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Finding the Best Material(s) for Your Project

Written By Lindsey Bankert

August 26, 2021

Picture this: you are moving offices and your boss has put you in charge of rebranding the entire space—from the reception area and conference rooms to private offices and the kitchen, just to name a few. You have a design concept in mind, but you’re not sure where to begin. Sound familiar? 

That’s where we come in. 

Several of our clients have faced this same scenario. For others, it’s around designing for an event, creating outdoor marketing signage for a commercial property, or creating custom packaging for investor gifts. While we handle everything from design to installation, it’s our expertise on materials that proves invaluable to our clients, whatever the scenario. Unlike commercial print, experiential graphics is more “outside the box,” and the range of materials can be overwhelming. 

Different projects have different requirements. Is it indoor or outdoor? Temporary, semi-permanent or permanent? Does it need to be durable or interactive? Static or movable? Is sustainability a priority? What’s the budget? In this post, we’ll help you identify the best materials for your project to bring your designs to life and achieve the result you’re envisioning.

To help make things easy, we’re breaking the materials down into four main categories based on the type of projects that most commonly use those materials:

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little different or your project is more complex, we can help with that too! Just give us a call.

Signage

Rigid boards (e.g., foam core, gator board, and Sintra) are perfect for marketing, posters, and small signs. They come in a variety of different materials, including foam, wood, PVC, and paper. Based on the core material, we can recommend the best fit for your event or marketing needs. For example, foam core is made of dense foam sandwiched between a paper face. It’s a cost-effective choice for short term, indoor events but unsuitable for outdoor use, where the paper would become damaged. 

In contrast, Sintra (a high-quality PVC board) and Coroplast (a corrugated plastic sheet) are both made of plastic, making them long-lasting and able to withstand outdoor elements. These materials are typically used for outdoor event signage, yard signs, and political signage. If you’re looking for a more sustainable solution that can withstand the elements, Aqua-Rite is a corrugated paperboard that can last as long as 90 days outdoors. 

We also find rigid boards to be a useful tool for wall art. We can cut out phrases or shapes from foam core or gator board and affix them to the wall to create a unique, dimensional look. 

Printed and routed gator board letters

When considering budget, foam core and Coroplast are your most cost effective options, so they are typically used in short-term applications. Gator board and Sintra are your more expensive options but give you better durability and shelf-life in outdoor applications.

Wallscape rendering on right with routed gator board letters on left

Wall and Window Graphics

If your project involves wall or window graphics, adhesive vinyl or wallscape are your go-to options. Adhesive vinyl comes in varying levels of tack (stickiness), ranging from light tack removable to high tack permanent. It also comes in a few types of finishes, including blockout, perforated and dusted. We can help determine which type of vinyl and which tack level is necessary for your project. 

For example, for indoor cut-out wall lettering or window graphics, we would recommend a low tack adhesive vinyl, so you’re able to easily remove it at a later date without any damage. Perforated vinyl is great for private offices or retail locations where you want to have privacy (i.e., not being able to see in from the outside) whilst not blocking any natural light. High tack vinyl is ideal for outdoor graphics, where you need a durable option that will apply to a range of materials.

Outdoor adhesive vinyl promoting commercial real estate

Wallscape is similar to wallpaper and is easily installed and removed. It works best for full coverage indoor wall graphics. Wallscape comes in a variety of finishes and really helps bring a cohesive look to a space.

Blockout window vinyl displaying a retail space available for lease

From a budget perspective, the least expensive adhesive vinyl is blockout, followed by dusted and perforated. However, since they all have different uses, the application of the vinyl usually  takes precedence over the cost. With wallscape, the price varies based on the finish you choose—matte, suede, etc. Matte is the cheapest option; however, you might prefer higher end finishes like suede or canvas to get the look and feel you are going for.

Banners

When it comes to banner material, there are two main types: blockout and mesh. As with all other materials, your project application and install location informs which one we recommend. Blockout material is fully opaque and used for most standard banner signage (e.g., leasing signage, events, outdoor buildings, etc.) It comes in a variety of weights, which impact durability and price. The higher weight you choose, the more expensive the material becomes. We also use a similar material for pop-up banners called SBO blockout.  

An example of blockout banner material and application

We recommend mesh banner material for any outdoor locations where there is high wind exposure. This material contains thousands of tiny holes per square meter to easily allow wind to go through it, which keeps it in place and avoids damaging the banner. Our clients use mesh banners most commonly for fence wraps, such as those often put up around construction sites. Similar to blockout, the price depends on the weight and size of the roll you need.

Mesh banner works great for fence wraps and other applications with high wind exposure.

Packaging

The term “corrugated” means to shape into folds or ridges and grooves. When you look at the inside of a cardboard box and can see the nooks and crannies, that’s corrugate. In experiential graphics, we primarily use corrugate for packaging, and it comes in a variety of thicknesses (aka flutes). 

For most packaging projects, we recommend an E-flute corrugated, as it provides a high quality print surface, while also having great strength and crush resistance for shipping. For a lower cost alternative, you can use C-flute corrugated, which comes in a brown kraft finish and is typically used as an outer box. However, some of our clients choose to use it for its durability and apply a label or bellyband around it as an alternative to full coverage printing.

Social media influencer kit printed on E-flute

Another material option we use is 27pt board, a very thick card stock. We use this material for bellybands that wrap around the outer box or for trays and inserts that hold contents in place inside the box.

Real estate broker package featuring a bellyband made of 27pt board

The Bottom Line

When it comes to experiential graphics, your material choices depend on your project, budget, location and usage. While it’s helpful to understand the options, we don’t expect our clients to be materials experts—that’s what we’re here for. Our team is happy to talk through the options for your specific project, so drop us a line. In the meantime, we’ve put together this handy chart for your reference. And remember: any questions, just ask!