Large format printing offers a wide variety of mediums, substrates and hanging solutions for custom graphics and installations. We offer here definitions of terms and a description of the most popularly used products. If you have a custom project reach out to your vendor for their best recommendations.
ABV – Adhesive Backed Vinyl: A vinyl medium backed with a thin adhesive layer for the purpose of adhering your graphic to many surfaces such as a rigid substrate, glass, drywall, flooring or metal. There are many types of adhesive.
Note: Adhering any adhesive to a natural stone, i.e., slate, is not recommended as it may leave a stain.
Back-lit Textile: This is a family of fabric textiles specially coated for edge or back-lit displays, some of these textiles can also be a stretch fabric tension fabric displays. Excellent for long-term interior installations.
Calendered Vinyl: Calendered vinyl is made with the same essential ingredients as cast vinyl, however the extrusion process makes this layered vinyl thicker which is easier to handle for installation. Calendered vinyl is less flexible and will not conform to complex curves and shapes but it costs less than cast vinyl to produce. If you have a short to medium-term project that is flat or a surface with a simple curve, this vinyl is perfect as a beautiful and economical option. Calendered vinyl comes in many standard colors and can be printed with custom graphics.
Cast Vinyl: A high quality vinyl ABV that is made to resist shrinking or cracking due to environmental changes. Cast vinyl offers the best options for long-term graphics for interior or exterior use. Cast vinyl is a premium product because the film stays dimensionally stable and retains color well in the sun for up to ten years.
Conformable Cast Vinyl: A high quality cast vinyl with a special PSA backing that is made especially to be conformable and unlikely to shrink or crack in the weather. Cast vinyl offers the best options for long-term graphics for interior or exterior use. Conformable means you can install this media on surfaces that are not entirely flat, this product can wrap your custom graphic over rivets, curves or trim molding. There are several versions of conformability targeted at specific needs. Conformable cast vinyl is a premium product because the film stays dimensionally stable and retains color well in the sun for up to ten years.
Laminating Film: (also Overlaminate) A clear, adhesive-backed film that can be added to the face of printed media to provide strength, scratch resistance, UV resistance, stability and appearance. Laminates comes in gloss, matte and textured finishes.
Medium or Media: Technically medium is more accurate, however these two terms are often interchangeable to mean the kind of paper, plastic or fabric you’re printing your project on to.
Mesh Scrim: A coated polyester banner scrim produced with a pattern of small holes which allows 37% air-flow through the medium. Mesh is ideal for building, stadium and fence wraps, as it won’t flap like a sail in the wind and it won’t block sunlight if installed over a window. Excellent for exterior banners for medium-term installations where wind or weight are a conern.
Nylon Flag: This nylon woven fabric is light and floats in the wind, unlike vinyl and sturdy fabrics. Flag fabric is semi-transparent and graphics will be visible from the back side. Excellent for short-term exterior installations where graphics moving with the wind is ideal.
Photo Paper: A premium coated paper specifically formulated for photographic prints and art reproductions. Excellent for long-term interior installations when installed within picture frames.
Photo Rag: An acid free cotton rag paper that meets archival standards for fine art and photographic reproductions. Excellent for long-term interior installations when installed within picture frames.
Poly Banner: This semi-rigid medium is made with polypropylene and is perfect for high quality posters with a matte finish that does not glare under lighting. Excellent for short-term interior and exterior use.
PSA – Pressure Sensitive Adhesive: An adhesive layer included on many graphic mediums allowing you to apply the graphic to many surfaces such as a rigid substrate, glass, drywall or metal. By pressing the graphic down with a squeegee or tool the adhesive’s bond becomes more permanent, this allows you to reposition the graphic before committing to the installation.
Note: Adhering any adhesive to a natural stone, i.e., slate, is not recommended as it may leave a stain.
Repositionable Fabric ABV: This adhesive backed, coated, and woven fabric film is removable, reusable, and repositionable without leaving any residue behind. This media can work indoors or out, so the sharp graphics will not shrink, wrinkle or rip in any temperature or climate change. While this media will not conform around objects such as rivets, it can be wrapped around corners and poles. Repositionable fabric is great for short-term exterior installations and is mediumto long-term for interior use, when adhered to painted drywall, glass, metal or painted wood.
Recycled Polyester Banner: This banner option is a lightweight, durable, non-woven PET banner with a textured, matte surface. It can be hung from ceilings, fences, building facades and scaffolding and allows 33% airflow. It is the perfect alternative to vinyl and other banner materials. Excellent for long-term interior and exterior installations.
SEG Silicone Edge Graphics – A stretch fabric used with tension fabric display systems where the fabric has a silicone strip sewn to the perimeter edge that slips into a channel on the aluminum frame stretching the fabric tightly across the face of the display.
Stretch Textile: Spandex polyester fabric textiles are often used when in conjunction with specific hardware like tension fabric displays, the fabric is stretched over an aluminum frame for a taut fit, offering a quickly installed, light weight and easy to maneuver POP or tradeshow display. Excellent for long-term interior installations.
Sunbrella Marine Fabric: Sunbrella is a woven marine fabric used for marine canvas, umbrellas and outdoor furniture and makes an excellent exterior large format banners and awnings. The fabric’s strength and durability are perfect for long-term outdoor use.
Textile Fabrics: There are a wide rage of knitted and woven fabrics that can be custom printed with inkjet or dye-sublimation processes. You have choices from semi-sheer to heavy-weight fabrics, for use as banners, exhibition displays, and interior decor. If you’re looking for a textile look and feel your vendor will have a range to choose from. A few specialty fabrics are explained in further detail, below.
Vinyl Scrim: A polyethylene vinyl banner material reinforced with a woven pattern of polyester cording. The cording makes the medium able to withstand wind and damaging weather conditions. Excellent for interior and exterior banners with short and medium-term installations.
ACP or ACM: Aluminum Composite Panel or Material, is made of two pre-painted or natural finished sheets of aluminum with a solid polyethylene core. Half the weight of a 16gg aluminum sheet and excellent for long-term interior or short term exterior use. This product can be direct printed and shape cut.
Cast Acrylic: Casting is a process of pouring liquid acrylic compound into a form creating a harder and sturdier sheet that is available at thicknesses up to 4 inches. Acrylic comes in clear, frosted matte, and a range of standard and custom colors. Excellent for long-term use for interior and exterior installations. This product can be shape cut, and polished to remove scratches sustained after years of use. This product is perfect for use as edge-lit light panels as light passes through cast acrylic unimpeded when edges are polished.
Corrugated Plastic: Extruded polypropylene sheets with a core of corrugated flutes that reduce weight and allow for water run off. Excellent for use with ground stakes for standing exterior signs. Popular for short-term interior and exterior use, it can last indefinitely if properly installed. This product can be direct printed and shape cut, and comes in 4mm and 10mm thicknesses.
Extruded Acrylic: The extrusion process presses the acrylic compound through a die creating a sheet that is dimensionally stable at consistent thicknesses up to 1 inch. This process is less expensive than cast acrylic making this product the most economical for projects that do not need thicknesses larger than 1 inch or to be used as a light panel. Acrylic comes in clear and a range of standard and custom colors. Excellent for long-term interior and medium-term exterior installations. This product can be shape cut, and polished to remove scratches sustained after years of use.
Foam Core: A polystyrene foam core sandwiched between clay coated paper sheets. Best used for economical interior signs or graphics that are up for less than a week because it’s more likely to dent, bow and crease than Ultraboard. This product can be direct printed and shape cut.
MDO: Medium density overlay, plywood with a paintable surface made of plywood with a weather-resistant resin overlay bonded to the wood. Excellent for long-term exterior signs and graphics. MDO requires sealing, priming and painting.
PVC: Expanded Polyvinyl chloride foam sheets are excellent for a variety of interior and exterior signs and graphics. PVC comes in a variety of standard colors and thicknesses and can be direct printed and shape cut. Ranging from 2mm to 25mm thick, PVC has many uses.
Rigid Substrate: Any medium that is firm enough to be classified as a board or panel.
Sign Foam: A high-density urethane foam board that can be carved, routed, sandblasted and machined for custom 3D and shape cut signs and graphics. This product offers a lighter weight option to traditional wooden signs.
Styrene: Extruded polystyrene is a lightweight and flexible plastic sheet, best for interior and short-term exterior graphics. This product can be direct printed and shape cut. This is a popular solution for snap-frame installations.
Ultraboard: A recycled polystyrene foam sandwiched between polystyrene sheets. Best for long-term interior signs or graphics. Ultraboard comes in black and white faces with black or white cores with thicknesses up to 1″. This product can be direct printed and shape cut. Ultraboard’s rigid and paper free construction resists denting and warping.
Foam Tape: A double sided foam tape with an adhesive for adhering lightweight rigid substrates to glass, painted drywall, metal or wood surfaces. There are many foam tape styles and adhesives.
French or Museum Cleat: Made of two pieces of material that can be extruded aluminum strips or wood and PVC cut with a 30-45˚ slope. One piece is mounted to the wall, the other to the back of your graphic panel with screws or glue. This allows for a look that is free of installation hardware on the face of your graphic panel.
Pano Tape: An optically clear double sided tape for adhering lightweight non-rigid or semi-rigid mediums to glass.
REMO: A removable double sided foam tape, excellent for adhering lightweight rigid substrates to glass, painted drywall, metal or wood surfaces. The tape can be carefully peeled away to remove the object from most stable surfaces.
Standoff: A metal post and screw system that allows you to mount a panel at a fixed distance from a wall’s surface. The barrels come in two shapes in a variety of diameters from 3/8″ to 2″ and lengths from 1/4″ to 6″ and include edge grip styles that do not require drilling into your panel. The finishing caps come in a several shapes with diameters to match the barrels and several depths for your choice of aesthetic. Standoffs can be mounted to counter tops, walls and hung from ceilings.
Short-term: less than a year
Medium-term: 1 to 3 years
Long-term: 3-7 years