Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sign Printing: Selecting The Right Material

The latest sign materials are designed for maximum flexibility and durability. We can help you select the best material for your sign based on the sign's intended location, look, and length of use.


Cast Vinyl
Cast vinyl is our highest grade vinyl due to the quality of materials used and the manufacturing process. It consists of high quality vinyl resin, organic pigments, solvents and stabilizers (the same ingredients in paint). These materials are mixed to form a paint-like liquid which is then poured onto steel rollers that drop the right amount of liquid onto a continuous roll of nonporous, thick paper. The paper carries the liquid vinyl through a series of low temperature ovens so that it dries. After drying in the ovens, the vinyl is rolled up off the paper and taken to a laminating line where it is carefully unrolled and coated with a clear acrylic adhesive. Cast vinyl typically has a higher gloss surface and is better for vehicles and applications for outdoor use. Because of the materials and manufacturing process, cast vinyl is much less likely to shrink in outdoor usage and has a warrantied life of 5 to 7 years depending on the application.

Pellets of vinyl, together with colors and modifiers, are ground in the calendering machines. The resulting hot, molten plastic is extruded onto a series of steel rollers which will flatten it out to the right thickness. It then receives a gloss or matte finish and is stretched to the right width. Finally, rollers cool the vinyl before it is wound up and adhesive and backing is applied. Heat, pressure, huge volume, and stretching are the key words in this process. There is a great deal of internal stress built into the vinyl as a result. Calendared vinyl offers a slightly shorter life span than cast vinyl with a warranted life of 3 to 5 years depending on the application. However, it is typically more cost effective due to huge production volumes and easier to remove from signs that are resurfaced on a regular basis.

Translucent vinyl is a cast vinyl. It is typically used in backlit signs such as light boxes. Translucent vinyl offers color consistency, a non-glare surface, and color brightness not found in other vinyl. The benefit of translucent vinyl is that when it is not illuminated it appears to be of normal color and when backlit it allows part of the light through for added visibility at night.

Reflective vinyl is best known for its 24-hour advertising capabilities. These films are generally cast vinyl. It is more difficult to cut, weed, and apply due to its thickness, but it typically has a higher impact due to its unique appearance. During the manufacturing process, glass beads are added to the paint-like liquid and spread across the entire surface during production. These glass beads reflect light therefore making the vinyl reflective. The more common applications include fleet graphics, highway signs and locations where night viewing and long distance visibility is required.

Metallic vinyl is a mirror finished film consisting of polyester and various finishing products. Its surface creates the look of an actual metal such as a silver, gold, or bronze. This vinyl is typically used for signs that offer a richer look, often times presenting the appearance of a higher end sign such as gold leaf, but for a far more cost effective price. This vinyl is typically used for interior or short-term exterior applications.

Such a wide selection of vinyls make it easy for Sign Art Etc to produce custom vinyl banners that suit your every advertising need.



Aluminum is without a doubt the longest lasting material for outdoor signage. It has a factory baked enamel finish, and is coated with a plastic sheet to prevent damage during shipping. It will not rust and is available in a range of sizes and colors, based on the manufacturer. Typical applications include real estate signs, directional signs and any area where durability is a major factor.

These are probably one of the most popular types of signs used. They come in many different colors for maximum graphic impact. They are highly resistant to tearing and ripping, and are also highly flame retardant, not to mention that they are very easy to maintain! Banners are great for everyday signage, announcement and retail sales applications.

Sho-card is a waterproof cardboard that can also be used as a dry-erase board. This is the perfect sign for easel displays or inexpensive presentations materials.

Coroplast is an inexpensive, lightweight corrugated plastic material used for mostly small, indoor signs, or outdoor signs that are temporary. It comes in many different colors, and is easy to cut into different sizes. Use coroplast stakes and you have an instant yard or tournament sign.

Magnetics can be cut into all shapes and sizes, and can be used outdoors or indoors. They are weather resistant and color stable. One of the most popular uses for magnetics is on car doors, for effective advertising that can be moved between vehicles.

M.D.O. (Medium Density Overlay Plywood)
MDO is thick, durable, layered plywood that can be cut into many different shapes and sizes. This type of plywood is specific to the sign industry. It is layered as to prevent warping and coated with a finish so that vinyl and adhesives take to the material easier. Typical application includes job site signs, semi-permanent development signs and directional signs.

This is a type of plastic, commonly refered to by its brand name Plexiglas that can be formed and cut to make interior signage. Its polished finish gives it a glossy and elegant appearance which is great for office signs or more upscale occasions.

This is an inexpensive, non-glare smooth plastic that is very easy to work with. It is best for interior signage such as cheap poster printing. This material is light weight and easy to transport. Because of its flexible nature, polystyrene is perfect for a sign that has to fit or contour to a curved surface.

PVC (Sintra/Trovicel)
Also called Komatex, or Sintra, PVC is a rigid plastic board available in many different colors. This material is easy to cut into different sizes and shapes. It has a textured surface for a matte appearance and is flame retardant. Great for retail store directional signs and interior identification signs.


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