Over the years we’ve applied large-format graphics to all manner of media and substrates. Very often certain installations will require specific materials best suited to that situation. Today we’ll tell you a bit about the various types of media we can print on and substrates we can mount graphics to.
The type of media your graphics are printed on will be determined partly on where they’ll be used and displayed. We’ve got media for almost any installation you can think of. In some cases we also apply a hot or cold laminate to add to the durability of the product and/or offer increased protection of the graphics.
Best used for posters and maps, we use stock that’s equivalent to heavy text weight. We print primarily on a satin finish stock, but can also print on uncoated, although the uncoated paper is usually much lighter and the image will bleed through if there is heavy ink coverage.
These prints can be laminated as well, though if laminating, we recommend laminating both sides otherwise there could be some curl.
For most graphics that will be applied to a substrate we use a vinyl backed with a permanent adhesive. This is a durable, long-lasting option, but cannot be removed.
We use a grey-back non-curl banner vinyl for our pull-up/retractable bannerstands. For hanging banners, we can print on a 13oz or 18oz material, and usually include grommets for hanging. If the banner will be hung outdoors it’s recommended to go with the heavier weight material and have a few wind slits cut on the banner to allow air to flow through. Vinyl banners do not require lamination.
Walltac vinyl is a specific media designed just for use on walls and is removable. We also print on Low Tac vinyl which is a similar finish to wallpaper (matte finish). These are not laminated.
Perforated vinyl allows the image to be printed on one side, and the vinyl is applied to the exterior of the window, so the graphic is visible from the outside and the inside is opaque. This is a good option for most applications as it still allows light to pass into the structure and for people inside to see out.
We can also use a solid vinyl which can be applied to the window, again, applied to the exterior of the window/glass, with the graphic visible from the outside, and no visibility from the inside. This is not recommended for full coverage on an entrance/exit door.
These are not laminated.
Finally there is a material that can be used to create window ‘clings’ that adhere with no adhesive.
Floor graphics are printed on a specific floor vinyl which is a higher adhesive and includes a non-slip laminate. Floor graphics can have rounded or squared corners, can be square, round or cut to shape. Depending on the traffic, they can be in place for well over a year, and will not incur damage from walking on or cleaning of floors.
Clients looking to make the most use of space or create visual interest are increasingly applying graphics to the front of stair risers. Stair riser graphics are produced on a high adhesive vinyl and applied with heat to the stair riser. It is recommended that they not be installed flush to the tread, rather, leave a small gap.
If the signage is expected to be up for more than 12 months, we print on an outdoor vinyl and apply an outdoor laminate to protect the vinyl. UV rays do eventually deteriorate the print, depending on the weather conditions in the area that the sign is placed, for example if it is in full sun or not. You can expect your exterior sign to last no more than five years.
A Note About Laminates
We use two basic types of laminate: hot and cold. Hot laminates use heat to activate the adhesive. Cold laminates come with a pressure sensitive adhesive. In most cases cold laminate is best except when laminating paper prints. Hot laminate would never be used for outdoor graphics. Outdoor graphics always use cold laminates which are more durable. All cold laminates will work outside but some are made to last longer than others. Laminating will increase the life of any graphics and protect them from UV rays but short term graphics don’t need to be laminated. In addition, certain media don’t respond well to laminating as they may curl or peel. These include roll up banner prints, and wall graphics.
Substrate is the industry term for rigid materials that we can attach graphics to. Depending on the application, we can either print on a media that is adhesive backed and then we apply it to the substrate, or we can order substrate that has an adhesive already applied. Some of the most commonly used substrates we mount to include:
Magnetic backer is a flexible, roll-based material that is easily cut to any size or shape and we can adhere graphics to. The obvious application is magnetic vehicle graphics, but this material is also great for using in conjunction with a metal panel to create signage with interchangeable components such as pricing, menu items or logos.
Foam sandwiched between layers of paperboard, this is a light-weight, inexpensive material well-suited for indoor and/or temporary applications. It’s great for posters and POP signage. It’s available in several thicknesses and colors.
These panels are similar to Foamcore, but more robust – the interior foam is stronger and the exterior is a layer of plastic instead of paper. While not as durable as a PVC product, MDF or metal panels, these boards offer a bit more dent resistance than Foamcore.
Coroplast is ideal for indoor and outdoor applications. It’s a fluted plastic product that comes in a variety of thicknesses and colors. It is waterproof and stain-resistant. It can be cut to almost any shape. Coroplast is often used in conjunction with staked stands that allow signs to be inserted in the ground with relative ease, examples include election signage to directional and event signage.
Sintra and Styrene are expanded PVC boards available in various thicknesses and colors. They can be cut in almost any shape and offer excellent dent and scratch resistance. They’re lightweight and great for indoor graphics. Thin styrene can be rolled as well.
DiBond is an aluminum composite material that is very durable and great for outdoor applications. It’s available in several thicknesses, can have rounded corners or be cut to various shapes. It’s also available as standard ‘blanks’ in the shapes and sizes of traffic and directional signage.
MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard)
MDF is traditionally made of wood fibers that have been broken down into residuals, then mixed with wax and resins and heat pressed into dense, durable sheets. A sheet of MDF will be heavy, smooth and even, with a flat surface ideal for mounting graphics to and it can be painted or sealed. It is easy to cut and shape and is available in a variety of thicknesses.
Komacel is a more robust PVC product and is an excellent choice for outdoor signage. Similar in stiffness to MDF or plywood, it’s durable and available in several thicknesses.
Plexiglass and Lexan
Most people are familiar with Plexiglass and Lexan as they’re both primarily used when a clear panel is desired. They’re also available with various tints applied.
Lexan has the higher impact resistance of the two and will (in most cases) bend rather than crack. For example Lexan is used in hockey rinks as it will withstand high impacts. Conversely, it is more prone to yellowing than Plexiglass. Besides being less inclined to discoloration, Plexiglass is more scratch-resistant and tends to be less costly, but it does not have the same strength as Lexan.
Corplast, Dibond, Komacel, Plexiglass and Lexan are best for outdoor use. The rest are best suited for indoor use, poster and POP signage.
As you can see there’s a lot of options available when it comes to determining the best materials to use for your graphics and signage. Not to worry – it’s not your job to figure these things out – it’s ours! We’ve got over 28 years of experience printing, fabricating and installing every type of graphic – indoor and out – that you can imagine – and probably some you can’t! Get in touch with us to discuss your ideas and trust the pros to help print and install them into reality!