The Evolution of Sign and Banner Shops, and Adapting to Being Fabric Banner Printing Companies
If you did a search engine query for fabric printing companies, you would come up with a variety of reasons for pressing on cloth material, but our purpose in talking about this will be for the purpose of producing advertising banners, since that is what I’m familiar with. Another reason might include if you’re a clothing designer and have a specific pattern you need imprinted.
However, as I don’t know much about that type of cloth printing (it isn’t apropos to our business), what I’m talking about are the companies that print on cloth using dye-sublimation or digital printing. In the past – and present – companies print(ed) various fabrics in various ways, mainly for clothing and household items like sheets and curtains, that I don’t need to get into here, but it was/is done in large runs because the setup costs were/are astronomical.
How Sign and Banner Companies became Cloth Printing Businesses
With the invention of screen printing, it became possible for businesses to set-up and make certain fabrics with specialized inks that would bond to the cloth – and do it at a reasonable cost. One screen-printable acrylic fabric brand is Sunbrella™ which were used by our clients for street or pole banners. Businesses have used and still use these street banners, with great results, year in and year out. Sunbrella™ boasts a long outdoors life; it also goes by names like Tempotest™ and Dickson™ which, coincidentally, are owned by Sunbrella™, but have different patterns.
Fabric printing companies have also been screen pressingT-shirts (and other clothing and fabric consumer goods) for years using inks formulated specifically for pressing on cotton and cotton blends, but again, I’m not really concerned with that in this article, and am simply mentioning other types of companies perform that this article is not addressing in depth. We’ll do an in-depth article on that type later – maybe next year.
Vinyl advertising banners, up until the late 1990’s, were pretty much the mainstay of the temporary large format advertising market. They were inexpensive, easy to print or apply vinyl graphics to, and you could get them quickly, for the most part, unless you were having 1000’s of them printed. Polyvinyl displays were (and still are) the cheapest of all high volume graphics and you’ll see them on or in franchises and chain stores that have lots of outlets like McDonalds, Burger King, or Home Depot.
However, in the late 1990’s, dye-sublimation printing went digital, when someone discovered that one could print on specialized paper with dyes, then transfer the color using heat and pressure. While this method is still considerably more costly than making the vinyl displays, it has put cloth banners within reach of small companies that want to present a big image. Good businesses have shown over the past decade that cloths are a good way to do it.
How Uncle Ted’s Polyester Suit from 1973 Looks Nothing Like What Cloth Printers are Making now!
Cloth printers have a good percentage of dye-sublimation items on polyester material (nylon is also used prolifically) because it is high in photopolymers, which, when combined with dye, pressure, and heat, bonds with the dye to create beautifully-colored banners that are both eye-catching and functional. They have found that one great feature of polyester fabrics is that you can stuff them in your suitcase at the end of a tradeshow, throw it in a washer when you get home, and iron it if you need to. The colors are part of the fabric, so they won’t bleed out or fade.
Because you don’t want your polyester fabrics to look like your Uncle Ted’s polyester suit that he’s been wearing since the ’70’s, fabric printing companies, along with the manufacturers of polyester cloth items, have created many different looks for their materials – from stretchy Spandex™ “power stretch” polyester – to satin – to sheer – to knit – to outdoor flag material – that are perfect for trade shows, retail marketing, and even outdoor events. And the good news! They look great, and their not too expensive!
View here to learn more about these banners.