Large Format Digital Printing Materials – A Complete Guide

Own a printing business? Looking for promotional signage, displays or branded decorations for your client but not sure which digital printing material is right to offer them? This guide breaks down all the options available to you and includes information about the different printing methods so that you can select the right large format printing material to suit your clients use case.

Written by
Ella Faulkner
Internal Sales


Choosing Large Format Printing Materials

Businesses have consistently used banners and signage because they are high-impact, low-cost, flexible marketing tools that are simple to install and place. They are one of the most effective forms of visual communication for businesses, as long as they are designed and printed correctly.

That’s why there are so many options available when it comes to choosing the best large format printing materials for your needs. Each material offers different advantages, which means that you can tailor your chosen advertisement method more effectively knowing how best to use them.

Methods of Large Format Printing

The type of large format printing material that you use will determine what kind of printing technology is best suited for the job. Print technology has come a long way, and there are now a variety of different printing methods available.

The most common types of digital printing include:

  • Solvent printing: Using an inkjet plotter, solvent printing replaces the aqueous ink that is traditionally used for printing and instead uses a pigment solvent ink. This produces vibrant images but is slow to dry and not very eco-friendly. However, it is more versatile than aqueous ink and can be used on a wide range of materials.
  • Eco-solvent: This method uses inks that have the colours held in place by a mild and biodegradable solvent. As a result, the inks have almost no odour at all. Although eco-solvent printing produces highly dynamic images, it does take a longer time to dry. Due to the heating process, it’s also not usable on a lot of different materials.
  • UV printing: The method of UV printing makes use of ultraviolet light that will then dry or cure the ink, the coatings, or the adhesives used in your chosen type of large format printing material. The UV light means that it will dry as close to immediately as possible. It can also be used on almost any material, making it cost-effective, fast to make, and durable.
  • Latex printing: Using print heads to dispense water-based ink, latex printing means that the latex works like a carrier of the various colour pigments being used. The end result is more colourful and dynamic than other printing methods. It’s more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and faster than other types of printing too.
  • Inkjet printing: The most common type of printing, this is the same type of printer that you have at home or in the workplace. It recreates your images onto the surface of the material that you’re using and is very effective and low-cost. It won’t work on all materials, and larger format printing will mean specialist inkjet printers.
  • Dye-sublimation: Using heat to transfer dyes onto your digital printing materials, dye-sublimation creates a long-lasting print. The heating process turns the solidified inks that are on the transfer paper into a gas that will permeate the material being used. The result is superb image quality that far outperforms other printing types.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2023 Print Industry Report


The Types of Large Format Digital Printing Materials Available

Here’s our guide to large format printing materials so that you know what options are best for you and your clients.

PVC Banners

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a synthetic thermoplastic. It’s made by polymerizing vinyl chloride, and it’s one of the most commonly used large format printing materials. PVC banners have a wide range of benefits.

Not only can they be designed in frontlit, backlit, blockout, and mesh formats, they are multi-purpose and more versatile than alternative digital printing materials. They can be put almost anywhere, whether you’re advertising a promotional sale or simply boosting brand awareness.

Banners always grab attention, but because PVC banners are durable and weather-proof, that means you can use them just as effectively for outdoor promotion as indoor. That means they will attract attention and get your branding messages seen by everyone in the vicinity.

Affordable, versatile, and long-lasting PVC banners can work hard for you every day.

Made from: PVC

Printed with: Different printers will use different printing methods with PVC banners. It’s a versatile material, which means that it can be printed on using solvent printing, UV printing, or latex printing.

Perfect for: Most types of banners and signage for almost every business model in any sector.

Common applications: For outdoor use, it is usuallyattached to scaffolding, outside a community building or church, or found at sporting events. For indoor use, it is usually found on walls or exhibition panels.

Window Film

From retail and commercial properties to the transport sector, window film displays come in a wide range of styles and sizes so that they perfectly match the needs of the business. For transport use, they will get seen everywhere the vehicles go, and for brick and mortar units, they are ideal for catching the attention of the people that walk by your store.

They’re an efficient use of space, too, because windows are prime real estate for marketing, especially for those businesses that are short on space. They do more than just help to market your business too. They also boost privacy, which is particularly good for office spaces (and they can be perforated so that you can see outside, but passersby only see your communications). They can also prevent sun glare and are UV-safe so that your teams and your customers are more protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Made from: There is a wide range of different films that can be used for businesses — frosted, vinyl, privacy films, and UV protective films, to name just a few.

Printed with: It’s very easy to print on window film these days, although that wasn’t always the case. For large branding and signage, a large format printer is necessary.

Perfect for: Businesses with a brick and mortar store that has a lot of passing traffic/footfall. It can also be used on transport.

Common applications: On a standard, clear window of a restaurant, office, shops, lobbies of hotels and bars, dining areas, hospital entrances, and patient windows. It can also be used in a waiting room, conference room with glass walls, decorative jewellery displays, dressing or fitting rooms.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2023 Print Industry Report

Printable Textiles and Soft Signage

Textile materials can be grouped into two main categories, textile banners and soft signage. They offer a cost-effective solution for retails displays, exhibition stands, and free-standing or wall mounted fabric tension frame systems for advertising purposes.

Textile Banners

One of the large format digital printing materials that is seeing a huge surge in popularity is textile banners, as they are very aesthetically pleasing. Made from 100% polyester, they come with some advantages that you simply won’t find with other large format printing materials.

These materials are incredibly lightweight, and that makes them ideal for those businesses that want to use their banners and signage at lots of different locations and events.

They don’t have any glare, unlike PVC banners, and they don’t scratch either. Not only that, but printable textiles are also very fire-safe and exceed regulations for fire-safety in terms of using fabrics at large events like trade conventions and conferences.

Made from: 100% polyester that is scratch-resistant, and crease-resistant. That makes it non-reflexive, recyclable, and perfect for indoor or outdoor use.

Printed with: Suitable with a variety of ink technologies, including Inkjet, UV printing, latex printing, and eco-solvent printing.

Perfect for: Businesses that spend a lot of time at industry events such as trade shows, conventions, and conferences. They look just as good when used in one location too.

Common applications: Trade show displays for business promotions, wall backdrop for a convention or conference to promote the event.

Soft Signage

In terms of versatility, it’s hard to beat soft signage. These high-quality textile materials can be used on garments, flags, backlit displays, and banners very easily. They are also incredibly lightweight, especially when compared to other digital printing materials like PVC. That means you can transport your branded banners, flags, or displays easily and makes them ideal for marketing campaigns with a national rollout.

Not only do you save money on transportation and storage, but soft signage is also a lot more affordable than the more traditional large format digital printing materials on the market. Easy to unload and install, any member of your team will be able to take control of placement and installation wherever they go. Washable and versatile enough to be just as effective and long-lasting outdoors as indoors, soft signage simply looks more professional than alternative materials.

Made from: Although there is a range of different materials that can be printed on for soft signage, most typically, it will be a waterproof polyester fabric. That makes it incredibly versatile.

Printed with: Dye-sublimation and UV technology printing that results in vibrant and eye-catching banners and signage.

Perfect for: Trade shows, marketing campaigns, and industry events.

Common applications: Advertising displays at events and trade shows,photo backdrops,retail promotion to build brand loyalty, flags or banners for a marketing drive outside shopping centres, restaurants, car dealerships, and more.

Floor Coverings

Previously underused, more brands are using branded floor coverings than ever. Ideal for retail outlets, exhibitions, and conferences, as well as for short-term promotional campaigns, branded floor coverings can be made from vinyl, Lino, carpet, or aluminium-based products. That means they can have a range of advantages and can be used on a permanent or temporary basis, and can be used indoors and outdoors.

Multiple studies have shown that branded, promotional floor coverings can boost sales and brand awareness and can even keep shoppers in one place for longer.

With more people shopping while holding their phones in their hands, shoppers looking down at the floor means a fantastic opportunity for marketers. They don’t just have to be promotional either. They can be used as signposting and store messages too.

Simple to clean and easy to remove when your marketing campaign is over, floor coverings can be used on almost any kind of floor surface and can even be non-slip. Printable floor coverings now use high-tech media that uses a flexible PVC substrate and a grand format printer. High quality and extremely durable, floor coverings are only growing in popularity.

Made from: A range of vinyl, textiles, or aluminium-based materials.

Printed with: Various options, including UV printing, dye sublimation, solvent, and latex printing.

Perfect for: Trade shows and businesses with brick and mortar units.

Common applications: Marketing promotion for retail, restaurants, and more by using a brand logo.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2023 Print Industry Report

Mesh Banner Material

One of the more commonly seen types of large format printing material, mesh is ideal for event signage, external store banners, building-size wraparounds, and one-off events. These perforated banners are incredibly high value simply because they come with so many advantages.

Made from durable PVC, the perforations mean that they are ideally suited to outdoor events because they are more wind-resistant than standard, solid PVC banners. In high winds, your marketing messages can be lost as a banner flaps around, but mesh banners will allow for airflow through the banner itself, minimizing movement and ensuring that your branding is more easily seen. That also means that they are less likely to suffer from damage when it’s windy too.

They are lightweight, making transport easy enough. Both an advantage and a potential disadvantage of mesh banners is that they let light through. This is good news if you’re using a backlight, but it can make lighter colours harder to see in harsh sunlight. However, those small holes that make mesh banners so versatile are also too small to be seen without getting right up close.

Made from: PVC

Printed with: Solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex printers

Perfect for: Businesses that attend outdoor events or want external displays outside their brick and mortar outlets.

Common applications: Used at large outdoor sporting arenas for promoting businesses, such as restaurants, retails companies, and more on a big scale — also ideal for big shopping centres and large offices.

Printable Magnetic Sheets

When it comes to ease of use, it’s hard to beat printable magnetic sheets. For all of your display purposes, you can install and remove your magnetic designs as and where you need them. That makes them ideal for short-term and repeat promotions. They’re very low-cost too, which makes them an excellent choice for smaller businesses on a more limited budget.

Magnetic sheets use an iron-coated PVC surface composite for the magnetic part but also come with your choice of surface materials. You can choose from canvas, PVC, or PET (polyethene terephthalate), and that means that you get to tailor your magnetic sheets to suit your precise purpose. Whether you want indoor or outdoor signage, this lightweight, easy-to-use, versatile, impactful, and durable material is hard to beat.

Made from: Iron-coated PVC surface and your choice of customer-facing surface.

Printed with: Inkjet printing.

Perfect for: Vehicles, store displays, and special offers.

Common applications: Marketing promotion messages, point of sale displays, retail promotions, car signs, home decoration, and craft purposes.

PVC Free Recyclable, Eco-Friendly Banner Material

PVC is great for banners and incredibly popular. The problem is that it is also not very eco-friendly.

Every business should be taking steps to be more environmentally friendly. When it comes to large format printing material, some options allow for recyclable PVC-free materials that are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Usable both indoors and outdoors, the PET-based materials used in eco-friendly banner printing are PVC-free and phthalate-free, as well as being 100% recyclable.

Eco-friendly PVC-free banners and signage can be made easily using PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and PP (Polypropylene), with the addition of eco-solvent inks or latex inks to boost image quality to the maximum. PVC-free materials are the ideal choice for those brands embracing the greener target audience and promoting their carbon footprint awareness.

As with all large format materials, eco banners come in varying sizes so you can choose to have large or small banners, add lightboxes, choose double-sided so that you can print on both sides, opt for blockout banners, or mesh and self-adhesive signage. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they can also be printed on using a variety of different printing types.

Whether you need UV, solvent, eco-solvent, or latex printing, fully REACH compliant eco-friendly banner materials are the way to go. And if they do end up in a landfill, they will decompose naturally, unlike plastic banners. Kind to the environment, large format print signage using eco-friendly materials is also a great addition to your marketing campaign itself.

Made from: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and PP (Polypropylene).

Printed with: Compatible with UV, solvent, eco-Solvent, and latex print technology.

Perfect for: Green businesses. Any brand focusing more on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint.

Common applications: A trade show display, point of sale display, menu board, retail sign, restaurant sign, directional signage, showroom signs, informational signage, and building signs for offices. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Printable Wallpaper

Eye-catching and unique, printable wallpaper is ideal for retail and corporate use. Now that technology and printing advances have vastly improved the quality of printing on PVC-textured wallpaper, it is fast-becoming a must-have for a wide range of businesses.

Using a combination of high-quality base paper and PVC material, printed wallpaper adds colour, texture, and your brand personality to any customer or client-facing space. It’s more durable than traditional wallpaper, too, and much more resistant to tears and damage. Should the worst happen and a section of your wallpaper needs to be replaced, it’s simply a matter of printing up the damaged section rather than the full wall.

You can be as creative as you like with your designs, too, with the print quality making it easier than ever to not just showcase your brand’s images, but your photos and highly-detailed graphics too. Great for boosting brand awareness and staying fresh, you can even choose between matt and gloss effects.

Made from: PVC material combined with high-quality base paper.

Printed with: Wide-format inkjet printers.

Perfect for: Businesses with a limited budget that want to make the maximum impact.

Common applications: Home decoration, office decoration, craft purposes, retail promotion.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 2023 Print Industry Report

Self Adhesive Vinyl Rolls

Great for indoor and outdoor use, self-adhesive vinyl rolls printed with your brand communications are one of the most versatile large format printing materials. They are weather-proof and can come in a range of design options, including your choice of shiny gloss or a smoother matt finish.

The materials used in self-adhesive vinyl rolls is a flexible PVC substrate that comes with a permanent adhesive backing. That means you put it in place and never have to worry about it again. Not only does its weather-proofed design make it great for using outdoors, but choosing a matt vinyl style will also cut down on glare, so it’s ideal for using indoors too.

Easy to apply, long-lasting (between five and seven years), and customisable to an extraordinary degree, self-adhesive vinyl rolls are a fantastic branding and marketing resource.

Made from: A top layer of thin vinyl that is printed with your brand messages. Then, it has a second layer of adhesive (and you can choose between water-based adhesives that are removable and solvent-based versions which are much more long-lasting). Then, a backing layer is put on that you remove when you want to apply your printed signage.

Printed with: Solvent, eco-solvent, latex, or UV printer technologies.

Perfect for: Outdoor banners and signage.

Common applications: Marketing promotion for all businesses, and to decorate windows for business promotion, wall decoration for homes, offices, and schools. 

Remember The Basics!

Whenever you are working out the best type of banner, signage, or decoration, and the most suitable large format printing materials for them, it’s important to remember the basics.

Make sure that you know the purpose of your display, how long it is likely to last, the finish options, image quality, and where it is going to be placed.

Consider viewability, and always ensure that the materials being used are REACH certified. Look at the size of the sign and how much it will cost too, and you’ll have a much better idea of which style and material is best for you and your business.

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