be accompanied by a ruler or graph for measuring more precise cuts. Others also work as or come with corner rounders, which may be a useful addition to anyone who likes to create their own photo albums or scrapbooks. And some also come with built-in hole punchers. If you want a little more bang for your buck or a more versatile laminator, look for machines with these bonus features.
Best for Photos: Scotch TL901X Thermal Laminator
A modern upgrade of a classic design, this quintessential laminator is slim and compact enough to fit on your home desk yet strong enough to get the job done. It has not one but two heated rollers inside for extra laminating power, which helps ensure smoother, bubble-free, wrinkle-free lamination. It’ll work on any item up to 9 inches wide, and while it functions best with Scotch Brand Thermal Laminating Pouches, it’s compatible with any laminating pouches up to 5 milliliters thick.
This laminator has two different temperature settings, allowing you a better degree of control and the ability to turn down the heat if you so desire. It’s also completely safe to use on photographs (as long as they’re under the requisite 9 inches). As a bonus, your purchase comes with two letter-sized laminator pouches in addition to the machine to help you get started. Be sure to plug this laminator only into a grounded 120V outlet; do not use it with a voltage or outlet converter.
Scotch Thermal Laminator, 2 Roller System for a Professional Finish, Use for Home, Office or School, Suitable for use with Photos (TL901X)
A slim, compact, modern laminator that is completely safe for photographs.
Best Anti-Jam: Scotch Brand TL906 PRO Thermal Laminator
If you’ve ever dealt with a jammed or backed up printer at some point, you know firsthand what a frustrating, time-consuming, and all-around unpleasant experience that is. It’s an incident you’re likely not eager to repeat with either a printer or laminator. Fortunately, this particular model can help prevent you from experiencing this again. It’s equipped with anti-jam technology, so you won’t have to worry about your items misfiring. You won’t have to worry about documents backing up or clogging your laminator or your precious photos and papers getting ruined as a result.
Thanks to the two rollers inside, this machine laminates up to 15 inches of paper per minute. It works with all papers up to 9 inches wide and with thermal laminating pouches anywhere from three to five milliliters thick. It only takes about five minutes to warm up and be ready to go to work and has an auto-shutoff after an hour inactive to help save you energy. A bright green LED light flickers on when the machine is fully warmed up. The touch controls and buttons are easy to use. This laminator also comes with a built-in cord storage space and foldable input tray, allowing you to save space when it’s not in use. Be sure to use this machine only with a 120V outlet, never with a voltage or outlet converter.
Scotch Brand PRO Thermal Laminator, Never Jam Technology Automatically Prevents Misfed Items, 2 Roller System, 9 inch (TL906)
You won't have to worry about jams or your items getting stuck and ruined with this laminator and its never jam technology.
Most Versatile: Toyuugo 4 in 1 Laminator Machine
This laminator comes as part of a bundle with other tools that are perfect for anyone who likes to create their own photos or scrapbooks. For one reasonable price, you receive not only a high-quality, versatile laminating machine but a paper cutter, corner rounder, and 15 laminator pouches. A user manual comes included as well to help guide you through the proper use of your new tools for better quality laminating.
The machine itself warms up incredibly quickly, taking no longer than five minutes and as few as three to be ready to work for you. The green light on the laminator’s body lights up once it’s fully prepared. And once it’s warmed up, the machine is capable of laminating up to 11 inches of paper per minute. It’s compatible with A4, A5, and A6 size paper, which should suit most of your personal laminating needs. If you’re looking to laminate older or more delicate or sensitive photos or documents, you can switch from hot to cold mode to ensure they won’t become damaged or overheat during the laminating process. This machine is also equipped with an ABS level that you can push to release and safely remove any papers or pouches that become accidentally stuck or jammed while laminating.
Laminator, Toyuugo A4 Laminator Machine, 4 in 1 Thermal Laminator for Home Office School Use, 9 inches Max Width, Quick Warm-Up, Paper Trimmer, Corner Rounder (15 Laminating Pouches)
A laminator that comes with a paper cutter, grid, and corner round that makes it an ideal choice for photo albums and scrapbooking.
Most Compatible: Eficentline YE381 Laminator Machine for A3/A4/A6
If you’re unsure of what size of items you’ll be needing to laminate or want to ensure you can laminate documents and photos in a variety of different sizes, consider this laminator. It’s compatible with laminating pouches as small as a business card and as large as A3 paper (which is bigger than standard-sized) to cover most if not all of your home laminating needs.
Useful as this machine’s compatibility is, that’s not the only benefit it brings to your desk. It’ll heat up quickly and boasts a quiet double roller system for the laminating process, able to laminate just under 10 inches per minute. If classic thermal laminating is too hot for your needs, this machine supports cold laminating as well. It’s easy to operate, and the built-in ABS button allows you to quickly and smoothly remove any stuck papers or pouches should a jam arise. As a bonus, this laminator comes with not just a corner rounder but three different paper trimmers, so you can cut your papers with straight, perforated, or waved edges if you so desire. The rotary, built-in grid lines, and removable metal bar make the cutting and trimming process that much more accurate and smooth. 50 laminating pouches, 25 in A4 size (for standard paper) and 25 in A6 size, also come included with your purchase.
Laminator Machine for A3/A4/A6, YE381 Thermal Laminating Machine for Home Office School Use with 50 Pouches, Paper Trimmer and Corner Rounder (Black-5) (Black-6)
A highly compatible laminating machine that will work with small and large items alike.