What is lenticular printing?

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre-Press Manager and industry writer

What is Lenticular printing?

Although it seems new, three dimensional printing has been around since at least 1908 when Gabriel Lipmman demonstrated a process for printing two or more separate images on a special lens to give the illusion of viewing a scene in three dimensions. When properly executed, the effect can be startling. At Drupa, HumanEyes, a company that has created inexpensive lenticular software (to help get the “right effect”) and its various partners (HP, Inca, Zund and Karat) showed some striking printed pieces. We saw a butterfly image that seemed to be hovering on top of the page: so much so that you would expect to be able to slip a sheet of paper under the winged insect.

The process gets its name from the cylindrical ribbed lenses, or lenticules, that make up the lenticular lens screen. The lenses distort the viewer’s field of vision, so from different angles different images can be viewed, if they are prepared correctly. Computers have been used to help the process. A program like HumanEyes slices two or more images into narrow strips and then interlaces them. Some lenticular printing is done with a number of versions of the same image shot at slightly different angles. Video images have also been used to make very brief “motion pictures.” While two images are a minimum to create the 3D effect, many more images can be used.

There seems to be a trend of sorts in using lenticular effects in large format printed pieces. Since the price of the software has gone down, and the quality of the images has gone up, you can expect to see more 3D printing in everything from posters to baseball cards, mouse pads and posters.

Microlens (http://www.microlens.com) is a supplier of plastic lenticular lens sheets for offset, wide format and screen printing. HumanEyes is found at www.humaneyes.com.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at computerwriter@verizon.net.
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