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Considerations When Purchasing Large Format Banners

Critical Considerations in Purchasing Large Format Banners

When purchasing Large Format Banners, the 3 biggest variables (in addition to cost) that must be weighed are:

The balance of this article will address these 3 factors.

Indoor Versus Outdoor Usage of Your Large Format Banner

The most common substrates used for printing large format banners are vinyl and vinyl mesh.

Banners used indoors, such as trade show banners, are regularly printed on vinyl. This substrate works fine.

However, if the Large Format Banner is being purchased for outdoor usage, many times vinyl mesh is the best solution. The holes in the mesh are critical for allowing air to flow through. To the wind, the only difference between a large format banner and a sail is the digital printing found on the banner. Vinyl mesh is the best solution for outdoor Large Format Banners because they allow air to flow through so much more effectively.

There are two exceptions to this rule however.

  • If you intend to use the banner outdoors, for a relatively short time period, assuming the banner is in a relatively covered area, then printing on vinyl and including wind slits is a reasonable solution. However, keep in mind that including wind slits in large format banners DOES compromise the integrity and strength of the vinyl material.
  • The second exception to the rule is billboards. Because billboards are ratcheted directly to the frame as they are mounted, wind does not flow through them like a sail. Billboards are one form of large format banners in which vinyl is an appropriate substrate.

For more information regarding selecting the correct substrate for your Large Format Banners, please contact us by e-mail at info@northcoastbanners.com or call us at 800-231-4213. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Size and Print Clarity of Your Large Format Banner

Distance and size matter when it comes to printing large format banners. As a general rule, the closer the viewer will be to the banner, the higher the print resolution should be.

Trade show banners, for instance, which are regularly viewed at short distances, should be printed with at least 360 dpi resolution. A billboard, which may be viewed at 1/4 mile or more can be printed at 72 dpi. The human eye cannot discern the resolution at that distance.

If you are interested in the mathematics associated with text size and resolution in the design of your large format banner a presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration gives more details.

For more information regarding designing your Large Format Banners for print clarity, please contact us by e-mail at info@northcoastbanners.com or call us at 800-231-4213. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Choosing the Best Finishing Solution for Your Large Format Banner

When it comes to finishing your Large Format Banners, there are five common methods. These methods are: Banner Tape, Chemical Welding, Heat Wedge Welders, RF Welding, and Stitching. There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution. It is critical that you choose the best solution for your application.

  • When banner tape isn't the right solution, chemical welds won't quite last long enough and RF welding is not within your budget, it may be time to consider old-fashioned stitching to seam your vinyl banners. Despite new technologies, stitching could still be the best way to get the job done right.
  • Banner tape is a relatively short-term solution for seaming vinyl banners and RF welding is an expensive proposition. While stitching can be more complicated, it may be worth the trouble in the grand scheme of things, especially in high wind conditions. Indeed, stitching can be one of the most durable alternatives when uncooperative weather is likely to batter the banner.

“You have to look at all the factors when deciding how you are going to seam the banner,” says David Abramson, President and CEO of Northcoast Banners, in Ann Arbor Michigan. “If the banner is only moderately heavy and you are using it indoors, then there is no need to stitch it. You would stitch and nylon-reinforce a banner only if it was a LARGE indoor banner, or if it is going to be used outside for a long duration or exposed to heavy wind loads. A vast majority of banners used in North America are not exposed to the elements in that way.”

Finishing Large Format Banners – Theory in Action

Abramson recalls working on a 28' x 128' facade for a museum in New York City. The banner was almost like a sail on a ship. The banner needed to be mounted to the side of the facility in such a way that the wind could flow behind it and escape rather than stress and possibly stretch and tear the material. “We used a 70/30 mesh for this banner, with nylon reinforced seams and used bungee connections so there would be flexibility in the banner. The banner looked kind of like a balloon starting to blow out and then, the air would flow through the holes in the mesh and it will just snap back in place. By taking that approach we lessened the tortional stress on the seams of the banner. Combining proper air flow with flexible connection can definitely increase the lifespan of the banner.”

Abramson knows from experience that the proper finishing, coupled with proper installation will allow the banner to hold up better to wear and tear. “Even if you have a banner that's stitched and sewn, if you expose it to a high wind load and it doesn't have the ability to flex, it's going to tear,” Abramson says. So it's critical to understand where the customer is going to display the banner and to ensure it is mounted properly. Improper installation of a banner will undue the effects of excellent finishing every time.

Finishing Large Format Banners – Overlap Versus Butt Seams

There are two common types of seams used in finishing banners: overlapping seams and butt seams. What are the differences you ask? Overlapping has the advantage of being the quick and easy way to get the job done, but the disadvantage is that this method can leave unsightly strips in your beautiful work of art.

“Overlapping literally means you are taking two pieces of material and overlapping them by 3/4" to 1". One piece of material literally goes on top of the other,” explains Abramson. Butt seaming, on the other hand, is where the materials butt up against each other. This technique makes the seam almost invisible to the naked eye. Many believe butt seaming is the only way to go if you have realistic images of people or other critical imagery on your vinyl banner. The key is not to print the banner in a way that seams will come down the middle of text or critical imaging areas.

Perhaps surprisingly though, Abramson suggests the overlapping method much of the time: “There is a cost versus benefits analysis that must be made when choosing the method of seaming. Nobody makes a seamless material that's 30 feet wide and no machine can handle a 30-foot graphic. So you have to seam it. If it's done right, the human eye will ignore part if it, similar to the way it will overlook seams in a vehicle wrap. It's noticeable but not unsightly. A butt seam may be less noticeable, but ultimately, will cost more and will not hold up to outdoor weather conditions as well. It's a trade off. The key is distinguishing and understanding how and where the customer is going to display the banner. There is not one 'right' solution. There is only the best solution when considering all the factors involved in the application.”

By combining our ability to print 16ft wide seamless banners with our material welding and finishing technology, we can create your large format banners and stage backdrops to your size specifications.

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