Effective substrate selection involves asking important questions up front.
9. Who will be applying this graphic?
The level of a graphics applicator’s skill is a consideration that is often times overlooked. Certain applications must be handled by professionals only, such as vehicle wraps and rough wall graphics. Other surfaces are more conducive to beginner graphics applications, however, such as flat, P-O-P, floor or window graphics. Certain print media have built-in error correction, such as bubble-free window films (Figure 3), and heavier, stiffer facestocks and laminates can make handling and installation of print media easier.
10. Will the graphic be laminated?
Laminates not only make installation easier in some cases, but they also make graphics far more durable. In certain settings such as schools, mass transportation, and hospitals, this durability can be important to resist impact damage, laceration, and other physical abuse. Some laminates bear anti-graffiti properties that can provide protection and make cleaning simpler. Other laminates can be purely decorative, adding a texture or finish to a graphic that may otherwise be lacking. You can count on your supplier to best pair print media with appropriate laminates.
11. Will backlighting be used with a graphic?
Signs are sometimes illuminated by backlighting, and special print media may need to be used for best results in these cases. For instance, films may need to be translucent, dusted, or otherwise specialized to hide bulbs or diffuse light evenly to prevent bright spots from appearing behind sections of a graphic. Lights need to be properly ventilated to prevent fire hazards and damage to graphics. Suppliers can often advise the best way to laminate a graphic onto a light box without causing risk.
12. How will a graphic be cleaned?
Cleaning agents, even water, can be detrimental to a film. For example, a vehicle graphic may need to be hand washed, not run through an automatic car wash. Laminates can help to prevent issues, and suppliers can give advice on expected graphic care so that your images remain sharp while the substrate’s integrity is maintained.
13. Do products need to be environmentally friendly?
Print media can be chosen to meet needs in applications where ecological consciousness is a concern. Architects may be given incentives to use environmentally friendly materials, so it is prudent to let suppliers know when a green solution is preferred.
14. What am I missing?
This is one of the most crucial questions of all, as, inevitably, there will be some factors of which you are not aware that affect media choice. Asking an expert for an opinion about whether you should be accounting for any other aspect of your application is a great way to make sure all of your bases are covered.
This article was provided by Jeff Stadelman, MACtac Graphic Products, Stow, OH.
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