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Leveraging Lenticular

(October 2010) posted on Thu Oct 14, 2010

Big3D captures depth and animation, along with the viewer's imagination.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Jake Widman

When people talk about images that “pop” off the page, they’re usually talking about bright or saturated colors, special ink effects such as varnish or white, or simply bold typography within the design itself.

But as Big3D in Fresno, California, shows, there’s a way to print images that appear to pop off the page literally. The technique is called lenticular printing, and it enables Big3D to produce graphics that escape the paper they’re printed on to reach out toward the viewer, change from one image to another, or even appear to move as the viewer does.

Lenticular graphics achieve these effects through the placement of a plastic or resin sheet on top of the printed image. The sheet is manufactured (extruded) with built-in “lenticules” or tiny lenses on one side. These lenticules show the viewer different images, or different versions of the same image, depending on their angle to the printed piece. By showing different images, a variety of effects can be created.

Big3D has been producing lenticular graphics for more than 12 years, says marketing director Bradley Fitzhenry. The company’s president, Tom Saville, started in the printing business making courtroom graphics and expanded into all sorts of wide-format output. But around 12 years ago, Saville “caught the lenticular bug,” in Fitzhenry’s words, and decided to devote his company solely to that technology. Big3D now operates out of a 50,000-square-foot plant in Fresno, and has 20 full-time employees plus part-time staff.

How lenticular works
Lenticular images are popular for marketing and eye-catching displays because they don’t require special glasses or lighting to make the illusions work. Anybody walking by will see the effect. The image can be printed on paper, on a translucent substrate for backlit uses, or directly onto the lens sheet itself. And, lenticular graphics can be as small as a postcard or as large as a wall mural.

The most basic lenticular graphic—and the easiest kind to explain—is a flip, in which one picture changes to another as the viewer looks at it from different angles. The graphic can alternate between two images (called a two-flip) or cycle through multiple images.