Effective substrate selection involves asking important questions up front.
Graphics applications can vary widely, and not many universal rules exist when choosing a media on which to print. There are many factors to consider, from the initial printing method to the environment in which the graphic will ultimately reside—all of which can affect which print media will deliver the best performance for the application. As a result of these many variables, one of the only rules to follow when attempting to determine an appropriate graphic printing material is to ask important questions up front. The following guide will help you with these conversations.
1. What sort of graphic are you planning to print?
This first question may seem like a basic one, but it is a great starting point. Whether you are printing simple text or a large, ink-rich graphic can make a difference when it comes to choosing between economy or high-end print media or liners. Your supplier needs to know what your graphic is ultimately meant to accomplish.
2. What printing method are you going to use?
It is very important to share your plans for printing with a material supplier, because print media can respond very differently to various printing methods. For instance, latex printers may require higher quality films and liners to properly handle the high temperatures used on the printer.
Here’s another example: While printing with UV-cured inks is a great way to make quality images, you should think twice about using these inks for automotive wraps, because UV-based ink is prone to cracking when stretched. A lot of stretching is involved when applying vehicle wraps.
Additionally, not many laminates stick to UV-inkjet-printed graphics, unless a specially designed adhesive is used. The process of UV-inkjet printing can cause damage to films when UV light hits a portion of the graphic many times during printing, potentially over-curing the ink and damaging vinyl films. This form of accelerated aging causes degradation, especially with economy films, which may become brittle.
3. Will a graphic be used indoors or outdoors?
This question, simple as it may be, must be answered to avoid major repercussions. Outdoor environments have specific requirements regarding resistance to UV, moisture, temperature, and so on—considerations that may not apply to an indoor graphic—making location prudent to mention to your supplier.
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