The Power of Lenticular Printing

by Greg Schuman, World3D Lenticular Printing

When printers and creative teams are tasked with grabbing attention and telling the story of a product, they need to reach into their proverbial bag of tricks. One of the best tools that print has to offer has a name that most people, even those in the creative world, can’t come up with. Lenticular printing has been around for at least 70 years and yet only recently have designers and advertisers started to harness its power as a serious marketing tool.

lenticular printing

What Exactly Is Lenticular Printing?

You have likely seen a printed image animate in your hands or as you walk by a retail display. If you’re old enough you may remember 3D baseball cards in Kellogg’s cereal boxes. It’s less likely that you knew to call it lenticular printing.

For many years, lenticular images were used as tchotchke—just a fun toy for kids. However, in recent years as advancements in both software and print technology have made for better and better lenticular quality, people have started to use the medium as a tool to convey marketing messages.

Lenticular printing, by definition involves printing onto lenticules, which are tiny lenses embossed on to the surface of a plastic sheet. That’s where it gets that odd name. A lenticular printer like World3D takes multiple images and interlaces them together to create a single digital file. That file is then printed directly onto the back of the lenticular lens sheet. When the viewer looks at the front of that printed sheet, the lenses (those tiny ridges) block all but one of the images from view. As the viewer turns the card, the lenses hide the first image and reveal the next image. This progression of images creates an animation.

lenticular printing

Conveying a Message with Movement

Animation allows for telling a story without the use of copy. While the animation itself can grab attention, the real power comes from being able to convey a message with movement. Lenticular in the past was the fun of a character dancing across a card. Lenticular now is as likely to show an industrial valve opening and closing in a unique way; the animation showing the functionality and telling a story that can’t otherwise be told in print.

Sometimes the fun character is the message. When Hasbro was releasing its latest product related to “Transformers: The Last Knight,” they worked with World3D Lenticular Printing to create a large-format lenticular poster. This was used as the centerpiece of a display that appeared in the endcap of every Walmart in the U.S. As shoppers walked past the display, they saw the character “transform” from a Chevy Camaro into the Bumblebee character. With this display they worked to grab the attention of shoppers but also to tell the story of both the character and the toy. 

While large-format lenticulars can fill up a giant architectural space or a retail environment, more common applications include lenticular postcards, premiums, magazine inserts and trade show giveaways. In general, any project that can use traditional litho print can use lenticular printing.

A Hologram? No, It’s 3D Lenticular

Along with animation, the other trick that lenticular printing can perform is to create an illusion of 3D depth. This is why lenticular often gets mistaken for a hologram or referred to as “holographic printing.” The 3D effect is created when a lenticular printer interlaces a layered Photoshop file in a way that creates a stereoscopic pair of images. As with the animated version, that interlaced file is printed onto the back of the lens sheet. However in this case, the lenticules are run vertically and serve to show a different image to each of the viewer’s eyes.

That difference between what is seen by the viewer’s left and right eyes creates an illusion of depth, and it can be quite impressive. While 3D lenticular images don’t quite tell a story, they can be a perfect match when marketing a 3D movie or product or even trying to convey a more realistic image of a landscape.

lenticular printing

Lenticular Design

Lenticular design is not significantly different from other print mediums. A good lenticular printer can help you choose the optimal number of frames to use and guide you on best design practices. For example, it’s best to avoid solid white backgrounds in order to prevent burn in from previous frames. Also, it’s best to minimize the contrast between the elements that appear in one frame compared to the elements in the frames next to it. There are practically no size limitations either. Lenticular printing has been used to create everything from postage stamps to billboards.

So the next time you’re trying to grab attention and convey a message, just reach into your bag of tricks. Now that lenticular printing is part of your toolbox, you’ll be prepared.

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