All About Large Format Print - Part 1: Vinyl

Large Format Print Guide: Vinyl

Over the next 5 days, we're going to tackle the mammoth subject that is large format printing. We hope it helps you understand what large format printing is and what you can do with it. Who knows, it might even give you a few ideas for your business...

We're going to break it down into 5 separate categories that make up the bulk of large format printing, which will result in you having a firm grip on what's what. These are Vinyl, Correx, Foamex, Dibond and ACM and Banners

When you're ready, let's dive in and attack this head on...

What is Vinyl?

A toughie to start! A simple Google search will tell you it's a synthetic resin or plastic consisting of polyvinyl chloride, used for wallpaper and other covering materials. Breaking that down, it's essentially the name for materials derived from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It's a strong and durable plastic that's resistant to moisture and humidity, making it perfect for signage and printing. 

Despite what people think, it's actually rather environmentally friendly. Not only can it be recycled, but roughly 57% of vinyl is made from common salt, which is a renewable natural substance. 

Types of Vinyl

There's a myriad of types of vinyl here, and we could go into some deep detail. For the sake of your sanity, however, we'll keep it brief and stick to the main vinyl you'll deal with.

Calendered or Cast Vinyl?

To give you a quick overview, there are two primary types of vinyl: calendered or cast. The key differences stem from how they're made. Calendered vinyl is normally cheaper and is the primary vinyl used by sign makers. It's good for most flat sided applications and has a solid lifespan of between 2 and 5 years. Cast vinyl, on the other hand, is more dimensionally stable and is better suited for more complex contours such as vehicle graphics, as well as having a longer life span. It is more of a premium vinyl, and that's reflected in the cost. Cast vinyl tends to last between 8-10 years.

Advantages of Calendered Vinyls:

+ Ideal for flat surfaces

+ Lower cost compared to cast vinyls

+ Thicker films make handling easier

+ Suitable for most customer jobs

Advantages of Cast Vinyls:

+ Longest life span

+ Highest levels of durability and conformity

+ Better colour matching

+ More suitable for contours and curves

Self Adhesive Vinyl

Sticky back vinyl! Just as it sounds, self adhesive vinyl features a removable backing paper often known as a 'release liner'. It's normally used to make signs, whether that's peeling it off and sticking it to the wall like one giant sticker, or mounting it to a board or substrate and making a sign.

Weeding Vinyl

Self-adhesive vinyl can either be printed or in standard coloured vinyl. Printed vinyl can be printed with any design you like in glorious full colour, opening up a huge amount of possibilities as to what you can do with it. Both printed vinyl or block coloured vinyl can be cut any specific shape if you're not looking for a standard rectangle. This is done with a great bit of kit that most large format printers have called a cutting plotter. It follows a pre-designed cut file, and cuts the vinyl of the sticker, but not the backing paper- which is known as a kiss cut. After that, the vinyl is 'weeded' away to leave you with your custom cut vinyl stickers! 

Self-adhesive vinyl has several variations that give it unique properties. For example, block out vinyl features a grey backed layer that stops the image underneath showing through, making it ideally suited for replacing old signs without having to buy a new board. Self adhesive vinyl can also be clear or white backed, making it suitable for printed signage on windows. 

Are you still with me? 

Common Applications and Uses for Vinyl

Wall Graphics

Wall Graphics & Stickers

Company logos for the office, custom stickers or cartoons at home, inspirational quotes, you can do anything with vinyl.

Window Graphics

Window Graphics

Window graphics might be for advertising, privacy, security or simply decoration. Add any message you like to create your own window display.

Vinyl Signage

Indoor & Outdoor Signage

The range of vinyl available lends themselves perfectly to signage. Vinyl is resistant to moisture and humidity, making it the perfect material for both indoor and outdoor signs. They can be cut to the exact size and shape of backing board, and mounted directly on to them. Voila! 

Vehicle Graphics Using Vinyl

Vehicle Graphics

Either cut lettering or full wraps, vinyl is what's used to transform the appearance of many vehicles. It can be either block colours or in fabulous full colour print with your own design. Lovely!

So that's part 1 over with. I hope that's given you a good insight to exactly what vinyl is and what it's commonly used for. If there's anything you're not sure on, drop us an email at and we'll gladly explain. 

Stay tuned, for tomorrow we have the wonderful substrate that is... Correx!  

Other Instalments of All About Large Format Print

Posted by Rob on October 21st 2016

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