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The Skinny on Large Format Printing

Advantages Of Direct Mail Marketing

Marketing creative often focuses on pieces that are small and can be handled or sent through the mail.  However, sometimes big is the way to go when you want to get noticed.  Large format printing allows marketers to design and produce very large pieces that can literally increase visibility of your company and promotions.

Large format printing equipment have a fixed maximum width, and often accept rolls of paper, vinyl, or other media, so very long printed products, such as banners, can be easily fabricated.  Signage printed on adhesive vinyl can turn just about anything into an advertisement for your business.  For many large format items, the image is printed on flexible media and then laminated to protect the printed surface.  This assembly can then be used on its own or bonded to a rigid substrate in many different ways.

Applications for Large Format Printing

Large format printing can be used for a wide variety of applications.  Some include:

  • Tradeshow Exhibits – If your company has a booth at a trade show, your exhibit may include large panels, banners, and other signage.  These pieces have to be large enough to be noticed across the exhibit hall floor, and be designed in such a way to quickly relay information about your company and its offerings.
  • Banners – Large format printing is perfect for making banners in nearly any size.  Durable vinyl stock can create long lasting banners in vibrant colors.
  • Retail Signage – Retail signage can include interior and exterior signs, roadside signs, lighted signs, and other signs promoting your business and location.
  • Promotional Signage – When you are marketing a specific offer, or promoting an upcoming event, promotional signage such as posters or banners that are easy to install and remove are a good choice for temporary marketing.
  • Vehicle and Window Wraps – Wraps, which consist of graphics printed onto a clear vinyl material that is then adhered to a vehicle or window, provide an effective way to add marketing messages.  Vehicle wraps provide an extra boost as mobile advertisement.
  • Magnetic Cling Decals – This type of signage has a printed piece that is adhered to a magnet sheet and can be installed on any steel or iron surface, such as exterior doors and walls, box trucks, vehicle doors, and other prominent locations.

To increase their effectiveness, many large format pieces such as vehicle wraps, magnetic cling decals, trade show exhibits, and promotional signage can include QR codes that a viewer can scan to access a specialized web page specific to your promotion.  Tracking QR code views can help you to track the reach of your large format pieces.

Large Format Printing Equipment

Of course, in order to produce large format signage, you need the right equipment to make these larger pieces.  Standard large format printers operate in much the same way as traditional inkjet technology, but accept much larger width media and can print up to 10 colors.  A common size for large format printers is a 60” width, but specialty printers are available with larger widths of 72” and higher.

For printing directly onto rigid pieces, a flatbed printer is a necessity.  This type of printer has a large flat surface to support the media, which could be foamcore, cardboard, thick plastic, or other media that can’t bend to pass through the rollers of a traditional printer.  A lamination layer is generally added after printing to create a durable surface.

For wraps, a printer-cutter combination allows the creation of pieces with an unusual shape by eliminating the labor required to hand-cut the vinyl.  This type of machine provides both traditional printing hardware, but also includes a cutting head, whose path is dictated by software based on the printed image, so you get clean, exact cuts every time.  This facilitates installation on vehicles and other locations.

Since different types of large format media require different types of equipment to fabricate, it’s critical that your creative team and your printer work together to ensure that they have the capabilities to produce what you envision.   This includes not only printing, but also finishing, such as adding grommets to banners or installing wraps on your vehicle.  Your creative team and your printer can also help you to create the best approach for your large format media, and ensure that these pieces cohere with your existing marketing media and ongoing campaigns.

Concerns when Developing Large Format Pieces

Marketing creative that is output on large format printers do have unique concerns that their smaller counterparts may not.  First and foremost is size.  Talk with your creative team or printer to find out what printing equipment they have available and the maximum width that it can accommodate.  If you want a 6-foot-wide banner, a 60” width machine won’t cut it.  You’ll also want to know what types of media your print shop can accommodate while you’re in the design process.

Image resolution is also an important part of large format piece design.  Since large format pieces like banners and signage are meant to be read from far away, they don’t generally require the same fine resolution that you’d use for, say, a direct mail piece.  However, you do want a clean image.  A paper from the National Association of Industrial Technology provides a clear explanation of how viewing distance can guide image resolution and help you to determine the right resolution for your application.

When looking at specifications and costs for your large format pieces, also consider the lifetime of the piece.  Temporary signage that will only be used indoors will not require the weatherproofing that a permanent outdoor sign requires.  For vehicle wraps, take into account the process required to remove the wrap later when calculating your creation and installation costs.

Is Large Format Right for You?

No matter what type of business you have, or what industry you’re in, large format printing can be a valuable part of your marketing and visibility strategy, whether it’s stationary signage, temporary banners for special events, trade show displays, or mobile advertising through vehicle wraps.  Contact us to learn more about how going large might be just the right thing for your business.

Image – © Moreno Soppelsa – Fotolia.com

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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!