Better Banners Guide – Choosing the right banner material for every job

Your 10-point guide to banner material selection

The high visual impact, affordability, flexibility and ease of installation of banners make them ideal for visual communications, so it’s no surprise that they top the list of products being created by signage and graphics businesses today. Skilled graphics producers can help their clients make the most of these benefits by recommending the right technologies and materials for each and every project, but to do this they need to stay abreast of developments in technology.

Every technological advance brings innovations that improve the performance of banner materials. These advances mean that with a little consideration you can select the right material for every job, making a measurable difference to the finished product, improving aesthetic appearance and extending banner life. But they also mean that the array of available substrates can be overwhelming.

At Spandex, helping you to select the right ImagePerfect banner substrate for your project is important to us, which is why we’ve developed this guide. In these pages, we’ll discuss 10 important factors to consider when selecting the material for any banner job.

We’re confident that, whatever your need, with ImagePerfect and this guide you can be confident that you’re getting the right banner substrate for your project, at the right price.

1 Purpose

Understanding the role that the banner will play in your client’s branding or communication is vital. The material for any job depends on what the banner will be used for, where it will be located and how it will be viewed, so you need a clear brief. Once you have this, you’ll be able make proactive suggestions about how to make the banner stand out and exceed their expectations. A more informed choice of material will allow you to deliver a better outcome, potentially boosting your margin and ensuring you get their repeat business.

2 Durability

The right material can make the difference between replacing the banner ahead of schedule or it lasting throughout its planned use, but to make the right choice you need to know which substrates are designed to handle the conditions – such as temperature, sun, wind and rain – that it will be exposed to.

‘Event’ banners and cast-coated banners will last for different amounts of time. ‘Event’ products are less durable – most have a one year unprinted lifespan, while ImagePerfect event banners are good for three. Cast-coated banners on the other hand have an unprinted lifespan of around five years.

One of the reasons for these differences is the tensile strength of the yarn from which the substrates are made. ‘Event’ products are made from a yarn that offers limited tensile strength, while a cast coated banner uses a better quality yarn, so will be a better option where durability is important. Another factor is PVC’s inflexibility and tendency to crack, but the coating on cast coated products gives added protection to guard against cold-cracking and UV exposure, while other components protect against mould, fungus and mildew. Encapsulation also impacts durability, giving a cast-coated banner a robust sealed edge more able to withstand external stresses. Finally, a hand-applied liquid laminate can protect the printed image from abrasion.

3 Finish

Banner materials come in a choice of gloss and matt finishes, with some satin options. Your choice of finish will affect how the banner looks, affecting both ‘viewability’ and aesthetic appeal.

As a guide, it makes sense to opt for a gloss finish for outdoor applications and matt for indoor, because its lower reflective qualities are better suited to harsh, artificial indoor lighting. However, it is always worth exploring all the options. For example, a super glossy substrate can lift skin tones and define facial features in photo quality images.

4 Printability

Print quality depends on more than just the capability of your printer; the printability of your chosen material is also a critical factor.

The substrate consists of yarn fabric between two layers of PVC, and the coarseness of the fabric and thickness and quality of the PVC layers affect printability because the holes in the weave of the yarn form small indentations in the substrate. With a coarser yarn and thin layers of PVC these indentations will be bigger, so the ink won’t reach them, giving an incomplete printed image that may be fine for applications viewed from a distance, but won’t be suitable for close-up viewing.

The material’s top coat, which receives the printed image, also affects printability. A higher quality coating will help to eliminate problems with flooding or poor ink absorption, so the more sophisticated the coating, the more you’ll benefit from the output capabilities of your printer.

5 Installation

How and where the banner will be installed, and the type of fixture used are all important factors in material selection. After all, your banner isn’t fulfilling its purpose until it is installed!

Weight should be one consideration. 550gsm has been the traditional weight for a quality banner, but it is now feasible to opt for a lighter 440gsm ImagePerfect banner material with no loss of strength, but all the benefits of a lighter material – ease of installation, end-of-life disposal, and lighter, lower-cost suspension systems.

Dimensional integrity is also important. Hang-flat banners will stay looking crisp for as long as necessary, making them ideal for high-end applications and avoiding any stretching, curling or creasing.

Finally, if a banner will be installed in a location where it could be seen from both directions, a double-sided banner – using a material with a printable coating on both sides – could increase its communication value for the client for minimal additional cost.

6 Viewability

Light is an important consideration when selecting materials. Will the banner be front lit for example, or is there a light source behind it that might show through? You need to understand the light sources in the installed environment before choosing your material, and also make sure that your client understands why this matters.

With this knowledge, you can determine what level of opacity – the ability of your banner to let light through – is aesthetically acceptable for that job. Opting for a higher opacity product generally makes for a better aesthetic outcome, especially if the banner can be seen from both sides.

7 Fire Rating

With the location and application in mind, make sure you know whether the banner needs a specific fire rating. These are a legal requirement for many environments, particularly those expecting a high concentration of people in a confined area, such as exhibitions and concerts. Getting it wrong could result in a costly reprint, so if you or your client are not sure which banner material will have the right fire retardant properties to ensure compliance, the Spandex team can explain the options.

8 Whiteness

Whiteness is one of the aesthetic considerations that can really make a banner grab attention. It affects the colours in a printed image, with a brighter white giving colours extra ‘pop’. It can also add clarity to the non-printed areas of the banner, delivering a cleaner, more attractive visual effect. Degrees of whiteness vary considerably across the range of banner materials available, with some having an off-white, creamy hue, and others offering a much brighter, crisper white. The one you choose will depend on its desired effect.

9 Size

The size of the banner is an important consideration when choosing the correct substrate for the desired application. At Spandex, we offer materials in widths from 1.10m to 3.20m with numerous options in between. Providing such a wide range of sizes means that end-users can make a cost-effective selection based on the area of the finished installation, without having to absorb lots of waste during production.

10 Cost

When making your material choice, you have to find the balance between performance, aesthetic qualities and price. It may be tempting to downgrade to a cheaper material, especially when the client is on a tight budget, but this can be a false economy. If the outcome is a substandard job that needs to be reprinted, or if the installation fails and has to be repeated, it could cost you time, money, repeat orders and even your reputation.

Our philosophy when compiling the ImagePerfect range has always been to offer the best possible ratio of price to performance on every product. With the knowledge from this guide and tailored advice from your conversations with us, you can help steer your client in right direction and select the material to create better banners for them.