Shining a Light on IML for Interior Design

February 26, 2024 • Posted in In Mold Labeling

We’re going to make a big statement here — in-mold labeling (IML) is the future of lighting design.

In the world of interior decor, you can already find IML parts everywhere you look. Appliance dashboards, smart thermostats, digital clocks, switchplates and more are all candidates for using IML to incorporate durable, modern designs.

IML parts provide lightweight, durable and cost-effective alternatives to other materials like metals, fabric and wood. When it comes to lighting specifically, IML provides a medium for transforming trends into captivating patterns and designs. From pendants to sconces, ceiling mounts to chandeliers, shades can be constructed with near limitless possibilities. Glossy, matte, wood grain, leather, and metals…IML gives greater creativity and choice for designers and manufacturers.

Interested in learning about how IML can light up your imagination? Here is a list of benefits to using IML for interior lighting design.

modern interior lighting

Benefits of IML for Interior Lighting


Stand out and think unique with curves, bends, finishes and textures. Go beyond the straight edge with deep 3-D bends and wrapping around edges and corners. When you combine IML with fine expression silk printing (FESP), you’ll open up a world of shapes and colors with fascinating possibilities. Textures, colors, and finishes include:

  • Matte

  • Gloss

  • Textured surface (like brushstroke or leather)

  • Wood grain

  • Metallics (like stainless steel)

  • Stone

  • Geometric patterns (like checkers or dots)

You can also use dead front technology to change the appearance of a shade when backlit, meaning a light can show hidden icons, patterns and more depending whether it’s turned on or off.

IML wood grain lighting

Flexibility and Interchangeability

The IML process consists of injection molding and printing. Once the basic tools and molds have been created for a part, the printing then becomes interchangeable. This means one injection mold can be used to produce a number of patterns and designs — for different colors and lines, different languages, and even different markets (domestic versus international).

The result is lower cost for changing and updating patterns and colors (think yearly design trends), as well as improved consistency and more creative freedom year to year.

modern table lamp

Weight and Durability

The structure of IML is a printed design on thin, clear film which results in a lightweight part compared with many other materials (wood, stone, leather). This can mean savings on shipping with less overall weight, as well as savings on required attachments like screws, stitches and frames.

When it comes to durability, that’s where our testing teams come in. Many manufactures we work with require extensive and rigorous testing (like a 100,000 push-button test), and we regularly pass them over and over again. Additional protective finishes and testing are available, too, such as hard coats or UV coating, and testing against chemical cleaners.

And an IML design will never smear or peel away. With IML printing, the inks are printed onto a part and then sandwiched with a resin over top. This means a homeowner can touch or wipe a light every day, and still never reach the layer of printed design.

lightweight IML lighting


The array of shapes made possible with IML include pedals, leaves, scales, scallops, slats and more. They can be created at various levels of size and thickness to expand the possibilities of lighting. Peek-a-boo effects and brightness transitions can be achieved with layering and staggering — making for lighting experiences that are truly bespoke and memorable.

modern lighting petals
ceiling mount lighting


Light diffusion is made possible with the use of semi-transparent IML film. Think of the paper shades over traditional Japanese lanterns — they work to spread the light out over a larger area and illuminate a room evenly. Benefits of diffusion can include lower energy usage (more efficient power consumption) and reduced glare, as well as aesthetic edge (letting a bright LED shine through only slightly rather than harshly).

modern stair lighting IML

Brighten Up Your Lighting with Sanwa

The sky's the limit when it comes to IML printing for interior lighting. If you are interested in learning more about our IML capabilities for your lighting design, or have questions about timelines or functionality, please contact us. We’re here to be the complete solution to your decorative lighting needs.