There have been many times in my printing career where I’ve received calls from current or prospective clients and they wanted me to quote on a “standard banner.” And I’d have to tell them there’s no such thing as a “standard banner.”
First of all, I can make any size banner you want, and secondly you have several materials to pick from. What mainly drives the size, material, inks and finishings needed for your banner are three things:
Where you are going to hang it?
How long do you need it to last?
What’s your budget?
For example, if you tell me you want a 1-sided, six-foot square banner for interior use my next question is how are you installing it? Then where, exactly, are you placing it indoors? If it’s in front or near a window where a lot of natural light can shine through the banner material then I’d suggest we print it on block-out banner vinyl or maybe even a fabric. Block-out means the light or the image on the second side can’t be seen through the side your customers are viewing. This also affects the price as block-out material is usually more expensive, but it varies from printer to printer.
And then we have banners that can be printed on fabric – all kinds of fabric: canvas, satin, polyester, sheer, knits, etc. This is a whole different conversation. Along with the printing processes used to print on fabric you also have to decide when it’s best to spend the extra money to have a fabric banner and when it’s best to just buy a vinyl banner. These are all things I can guide you through, giving you all the information you need to make the best decision for your application. For now, I’d like to discuss vinyl banners only, to limit the length of my blog.
Not All Banner Vinyl is Created Equal
Let me bring you up to speed on all the choices of banner vinyl and when to use what material. Vinyl banners have what is called “scrim.” These are the polyester mesh fibers that are embedded into the vinyl. For our purposes, we’ll call it thread. The threads provide added strength to the vinyl material. Exterior banners need to be stronger and more durable than interior banners due to weather conditions. Banners that are going outdoors should be at least 13 ounce, high scrim, banner vinyl that is made specifically for outdoor use. And depending on how you are using the outdoor banner you can use a heavier weight.
Most banner vinyl used for interiors are very smooth because they probably have less thread count or scrim. This allows for a smoother, nicer print surface for viewing, since interior banners are usually viewed up close. And the threads do not need to be abundant in the vinyl as there are no outside weather forces that will affect the integrity of the banner. All vinyl whether made for indoor or outdoor use will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, even if they are the same weight. It’s for this reason that I do not use a print vendor until I tour their facility and check out their “house” banner vinyl.
Here are some specific types of vinyl for indoor verses outdoor use.
Backlit Banner Vinyl comes in 14 to 20 ounce weight and is designed for long-term applications. It is great for indoor and outdoor backlit applications, including pylon signs. Most companies double-strike this material so the image is more vibrant with the lights behind it. Almost all backlit banner vinyl is coated and uses a polymeric plasticizer for long life applications.
Mesh Banner Vinyl has a percentage of what is called, ‘material to holes’ ratio. For example, a 75/25 ratio means 75% material to 25% holes. Mesh vinyl banners are best for environments that have wind issues. I’d use mesh for all large outdoor wall-mounted banners, staging, concert stage, single-sided over-the-road banners. Almost all mesh banners are coated and uses a polymeric plasticizer for long life applications. Vinyl mesh banners that have a more even ratio of material to holes, like 45/55, are good for covering scaffolding, building wraps, etc. It is also much cheaper to ship a vinyl mesh banner, since you can fold it and it’s much lighter in weight than a regular vinyl banner. Most mesh banners are finished with webbing, hems and grommets then stretched and tied off for install. With this install method the creases due to folding the banner are eliminated.
Then we have different finishes to consider. Vinyl is available in gloss, semi-gloss and matte. And some vinyl has gloss on one side and matte on the other. There are also different weights of vinyl, going from 7 to 22 ounces. And there might even be vinyl that is lighter and heavier in weight, but since I have never had a need to use them, I’m not too familiar with vinyl that fall under or over the 7 to 22 ounce range. Most printers prefer 12 to 14 ounce weight, as this weight range is multi-functional, fits printing machines easily and the rolls are not too difficult to lift. Every print vendor carries different types of banner vinyl as their “house” vinyl. This is vinyl that they usually get a great deal on from their suppliers, so they stock it.
Printing Your Banner
There are solvent inks, latex inks, soy-based eco-friendly inks, UV inks and dyes and other inks that blend some of these together. For long term, outdoor use you want to print with solvent or UV (ultraviolet light cured) inks. And, the printing inks used by various machines will determine the vinyl the vendor purchases. Some banner vinyl can take more than one type of ink, and others are ink specific. This is just one more thing to consider when we’re quoting your banner. There is much more to say about inks, but that is for another blog.
Finishing Your Banner
There is a lot to be said around the issue of banner finishing, but let’s just cover a few options here. Finishings are needed to install or hang your banner. The type of finishing is driven by whether the banner will be installed indoors or outdoors. The rule of thumb is for long-term outdoor use, it’s best to have webbing sewn into a hem all around the banner with grommets. This way you can tie off the banner. If the banner is not too big, going outdoors for a short period of time, say a couple of days or weeks, and the weather is not calling for strong winds, you can most likely do without the webbing. However, if I had my way, I would put webbing in all outdoor banners. But clients want cost effective advertising, and the webbing can drive the price up.
The rule of thumb for indoor banners is putting a 3 to 4 inch pocket at the top and bottom of the banner, so a dowel or pole can be placed in it when installed so it hangs nicely. Hems, pockets, and seams can be sealed by RF welding, hot air welding equipment, or by stitching with a heavy sewing machine. You can also use banner tape on smaller interior banners, but the tape is not strong enough to use on large interior banners that will use supporting poles in the top & bottom pockets.
Then there are banners that need a hem, grommets and twine sewn into the hem, so they can be tied off easily. I’ve also done banners with pole pockets and grommets. And there are other options too, but it’s best to just leave that to Signs of the Times Consulting. Tell me how you are using it, and I’ll make sure you can hang it properly!
These are some of the things that I need to consider when you ask me for a quote on a banner. It’s my job to guide you, as you have more important issues to handle within your marketing efforts. So leave the technically things to me!