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

Backlit films
Backlit graphics, already common in retail locations and transit facilities, are becoming increasingly popular at trade shows for their high-resolution, eye-catching images. By investing in backlit films, signmakers gain the ability to produce lightbox graphics for all of these markets, but the applications are particularly ideal for trade shows because of how their vibrant colours call attention to an exhibitor’s booth.

Backlit graphics are commonly printed on polyester or polycarbonate-based films. The polyester films are available with a textured finish on the viewable side. Polycarbonate films, too, are reverse-printed and then viewed from the non-printed side, with a matte or lustre finish.

Sign shops using dye-based printing systems should choose a polyester film base for a uniform, low-grain background. It is also important to consider how clear the graphics will appear under little or no ambient light. Some of today’s films offer optimized opacity for maximum colour vibrancy without ‘hot spots.’

Beyond the media choices for dye-based printing, there is a growing list of versatile backlit films for use across solvent, eco-solvent, UV-curing and latex—and other aqueous—inkjet printing systems. To ensure vivid colours and high resolution for printed images, it is important to choose films that maximize the transmission and reflection of ink density.

Once backlit graphics have been produced, they need to be properly finished. Regardless of the specific film chosen for the job, cold-pressure laminates are recommended at this stage.

For backlit graphics that may be displayed outdoors, lamination with encapsulation is the best way to ensure they are waterfast. With semi-opaque films, a diffuser layer is typically used with the lightbox to increase the overall density of the image. Clear films also require a diffuser layer to help prevent hot spots.


Fabrics are becoming popular for trade shows because they can easily be transported from event to event. Photo by Peter Saunders

There is a plethora of printable media options available for the production of banners, whether they will be mounted on display stands or hung indoors or outdoors. So-called ‘universal’ banner substrates offer high durability, but it is also important to consider recyclable media in today’s eco-conscious market.

As with the other media choices previously discussed, cross-platform compatibility helps deliver maximum cost-effectiveness. In addition to mainstream polyester banner films, the sign industry has seen an increasing range of pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs). These allow signmakers to simply print, peel and stick the material to a foam core or dimensional substrate, eliminating the need for a spray-on adhesive and thus cutting down on production time, as well as reducing the likelihood of errors.

For trade show graphics that require durability as they are transported from one event to another on the circuit, there are banner materials available today that incorporate flashspun high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fibres and polyolefin for additional resistance against tearing, water damage and UV fading. Materials constructed with a premium scrim are ideal for hanging signs, as they drape well.

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