There are many different types of laminating material, but almost all of it is made to be used with items that are not printed digitally. If you use a standard laminating material on a digital print it will not adhere properly to the paper. This leads to the laminate bubbling up and peeling off. Worry not however there is a solution.
The reason a typical laminate will not stick to something printed digitally stems from how it is printed. Offset presses use ink to print on paper, digital, or laser printers use toner. The difference between ink and toner is more than just the name.
Ink is liquid based dye that colors the paper. Usually applied with plates on a press. Because it is liquid based it soaks into the paper as it dries. This means when you are sticking laminating material on the paper after printing the laminate has an easy time adhering to the paper.
Toner is powder, not liquid. It is applied to paper by adding an electrostatic charge to the paper and to the toner to make them stick together. Because it is not liquid it does not soak into the paper the way ink does. It stays on the surface of the paper. This means the laminate will not be able to stick to the paper. The more toner coverage you have on the paper the more difficulty the laminate will have sticking to it. If you have a lot of solid colors, and you need it laminated, it may be better to not print it digitally.
How to Laminate Digital
There are a few different ways to laminate something that is printed digitally. It is better to know in advance that you are planning on laminating your project. If you decide after it is printed it can make it more challenging to laminate.
Encapsulate: There are two different way laminate lays on a sheet of paper. Either it is trimmed right to the edge of the sheet, or you can run it slightly over the edge completely encapsulating it. The advantage of doing this is that the laminate is sticking to itself as opposed to the paper. There are some disadvantages of doing it this way. You need to have your items trimmed before going through the laminator, and if they are too small when cut apart they will not laminate properly. Also, it does leave a border around your piece that you may not want.
Stop the Bleeding: A bleed in terms of printing, means your are printing right to the edge of the paper, instead of leaving a margin on the outside edge of the page. The advantage of printing this way is that you leave an edge of paper that does not have toner on it. This allows the laminate to adhere directly to the paper. Meaning it will stick better. The disadvantage of doing it this way really comes down to how you want your piece to look. If you are okay leaving a margin then it can work fine, if not, it can be a problem.
Digital Laminating Material: There is laminating material made to work with toner. Although it is by no means perfect. Even with this laminate you should encapsulate your piece, or eliminate the bleed. Using a digital laminate will reduce the possibility of the middle bubbling up.
Things to Remember
You should know beforehand if you are planning to laminate your project or not. This will allow you to design your piece to make laminating easier. You can remove a bleed, of make the piece bigger to allow you to encapsulate your project. Using a laminate that is made to stick to toner will greatly help the laminate stay in place. If you are printing something with a lot of color or large images that needs to be laminated you may want to think about having it printed with ink of instead toner to make laminating easier.