Cover materials are fundamental to the design of any project. They dictate the look, the durability, and even the feel of your finished product. The importance of choosing the right cover material simply cannot be understated. But with all of the different materials from which there are to choose, how do you determine which form best meets your function?
What are the Most Commonly Used Cover Materials?
There are thousands of cover materials available and designing with them is limited only by your imagination…and your budget. But in order to discuss them in this venue, I will start out by classifying the materials most commonly used in Cut Flush, Turned Edge, and Dielectrically Sealed (Tear Seal) applications.
Cut Flush Application
Linear Polyethylene: A modified polyolefin material. Linear Polyethylene is an incredibly durable material which comes in a variety of colors. Polyethylene (poly) will wipe clean of grease or oil and will not crack when exposed to extreme cold. It comes in many gauges and of course, as the gauge increases, so does the price. This is the most popular cover material used in this application and can be hot stamped, silk screened, or embossed.
Lexide: High quality cover stock, non-woven material made of pure rag fibers mixed with latex. The material is then acrylic coated. This coating gives lexide its sturdy yet bendable finish, and also makes it washable and moisture proof. Lexide materials are measured in thousandths and are available in thicknesses of .017, .025, and .030. Pajco® is a "name brand" example of lexide which comes in a variety of colors, prints, and embossings. Lexide can be hot stamped, silk screened, embossed, or debossed.
Boxboard: Boxboard coated on one side (C1S) is measured in thousandths and is often laminated to .003 Mylar or Acetate. Another option that is similar to this is graphic white cover stock which does not require lamination such as Kivar 3-17 and Kivar 3-22. These materials are offset printable, can be hot stamped, foil stamped, embossed, and debossed.
Turned Edge Application
Canvas: According to Richard D. Simmons in his book, "Custom Loose Leaf – A Dynamic Industry," canvas was actually the first material used in this type of application.
Paper: Coated papers, impregnated papers, and latex saturated papers. An endless variety of graphic white cover stock ready to be printed and wrapped, or colored papers which can be hot stamped, silk screened, letter press printed, embossed, or debossed. Decorative techniques vary between the many different coated paper products available, as do the limitless number of colors, textures, grains, and embossings.
Supported Vinyl: PVC supported by a 100 percent cotton or synthetic woven or paper base. Can be foil stamped, hot stamped, and silk screened.
Book Cloth: Aqueous acrylic impregnated cloth. Woven substrates are visible through the color of the material, giving it a unique look associated with books. Book cloth can be stamped with inks, foils, silk screened, or letter press printed.
Buckram: Combination of poly/cotton woven base fabric with an aqueous color coating. Durable material with many color choices which can be hot stamped, silk screened, embossed, or debossed.
Cloth: Pyroxylin coated woven cotton base materials such as imitation leather. These materials come in a variety of colors and textures. Other non-coated cloth materials such as Brillante and Cialux offer many unique visuals. Decorating techniques include hot stamping, silk screening, embossing, and debossing.
Leather: As the name implies, it's genuine leather, and it's the Cadillac of cover materials. Cowhide, pigskins, and sheepskin are the animal skins available. Pricey, but, it's the real deal. Leather is most often hot stamped or blind embossed.
Dielectrically Sealed Application
Vinyl: The vinyl used for this application is PVC combined with stabilizers, plasticizers, and color pigments in order to give it the look, feel, pliability, and durability required. Clear vinyl is often used for pockets and entrapments. Supported vinyl can be used in dielectrically sealed applications if a secondary, diecut operation is employed. Vinyl comes in many colors and prints. There are various decorative techniques you can employ with vinyl, including silk screening, hot stamping, appliqué, dielectric debossing, and offset printing.
What Are You Making?
Knowing what you are making along with its end use will help dictate which cover materials to use, and which to rule out. For example, if a customer comes to you and says he wants a sturdy cut flush binder, where durability above all else is needed, polyethylene is an incredibly rugged material which, as stated, will not easily crack when exposed to the elements. Or perhaps you are making a case bound binder with an accompanying slip case. The customer ordering these slip cases and binders will be using them for presentation purposes, as well as shipping them to various tradeshows throughout the year. Therefore, the finished product should be durable, but also have an upscale look and feel. In this instance, imitation leather would hold up to the wear and tear of usage, but also satisfy the look of the piece. Or let's say a customer wants an attractive binder, and wants to be able to switch out the artwork on the cover every few months. A dielectrically heat sealed vinyl binder with a clear overlay would provide the flexibility the customer needs for the artwork. So again, knowing the finished product and even more importantly, asking your customer about the end use of the product, will give you insight as to what the customer really wants, performance-wise, out of the piece. This will not only help guide you in choosing the right material, but will hopefully keep your customers happy and coming back with more orders.
What is Your Budget?
Here again, communication with your customer is key. You can build the customer a Rolls Royce, or you can build a Honda Civic. Either one is going to get them customer from Point A to Point B, but the monthly payment will be a bit different, right? So, if the customer, (like myself) has champagne taste but a budget for beer, you may want to suggest a cut flush binder and use a heavy weight lexide for the cover. You are saving on the construction of the piece, but spending more on the material, hence, giving the binder a more expensive look and feel. Sky's the limit? How about a beautiful, hand boarded, pigment finished Genuine Cowhide cover material in red with a logo embossed on the front and fleur de lie design foil stamped on the rounded corners. Again, does the customer want the Rolls, the Civic, or something in between?
Is Durability a Factor?
Everyone wants their finished product to be durable, but when making a piece, we need to know how durable. This goes back to knowing the end use of your project. If a binder needs to stand up to being used in the field and then tossed into a car trunk, where it will probably be exposed to extreme cold or extreme heat, poly is probably the best to go. Poly provides that type of rugged durability. If however, by durability, the customer wants a case bound binder that will stand the test of time and show little sign of wear and tear, Group F Buckram would certainly be an option (along with high quality board, adhesives, and binding mechanisms).
How Will You be Decorating?
Appliqué and dielectric debossing are limited to vinyl and hence, tear seal construction. As previously discussed, many of the materials commonly used in loose leaf can be silk screened, hot stamped, foil stamped, embossed, and debossed. But often you will need to produce a piece that is entirely covered in printed artwork and needs a crisp, clear image. You can get very good results with latex saturated, acrylic coated white cover stock used as a wrap. Some of these stocks are designed to be very durable, as well as to really respond to offset lithography. And again, they do not require the extra step of lamination, because they already have been treated with a coating. That saves you drying and laminating time.
There are always new cover materials out there; new colors, new patterns, new textures, new technologies. Stay on top of what's out there and share that information with your customers. Customers will look to you as a source for "what's new" and that's very valuable.
To sum up, there are obviously many different cover materials that can be used in our industry – too many, in fact, to name them all here. But in choosing the best material for the project at hand, it is important to consult with your customer and know exactly what the customer wants and how the finished product will be used. The choice of cover material, along with all the other components, hinges (pardon the pun) on that information. If that objective is met, then you should hopefully always have a happy customer. And a happy customer is a repeat customer.
Ivana Bevacqua is in the Marketing Department at Gane Brothers & Lane, Inc. Gane Brothers & Lane has been supplying cover materials since 1846. Today the company sells over 2,000 products to the book, loose leaf, packaging, and allied graphics industries. Visit Gane Brothers & Lane online at www.ganebrothers.com or call (800) 323-0596.