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Tips for Producing Portable Trade-Show Graphics

(December 2007) posted on Wed Dec 05, 2007

The demand for high-quality, portable trade-show graphics is growing. Find out about the media for these applications and learn how to pair inks and substrates for maximum impact.

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By Ed McCarron

Trade-show venues have a need for a large quantity of directional signage to point people to exhibit halls, seminars, events, dining areas, etc. These signs are only used for the duration of the show, so they’re typically made of simple, inexpensive materials. To produce directional signs, you should consider laminated matte papers or photobase papers that can be mounted to sign board or foam-cored products. Another option is to directly print onto sign-board materials with a flatbed printer.


Aisle markers

These are usually large banners that hang in each aisle. Like directional signs, aisle markers are typically used for a very short time. As a result, light, inexpensive materials, such as reinforced papers, are the best choice. Adding weight to the bottom seam helps an aisle marker to hang flat.


Suggestions for media selection

The opportunities to produce a wide variety of trade-show graphics are growing right along with the improvements to digital printers and inks. Matching the media options with the right technology and intended application can be a challenge. The cost, output, and finishing requirements of each job are key factors to consider when choosing media.

The type of inks used in the different printers play an important role in deciding which type of media to use. Dye-based inks have a wide color gamut and excellent transmission characteristics, but a limited lifespan due to light or oxidation fade. Dye-based inks absorb into the coating of the substrate; therefore, when the graphic is illuminated, the light diffuses into the coating and the base material, which is now saturated or dyed with ink. Because diffusion of light is desirable with backlit graphics, you should use a backprint or reverseprintable substrate. Backprint materials require a mirror print on the back of the substrate and are displayed film side out, leaving a barrier between the viewing side and the inked side.

Pigmented inks do not manage transmitted light in the same manner as do dye-based formulation. Pigment particles sit on top of the coated substrate, creating their own diffusion of light. Therefore, front-print substrates are a good choice when using pigmented inks. They position the ink closer to the viewer, allowing less interference between the ink and the eye.

Media texture is also an important consideration. For example, trade-showbooth panels often use light boxes of different sizes to protect the backlit design. A textured polycarbonate is ideal for creating backlit trade-show displays, because the surface does not produce any glare when viewed from short distances. In contrast, glare increases dramatically when using a matte polyfilm.


Optimizing the graphics

Color management is also a critical factor for you to consider when producing portable trade-show graphics. Color-management tools, such as ICC profiles, automate the process of translating the different color languages that each printing device uses. Without such a translation mechanism, there is no way to ensure the consistency of colors from input to final output without significant manual tweaking and trial and error. By using high-quality, coated inkjet media and incorporating ICC profiles into your workflow, you can be assured that you’ll consistently produce the colors you expect.


Unroll a new revenue resource

The market for trade-show graphics is on the rise. According InfoTrends’ Wide Format Printing Consulting Service, the retail value of trade-show graphics was more than $3.71 billion in 2006, and is expected to grow out to more than $4.01 billion in 2011. Traditional screen-printing applications will continue to provide a steady stream of income for graphics shops, but investing in new imaging technologies and substrates will allow screen printers to expand their product offerings and lay a new financial foundation for their businesses.



As director of marketing, digital imaging, for InteliCoat Technologies, Ed McCarron oversees the company’s development and marketing of coated products, as well as services for technically demanding applications. McCarron has visited 14 countries to train digital printers in the latest imaging and finishing techniques, and he’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences, trade shows, and conventions. He also is a member of several Industry associations.










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