Wide-format Graphics: Unleashing the opportunity of trade show graphics


Photo courtesy Taylor Group

By Ed McCarron
From technical conferences to retail exhibitions and beyond, there are trade shows to address just about every industry and topic. Within the hectic trade show environment, hundreds of organizations are clamouring for the spotlight. As such, sign shops that can build the most eye-catching, compelling and innovative graphics and displays will achieve the greatest success serving this market.

One of the keys is being aware of new and improved wide-format printing software, hardware, inks and substrates. The sheer range of choices can become overwhelming, however, and it is important not only to be open to trying out new products, but also to understand how to balance components with each other.

Approaching the market
Trade show graphics use a wide variety of media for everything from tabletop displays to banner stands to hanging signs to entire printed booths. As with other wide-format printing applications, there are several variables to consider before choosing the best material for the job, including the following four parameters:

  • How much the product costs.
  • Where it will be installed.
  • For what purpose it will be used.
  • How long it will need to last.

Together, this information will help determine the most appropriate media choice and the right production approach.

Once the specifications for and requirements of the application have been pinpointed, it will be important to consider several factors, including the choice of the material’s finish, composition and printer compatibility.

Today’s paper substrates for wide-format printers are well-suited for in-booth mounted graphics, oversized posters and retail point-of-purchase (POP) displays. Photo and poster papers, especially, have become popular options for trade show graphics because they can achieve excellent, photorealistic image quality.


All industries have trade shows that need booths and displays. Photo courtesy Shop for Exhibits

When choosing among photo papers for the trade show market, those with a satin and gloss finish that are universally printable across solvent-based, eco-solvent, ultraviolet-curing (UV-curing) and durable aqueous ‘latex’ inkjet printers are recommended. Bringing in one stock keeping unit (SKU) that works across all printing platforms will help reduce in-house inventory storage and enhance flexibility in the production department.

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In addition to storage efficiency and application versatility, signmakers should look for new, economical papers that are dry off the printer. These options will allow them to print directly to take-up reels, saving both time and money.

Sign shops that specialize in latex printing should source photo and poster papers with a vinyl topcoat. This allows the paper to sustain its glossy finish, whereas other types of paper will lose theirs during the reaction between the latex inks and microporous coatings.

There have also been significant advances in blockout papers, which can be printed easily on both sides, allowing signmakers to quickly produce double-sided hanging signs or posters for maximum visibility above or on busy trade show floors.

Blockout papers also enable window graphics without reflections. They can be applied to any clean, dry glass surface, including windows of trade show booths and convention centres. Some ‘eco-friendly’ papers are biodegradable.

Latex saturated papers have become a cost-effective option for sign shops, offering sufficient durability and versatility for the production of trade show graphics, wall murals, POP displays and out-of-home (OOH) ads. Some feature heavier coatings for improved production speed in eco-solvent inkjet printers. Some meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards for use as wallcoverings.

Signmakers should also look for latex saturated papers that are translucent enough to serve as backlit films.

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