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Dye Sublimation Banners – Why They’re Better Than Vinyl Banners

Custom Cloth Banner

I’ve written a few articles about sublimation printing, but this article will deal specifically with dye sublimation banners, how they’re done, where our clients are using them, and why you may want to consider upgrading your banner purchase from vinyl displays. And why they may actually be cheaper than those made from vinyl in the long run.

When I entered the Sign, Banner, and Decal Printing Business

In 1991, almost 20 years ago now, at the age of 31, I made the plunge into the sign, banner, decal, and display industry. We had a pretty good client base from another business, so we launched into the business which I managed for my Dad. We lasted about 10 years together, but in the aftermath of 9/11 we slumped badly, so we closed down in early 2003. I went on to try some things I’d wanted to try business-wise for about 6 months, and then launched Visigraph, although not officially until early 2004.

sublimated cloth fabric banner hang hanging college school poles displaysIn those days, the sign business had just gone through a revolution for the past decade brought on by the vinyl plotter. No longer did you need to painstakingly learn how to letter a signage, you could simply plug type into your computer on programs like FlexiSign or Gerber, and send it to a vinyl plotter, weed it, apply it, and you had an instant banner!

Sign painters fought the new technology, at least some did, and they found that people could no longer afford their high end hand-painted signs for the most part, when they could get a decent looking one for half the price made from vinyl.

Online Shop in the Late 90s

At my Dad’s company in the ’90’s, we were fortunate enough to have some pretty tech savvy employees who could spot a trend…in 1998, there were two trends we saw that we were pretty sure were revolutionary. The first was the internet. We put a site up online in 1998 when yahoo.com had 500 sites on it…we were the first sign company on yahoo.com as far as I know. The second trend we saw was wide format digital printing.

Wide Format Printers in 2000s

We purchased our first roll-to-roll digital printer in 2000. By 2005, many companies made the plunge, purchasing wide format printers as we found that it was easier to print a big decal and mount it to a sign board than to vinyl letter signs, and the pricing could stay relatively low as well.

Why Dye Sublimation Printing of Fabric Banners Looks Better and Lasts Longer Than Printed Vinyl Banners

Around 2000, the first dye sub inkjet printers were introduced to the marketplace, introducing a new dye technology that supplanted the older ribbon technology used on a smaller scale by the Gerber Edge® since the 1990’s. This technology enabled the printing industry to move into digital printing using dye sublimation, a technology that fused polyester fabric and dyes together making banners fast with continuous color pattern more similar to photography than the digital print on vinyl banners, which uses ink dots to attain the photographic appearance.

Most dye sublimation banners are used either in conventions, tradeshows, retail, or temporary outdoor displays or fairs. They are typically printed on a poly knit material, which is a heavy duty polyester fabric that displays color brilliantly. Tradeshow booths often use stretch polyester banners for their displays or backdrops as it can be stretched just enough to alleviate any wrinkles, making a great looking display. Retail stores often use either the poly knit dye sub displays or poly satin “posters” that hang from the ceilings in some upper end retail stores. And poly flags are used out of doors most frequently.

What’s so Great About Sublimated Banners and Why You May Need Them

So, why would you choose to these types over vinyl? After all, the message, not the medium, is what will get clients, right? To a point. Vinyl looks cheap. Almost everyone has bought a vinyl banner or two in their career, so they know they’re cheap. Subconsciously clients who see one on your booth at a tradeshow, then go to the next booth and see dye sublimation signs may not even consciously realize that they branded you, your product, your service, and your client care as cheap at the same time.

Do I think you should never use vinyl? Absolutely not. There are places where they are much more at home, like in a home improvement warehouse. In these environments, cloth banner would not be the best choice as the air is often greasy from forklift exhaust and dusty. No one wants to do laundry monthly, so while they’re washable, vinyl type might be a really lousy choice in many environments.

These sublimated graphics are an excellent choice in many instances, so you’ll ultimately be the one who needs to decide when you need them. Find some cool and interesting graphics that you think would suit you best.

Try to check out a variety of dye sublimation banners made from heavy knit polyester fabric with top notch prints at wholesale pricing.


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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