Joslyn Blog

What to Consider When Choosing Which Plastic Sheet to Use

Car Interior

When you think of something plastic, what do you picture? Maybe it’s a milk jug or the lid to your disposable coffee cup. 

That’s all pretty basic, but it doesn’t have to be. There are so many material choices available in the thermoforming industry that provide just the right properties for your plastic formed product. 

Compared to sheet metal, manufacturing with thermoformed plastics gives you more design freedom. The ability to incorporate complex, three-dimensional part designs, colors, finishes, textures and branding directly into the tooling means design freedom and versatility to enable faster production cycles. Furthermore, detailed design customization is possible with thermoforming even when adhering to tight tolerances.

When choosing which plastics to use, these options can add a little excitement to your parts. 

Custom Colors

Many plastic resins can be colored from the onset, eliminating the need to paint as a secondary operation.

“Stock” colors, like black and white, aren’t your only options. Pinks, yellows, blues – just about any color – can be matched. Pantone offers thousands and most can be color-matched for your thermoforming application. So, go ahead, get out that Pantone book and go wild.

Laminate Films

When we say film, we’re not talking about Polaroid. Instead, a thin layer of film (often acrylic) is applied to the sheet of plastic. This can be done during extrusion or as a secondary operation. The film can be custom-colored, chrome, wood grain, carbon fiber or even camouflage. 


Did you know that some of the door panels, dashboards and interior walls of cars, trucks and RVs aren’t just plastic? Some of them are made from a vinyl that is wrapped or laminated to a plastic sheet prior to thermoforming. This type of material can give the end user that “luxury feel” they’re seeking when purchasing a new vehicle.


Texture is an important decision when choosing which plastic sheet to use. Texture can be molded into thermoformed parts, giving them a high-quality finish.

The availability of certain textures may differ based on the supplier and raw material specified. Each thermoplastic sheet texture is customized to the customer’s needs, and the cost of material will vary by who is providing it. Standard textures, such as haircell and sandblast, are more readily available than specific textures such as leather or wood.

The texture process itself may affect the cost as well. In-mold texturing, where textures are etched into the mold, provides excellent detail but may have a higher tooling cost than forming a part using a pre-textured plastic sheet.

Like the leather look? Maybe smooth is more your thing. Either way, there are a variety of different textures to choose from, depending on the base material. It’s helpful to know if both sides of the plastic sheet must be smooth or if one side requires a certain texture.


Some parts require high gloss to mimic a custom paint job, while others opt for a matte black finish. Caught somewhere in between? Medium gloss might be right for you.

Pick the Best Material Options for Your Project

Known for transparency, integrity and customer collaboration, Joslyn Manufacturing’s engineering and manufacturing teams are ready to serve you. 

We are proud of our reliable, proven processes – as well as our versatility and innovation – when helping customers create their most challenging products. If you need a custom thermoformed product, we can create it, from tooling to finishing to fulfillment. We work with nearly every type of thermoformed plastic to find the best material for your project.

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Topics: Thermoforming, Thermoform Plastic

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