The Complete Guide to Graphics Printing - Display Up Printing & Signs
Mimaki UCJV300 Printer

      Learning more about Graphics Printing

Is getting a banner or table cloth printed really so different from using your printer at home? In short, yes it is! Colour by itself is one of those subjects you could really disappear down the proverbial rabbit hole when trying to learn more about – and that’s before you get started looking at the types of printing methods and options that are available. With so much detail and need for knowledge when it comes to graphics printing, it’s no wonder that great quality prints can be difficult to source and even harder to master. But before you try to take on a whole new area of study, our blog is here to help you learn more about custom graphics printing today. 

Why should I choose a professional printer?

There’s that old saying that someone who practices many trades are actually master of none, and this most definitely applies when it comes to the subject of graphics printing. Many companies offer the enticing lure of having their own printing service included in amongst all their many other skills and services – but this is something that should be treated with caution. They might know a little and be able to do an adequate job, but a company who specializes in printing alone is always a better option. 

Still not convinced? It can be difficult to gauge the value of advice on something that we haven’t created yet, but think about it like this – you wouldn’t go to a butcher for advice on cheese! They might know a little about the subject as it is a neighbour to their speciality, but to get the best information and customer experience you need to get in touch with those who make this their focus and livelihood. In short, head to the experts! No one wants to be handed poor quality products when they have invested their valuable time and money into a project and using a professional printer is the best way to avoid this danger. 

How does professional graphics printing work?

For those of us who imagine a slightly bigger version of our faithful home printer, this couldn’t be further from reality. Even if the average person could figure out how to operate these machines, the chances of being able to balance one on the home office desk would be very unlikely. Specialist printers are often large and highly intricate pieces of machinery that are certainly less user friendly to the inexperienced person than the home system they are familiar with. These machines are where the ink types and profiles are carefully set up and calculated, so taking it to the right place with the right tools can make all the difference when it comes to a high quality finished item.

What types of in house printing do we offer at Display Up?

At Display Up, we currently offer two types of printing in house and they are dye sublimation transfer and UV printing. But what are they, and how do they work?

  • Dye sublimation – Dye sublimation (dye sub) is a very different printing process. It can be done on many different substrates (materials) but for the purpose of this blog we will only discuss fabric transfer dye sublimation. There are more steps to dye sub than regular printing. In fact, you don’t even print on the fabric. You print on a special transfer paper, in reverse, that will later run through a press with the fabric, more on that later. You don’t even print with ink. You’re printing with a dye that is actually a solid suspended in a liquid. When the dye is printed on special paper, the image looks faded. It doesn’t look very nice at all. Until you add heat, pressure and time. Think of sublimation a bit like cooking. We have ingredients; image printed on paper and the fabric. We have an oven; a press capable of reaching temps of over 200c (400F). And we have time; the length of time the ingredients are heated. Your heat press is hot and you send the paper with your image and the fabric you want it to transfer on through the press. In anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, what comes out the other end is nothing short of magic. Miraculously the colours have come to life in ways you never thought possible. Best of all, the change is permanent. What has actually happened is the fabric has been dyed. Again, this is not ink. No weight is added. Nothing can be felt. Unlike inks that are just on the surface, the colours with dye sub is embedded into the fabric. The high heat opens up the synthetic fibres that allow the dyes to migrate, or sublimate, into the fabric. As the material exits the heat press, the fibres close trapping the dyes in the fibres. Inks can flake or peel off. Not dye sublimation. The dyed images remain sharp even after washing. So when printing on fabrics, dye sub is the way to go. There is nothing that matches the quality of fabrics printed with dye sublimation. Among the top items are Pop Up Tents & Table Covers.
  • UV printing – This environmentally friendly option uses ultraviolet, or UV radiation to cure the ink onto the material. That means there is no need for heat (i.e. extra electricity) to cure the inks. There is no outgassing and it produces very few VOC’s or odour. This printing process results in less of a chance of seeing that dreaded smudging or bleeding because the ink laid down is immediately cured and is often denser, resulting in higher print quality. UV printing also gives the customer limitless colour selection to allow them greater freedom and a better chance to create something more unique and tailored to what they have in mind. Unlike most other printing methods that embed their ink into the material, UV ink sits on top. This allows for a greater range of substrates (materials) to be printed on. From vinyl stickers and banners to hard materials like aluminum and coroplast or even fabrics. UV inks are among the most versatile in the industry. The graphics printed with a UV printer are also much more durable, meaning outdoor applications will last longer as these inks are waterproof and the sun doesn’t fade them nearly as quickly as items printed by latex or solvent printing.

Are there more types of printing methods and if so, how do they work?

Other popular commercial printing methods that are out there and available include solvent and eco solvent options, acid dye, screen printing and latex. This sounds like a lot of choice and maybe a little overwhelming but, like the ones we have mentioned before, each come with their own set of pros and cons. Some methods are better for certain applications so each printing method is as valid as the next. One of the main benefits to the designer when choosing eco solvent or latex, just like with dye sub, is its ability to print in a very wide range of colours. With so much choice it can be easy to get confused, which is why getting in touch with the experts to find out what is best for your application can certainly save you a lot of time and hassle.

Are there other creative options besides ink printing?

Actually, yes there other options available! You don’t always have to choose ink printing as your branding method. Another technique is heat transfer vinyl, or vinyl adhesives. If you remember as a teenager putting your own pattern transfers with an iron onto your clothes then this is similar, but a lot more refined and upscale. The vinyl pattern is cut and stuck to the fabric before heat is applied, keeping the logo or image permanently in place. Because of the ease of production (or who knows, maybe it’s the nostalgia) this is another popular method when it comes to custom design. While technically not printing, this is still a very popular method for t-shirts.

The benefits and challenges of choosing screen printing 

There’s no doubt about it, people love screen printing and the chances are you have encountered it on a daily basis, maybe without being aware of the type of printing you are looking at.  Screen printing is a method of custom printing that allows vivid and eye catching colours to be used. This method is a crowd favourite for anything from outdoor banners to personal T-shirts. However, screen printing is not always the best choice. 

One of the main difficulties with screen printing is that you are often limited by the amount of colours you can have. You have to pay for each one and this can quickly get expensive, eating into far more of that precious budget than you had expected. However, large volume orders of a one colour print can be very affordable. Just don’t count on screen printing as being a method of very high quality. This method comes with its own set of challenges as peeling of the print is very common so it’s always best to talk to your printer before deciding.

Our final tips and pointers about graphics printing before you get started

Our first tip is, before you decide on the best graphics printing type for your needs, it’s also good to think about where they are going to end up being used when it’s made. We all know that the weather in Canada is rarely mild, with strong winds, rains and that dreaded snow. If you are planning on putting signs or banners outdoors you want to have them laminated. Lamination is one of those unglamourous parts at the end of the creation process that people often elect not to go ahead with due to budgets but for prolonging the colour and lifespan, especially for outdoor items, it really is worthwhile. Sometimes adding years to the life of a sign.

Our second and last tip is, choose a high quality printing service. It can be tempting to look overseas but lower cost really does equal lower quality when it comes to graphics printing. At some point we have all passed tattered banners and flags on our travels and instead of increasing the appeal of your business, they do the exact opposite. An average or poor quality printed product will last less time, meaning soon you will be back again needing a replacement. Choose a quality printing company for better inks, printing processes and materials that will create the advertising tool your company deserves.

Finally, if you think you are ready to get creating your next printed item, or you have more questions that you think we can help with, contact us at Display Up for good advice and great printing, whatever you choose to create.

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