A billboard on the highway. Mesh signage banners around a construction site. A display sign at a tradeshow. Consumers see grand format printing all around them, yet probably don’t know the name for it or the processes behind it. Known as grand format, wide format, or large format printing, this type of print is manufactured on specialty large print equipment capable of imaging on all kinds of surfaces, and practically unlimited in size, it makes a big impact. Its versatility renders it capable of decorating the exteriors of apartment buildings to wrapping vehicles with custom imaging and messages. CCG prints its grand format projects with ultra-violet inks which are humidity, water, temperature, and sunlight resistant. Although a project’s lifespan can be dependent on the materials used, the use of these specialty inks allows the material and print to withstand harsh weather throughout all seasons. Large format printing began with cut vinyl and screen printing, which has evolved today into advanced digital print by specialty print equipment.
In 1991, company Nash Editions developed the Iris Graphics Model 3047, the first digital grand format printer. It was unique and industry-changing, but also expensive and short-lasting. The printer only used water-soluble CMYK inks, which were easily damaged by sunlight. Additionally, the expenses of this printer made it inaccessible to the general public. Soon after, a collaboration between Nash Editions, Epson, and Durst began the conception of the Epson Stylus Pro 9500 in 1999. This project was groundbreaking for photographers and artists looking to showcase their works in vibrant colors on a large scale. The printing industry was once again thrust into the spotlight with the growing popularity of wide format printing.
In the new millennia, innovations from industry experts Hewlett-Packard and Durst improved large format print quality with high-stability, multi-colorant pigmented ink systems. These new printers produced images that were longer lasting than before. The commercialization of wide format print technology made it much more widely accessible to the average consumer. Today, the options for grand format printing are essentially limitless and can be used by a business or organization for many purposes including trade show graphics, indoor and outdoor signage, banners, backlight graphics, floor-window-ceiling-wall graphics, environmental graphics, vehicle wraps, building wraps to name a few.
In the print industry, grand format projects are printed on a variety of materials, called substrates. Choosing the correct substrate for a grand format project depends on the environment of the project, the size, and the specifics of installation, as different materials have varying outdoor lives. One of the most common substrates used is PVC which is highly durable and ideal for outdoor signage. It produces a quality image that can also withstand all kinds of weather conditions. For large scale projects, durable vinyl makes excellent, smooth banners that are high-quality and affordable. Interior designers love removable vinyl, which is a substrate that can be cut into specific graphic designs, applied to a wall, and removed without any damage. Grand format projects involving photography often use acrylic as a substrate because of its outstanding quality and luminance. For water-resistant and reusable projects, clients often choose gatorboard, a substrate made of lightweight foam between wood-fiber. Gatorboard is easy to transport and durable through all weather conditions because it is water proof. These are just some of many substrates that are used in grand format print.
Wide format printers differ depending on the way they transfer ink onto the substrate. Aqueous ink is water-based, meaning the ink pigment or dye is held in a water solution. This works well on coated materials such as canvases and banners that can be laminated afterward. Solvent is any ink that is not water-based. These prints are water-proof and can be printed directly onto uncoated substrates such as vinyl. Solvent inks are generally more durable than aqueous inks. Another type of ink is dye sublimation, which is diffused into the substrate, producing photographic quality prints. Finally, UV inks are inks that dry under UV light resulting in waterproof, embossed, and vivacious prints. The type of ink used is dependent on the project and the customer’s needs.
Grand format signage has maintained added importance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to uproot businesses and society as we know it. Social distancing signage can be found everywhere now, whether it is an “Enter Here” sign on the front of a grocery store or a 6-feet apart marker on the floor. These are often made from adhesive-back vinyl which can be stuck to a variety of surfaces and removed after use. Grand format printing is an essential need in society in order to keep people safely distanced and maintain order and capacity.
Furthermore, grand format print takes a large role in company rebranding projects. CCG has successfully worked on a number of customer rebrands which included numerous grand format projects. One rebrand involved the installation of new window and wall vinyl graphics, silicone-edge graphics, and exterior and interior graphics and banners designed to support the new brand identity of the company. CCG also installed directional signage and printed PVC 3D custom signage for the customer. It was a highly successful and cohesive rebrand that could not have been completed without large format print technology.
Grand format print is also in high demand for business grand openings. There are a number of projects which can be used to generate excitement and provide clarity for new customers arriving at the location. A specific example of a grand opening where signage is crucial would be for a real estate development company opening a new apartment building. Typical grand format projects include parking rate signs, wayfinding signs, windmaster signs, and leasing office signs. The feather flags often seen on the side of the road to announce a grand opening also fall under grand format work. Adhesive backed vinyl and window perf graphics can be applied to walls and windows to announce a grand opening as well. All in, grand format is a crucial form of advertising when it comes to these types of projects.
The advent of grand format printing changed the graphic communications and advertising industry significantly and is now an integral part of marketing. CCG’s wide format technology provides clients with stunning grand format graphics and signage to fulfill all marketing objectives. Grand format print continues to be a successful medium for attracting new customers and retaining current ones. Talk to a representative at CCG about elevating your company’s brand image and advertising with grand format print today!
By Marley Niesz