By Peter Saunders
Printing technologies continue to advance rapidly, with new capabilities, unprecedented flexibility and versatility in support of creative opportunities. At the same time, the media options for large-format printers keep expanding, with hundreds of printable substrates now available to sign shops.
While it can be challenging to keep pace, these developments have opened the door wide to a whole new world of possibilities for display graphics. For one thing, sign shops can reduce their need to outsource services, bringing more project control and revenue in-house. For another, with the right knowledge, imagination and support, they can often enhance the return on investment (ROI) for their existing full-colour wide-format printing system(s) while catering to their current customer base. The key is to determine smart strategies for using these tools to expand a shop’s offerings and build up its bottom line.
What a printer can do
Given their versatility in producing a wide range of products, from point-of-purchase (POP) displays, trade show booths and floor graphics to custom wallpaper and specialty wrapping paper, today’s wide-format printers and media offer an opportunity to get as creative as signmakers—and their customers—can imagine. The following are just a few examples.
A basic full-colour poster becomes more impressive within a busy retail environment when it is printed on a heavier, precut card stock instead. Eye-catching window and floor graphics can be printed on vinyl and cut in custom shapes, while direct printing on wood can really help distinguish a store or restaurant from its competitors.
Outdoor fabric graphics
Durable banners can be produced by printing onto fabric, stretching it on a wooden panel and holding it flat with magnets and a steel plate. The use of fabric has become an art unto itself, with indoor poster images turned into soft, flowing outdoor graphics for a more high-end look. Retractable banner stands are another way for clients to use fabric graphics to showcase their products and services.
Signmakers have really thought outside the box in recent years, using their wide-format digital printers to create colourful acrylic lamps, decorated apparel and accessories (such as belts), unique wallpaper, inflatables and smartphone cases, among other non-traditional graphics. They are also embracing materials like wallcoverings, anti-slip floorcoverings, textiles and canvases. Different printers can produce different looks for the same product, depending on which option is right for the customer.