Whether it is for advertising or purely decoration, many modern businesses require the graphics handling skills of large format printing shops. Such printing shops often specialize in the creation, printing, and installation of over size images–often 36 inches to a side or larger. Large format printing covers posters, banners, and graphic installations, and some shops may also do outdoor advertisements and digital vehicle wraps.
There are a few main differences between the processes that printing shops may use for large format outdoor graphics and indoor graphics. First, the shop must assess the needs of the application, such as whether or not the graphic must endure the weather and what kind of surface the graphic will be installed on. From there the shop can determine what kind of material to print on and what kind of printer/ inks to use.
Large Format Printing in Outdoor Applications
Most outdoor images are printed on vinyl. Vinyl has many attributes that make it a good candidate for the printed image: it is durable, takes ink well, and is easy handled. Some kinds of vinyl are thin enough that sheets of vinyl can be easily overlapped without attracting too much attention to the seam, which is great for large format printing applications.
For example, printing shops will often use a thin, pliable vinyl for vehicle wraps. The images are designed in a computer and printed on 48-inch wide sheets of vinyl; they are then cut out and carefully applied to the vehicle, starting from the back. By applying the graphics from the rear of the vehicle forward, installers can insure that all of the seams face the rear of the vehicle, where they are less likely to be noticed.
Using vinyl banners is one way that event organizers and advertising agencies announce promotions and special events. Vinyl banners can be printed as large or as small as necessary, and hold up extremely well in many types of weather. In many cases, event organizers may supplement the banners with other promotional materials, such as posters, light boxes, or even wrapped vehicles.
In recent years, new kinds of vinyl have been developed that are much easier to handle and install than older vinyl. In the past, adhesives that were used with vinyl were often chemical compounds that could be detrimental to the user. Nowadays, though, self-adhesive vinyl and other easy-to-use pressure sensitive adhesives are the norm.
Accenting Vinyl Banners in Promotional Displays
Along with vinyl banners, PVC mesh banners work great in outdoor situations. PVC mesh is a lightweight, perforated material that is often used as screens in theater backdrops or as scaffolding or building wraps. It is extremely durable, even in windy environments, and is bother water resistant and flame retardant.
Vinyl is also used for many other large-scale graphic installations. Vehicle wraps, for instance, are simply custom-cut and printed sheets of a thin, elastic vinyl that can conform to the shape of the car. The pieces are then carefully installed to create a seamless visual enhancement to the vehicle.
Vinyl graphics have been popular, non-destructive ways of modifying a vehicle for many years. They have been popular amongst racers, truckers, and non-commercial drivers alike, and have been produced in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Until somewhat recently, however, some vinyl graphics have remained difficult to install, remove, or modify without the help of a professional.
Advancements in Vinyl Graphics Technology
Many of the discernible advancements that have been made in vinyl technology have to do with the adhesives that are used to affix the vinyl to the vehicle. Older kinds of adhesives often used chemical solvents that could be harsh and dangerous, necessitating certain professional equipment for installation and removal jobs. Many types of vinyl also required extreme heat to deconstruct the adhesive, meaning that the torches or heat guns used could potentially mar the vehicle’s paint job.
New types of vinyl are easier to both install and remove. Companies such as 3M, who specialize in vinyl graphics materials, have developed tools that can aid consumers in applying their own vinyl decals. They have also developed various kinds of easy-on, easy-off vinyl that doesn’t require professional installation.
Vinyl graphics printed on some new kinds of vinyl can be lightly affixed and then repositioned on the surface of the vehicle, without destroying the vinyl or the vehicle’s finish. They do so by using a pressure-sensitive adhesive, which won’t become active until firm pressure is applied. Other kinds of vinyl allow air to escape when installed, reducing the occurrence of air bubbles.