Vinyl banners are a popular form of outdoor advertising. They have many applications including displaying company logos and advertising events and promotions. Vinyl Banners printing is very flexible and portable so you can see banners displayed in so many places indoors and outdoors. Outside, they are often seen as billboards, across roads and buildings. Indoors, they can be seen at sports events, trade shows, exhibitions and fairs.
In most cases, only one or a few vinyl banners are printed at a time so they are typically printed digitally on large-format inkjet printers. Apart from being ideal for short-runs, these printers can also be used to print full color vinyl banners on a single sheet of vinyl as compared to printing on smaller pieces and the placing them next to one another.
What they are made of
Vinyl banners are usually made of heavy vinyl that is known as PVC in technical terms. Different banner substrates have different weights. Some are as light as nine ounces while others are as heavy as 22 ounces per square yard. PVC can also be double or single-sided and they can have grommets added so that they can be hang up. As they are typically displayed outside, vinyl banners are typically finished with lamination and banner hem tapers are used to protect the lamination and to hold hems neatly. Banners can be so large that they cover the entire side of a building. Such banners are printed on a particular mesh material that allows wind to pass through rather than move the banner around when it is very windy.
Vinyl wish mesh is one type of vinyl. The different types are:
- scrim vinyl which is very strong and very durable and one of the best options for an outdoor banner.
- glossy vinyl that is typically used to print full color images that look very bright and vivid because of the glossy surface. This type of banner is also well able to stand up to the elements making it ideal for outdoor banners.
- matte vinyl that has a glare and a coating that makes it water-resistant. Images also come out clear and vibrant on this kind of banner.
- blackout vinyl that has a black vinyl layer put between the outer vinyl layers.
- mesh vinyl closely resembles conventional vinyl with the difference that mesh vinyl banners can better withstand weather elements. The mesh lets wind and moisture through so that it does not weigh down the banner or disturb it in another way.
Vinyl banners can be printed in different ways;
- Digital printing
This is done using water-based, eco-solvent inks or inkjet inks that are UV-curable. Both types of ink have long-lasting pigments that make them resistant to UV rays and other weather elements. The banners are usually printed on large format inkjet printers. Extra large banners can be printed on what are known as grand format inkjet printers that are up to 2.5 meters wide. They can also be printed with airbrush devices that are computer-controlled with the ink being printed directly on the banner. The largest and most sophisticated grand inkjet printers can be used to print up to 3,000 square feet per hour.
- Vinyl letter banners
With this method, individual pieces of self-adhesive vinyl are applied on a banner using a computer-controlled vinyl cutter.
- Screen printing
In this process, different colors of ink are put down one at a time with screen that have an imaged stencil that the screen printing ink passes through. Screen printing can be done on hand benches or on single or multi-color machines. It can also be done on high-tech multi-color screen presses that have the capacity to print approximately 1,000 meters squared per hour or higher.
Banners can also be worked on manually where they are written on or have images painted on them. With today’s modern printing methods, it is uncommon for banners to be painted rather than printed.
Inks used to print vinyl banners
All inks that are used to print have the same effect of putting words and images but different the inks that are used to print on vinyl have different effects. The different types are;
- Aqueous inks
Aqueous is a term that refers to the liquid in which the colorant is carried which is water. Aqueous or water based inks are available as dye and pigment which may be confusing. Dye inks are best used as cordials which is where the color is dissolved in the water and the ink is soaked onto the banner in and then appears as the water evaporates. In dye inks, the colorant size is small which creates a very small dot size that can be used to print highly detailed images that have smooth tones. When it dries, the surface of the ink is smooth and it reflects accurately which means colors appear bright and vibrant.
The downside of dye inks is that they fade in UV light so an outdoor banner printed with it would start to show a shift of color or fading in a few weeks. Also, if water is poured on a banner printed in this ink, the colorant will dissolve and start to run because dye inks are not waterproof. Dye inks are ideal for use to print banners that are to be placed in dry areas like indoors or for printing banners that will be up for only a short time.
The other type of aqueous ink is pigment or UV ink. The particles in its colorants are larger than those of dye inks but the difference is not very big. They can therefore remain close enough to form dot-size ink that also gives high resolution results. The shortcoming with this ink is that once the ink is on the page, the particles remain on the surface so when light hits the surface which is not smooth, the result is a color effect that is slightly muted.
However, unlike dye, pigment inks mostly remain behind the surface of the banner so if water is poured once the pigment is dry, it will remain dry. Also, pigment inks remain stable in UV light so even banners placed outdoors are safe but not for long periods of time.
- Solvent inks
Another type of ink that can be used to print on vinyl is solvent inks. These are generally pigment inks that have pigments rather than dyes. However, unlike aqueous inks where water is the carrier, the carrier in solvent inks is volatile organic compounds or VOCs solvents. Another difference is that solvent inks are waterproof and UV-safe so they can be used to print outdoor banners without the banner having to be finished with special coatings over it. However, outdoor banners should be done in a place with good ventilation to avoid exposure to fumes that are potentially dangerous. Eco or mild solvent inks are not as safe as aqueous inks but their fumes cannot cause as much harm as ordinary solvent inks. All types of used inks should also be disposed carefully.
The main advantage of solvent inks is that they are very price-friendly and they make it possible to print on flexible, uncoated vinyl substrates which are the kind on which banners, auto graphics, billboards and adhesive decals are printed. Also, the final result of printing with solvent inks is that colors come out bright and vivid but not as strong as aqueous dye inks.
- Eco-friendly inks
Just like paint, ink can have some toxic fumes because of the ingredients they are made of. To this end, there are full color offset ink that is completely soy and vegetable-based. The best eco-paints have over 30% vegetable oil and at least 55% of it is bio-derived from renewable, sustainable sources. They do not have petroleum ink solvent and minimal levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Thanks to dedication to conserving the environment, a lot of research has been done into eco-friendly inks with the result that painting with these inks gives very good and lasting results. This is especially the kind when the printing is done on eco-friendly banners which are known as bio-flex banners. They are of high quality and in landfills, they attract microbes that break down the PVC in three to five years. Bio-flex has no toxic materials, does not fade or tear and is resistant to fungi.
- UV stable inks
After printing, the ink is made stable by being exposed to strong UV light. These kind of ink dries fast with the exposure. Also, they can be used to a wide range of uncoated substrates and the final result is a banner with colors that pop. The shortcoming is the cost of these inks and the fact they need curing modules in the printer which are also expensive. Also, UV-stabilized ink has significant volume so the inks bleed a just a little over the area it has been used on. This quality also makes banners printed with this ink prone to cracking if they are used on a flexible substrate. They are therefore typically used in large flatbed printers that print directly onto rigid substrates where flexibility is not a concern. However, these inks are being used more and more in what are known as hybrid printers which can print on flexible material like vinyl without a problem.
A major advantage of this kind of ink is that the fast drying time. The colorants in UV-stable inks may be dye or pigment based with the latter being the more common option because of better durability.
- Latex inks
This is the latest type of ink. It is currently available only from HP. It has the same and to some people, better performance than solvent ink not only for printing on vinyl but other media like polyester, fabrics and polyethylene which do not adhere very well with solvent inks. Latex ink is water-based with a polymer that bonds to the substrate using heat. Solvent extraction and air purification are not necessary. Another advantage is the fact the ink is odorless so it is ideal for indoor applications that do not work with solvent ink machines. Also, the print is dry so a banner can go up right after coming out of a printer without the need to let it dry and air for hours.
- Dye sublimation inks
There are two types of this ink. The one that is most popular is aqueous dye sublimation ink that can be used on desktop printers as well as large format printers. The other type is solvent dye sublimation ink that can be used on Spectra, XAAR and Konica print head wide format printers.
Vinyl banner finishing options
Once your banner is finished, it will need to be finished so that it can be put up. The standard finish is heat-welded hems and grommets. The banner can also be cut to the desired size and have only hems or only grommets. It can also be finished with pole pockets and reinforced corners and reinforced hems.