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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: Details of a “Non-Glass Cling”

I received a request today to install a series of non-glass clings at a local movie theater. These fit into the category of standees, just as the one-sheets and even the giant beach ball for the movie Rio fit this category. Non-glass clings also require digital large format printing capabilities for their creation, and they employ an interesting base substrate and adhesive.

Some Background on Clings

Until now, most of the “clings” I’ve been assigned to install have been static clings attached to windows. They don’t actually use static. Rather, the moisture in the air and the moisture on the clings create a bond between the glass and the plastic large format print signage. They can be easily peeled off and repositioned on the glass since they require no adhesive. Unfortunately, in dry climates, they don’t last well and tend to dry up and fall off the glass.

Non-Glass Clings

In contrast to these static clings, the non-glass clings I installed today had to be attached to metal columns in the theater, plastic parts of the movie concession stands, a mechanical ticket machine, and even the wallpaper on which the one-sheet (i.e., back-lit, large format print poster) cases had all been mounted in a row.

The diecut characters in the clings were all from The Peanuts Movie. They had been printed, presumably with inkjet technology (I didn’t have my loupe) on clear, flexible plastic. Fortunately, a very forgiving adhesive had been applied to their backs, and the images of the Peanuts characters had been diecut, allowing for easy removal from the backing sheets.

Let me break this down:

  1. The pigment had been applied to the clear plastic substrate over a white ink background. As noted in prior blog postings, this custom printing technique brightens up the colors significantly by providing a ground off which light can be reflected.
  2. The substrate had a good amount of dimensional stability. That is, when I peeled the diecut images away from the scrap (anything not considered the image area), they kept their shape. This was a particularly useful characteristic, since occasionally the adhesive stuck to another portion of the cling (like plastic food wrap, which often winds up in a ball in the trash). I was grateful that I could peel apart the stuck portions easily without damaging the Peanuts characters. In more technical terms, the plastic substrate was strong and dimensionally stable.
  3. The glue was forgiving but also quite strong. When I peeled the large format print clings away from their gloss paper backing sheets, they often stuck together in inappropriate places. Due to the qualities of the adhesive spread across the backs of the clings, I could easily peel them apart and position them on the wallpaper, concession stand, metal columns, or anywhere else. This also says something about the flexibility of the adhesive, in that it worked equally well on metal, plastic, and textured wallpaper. Moreover, I could remove and reposition the clings whenever I made a mistake in their placement.
  4. The non-glass clings had not only been diecut; they had been “kiss cut.” That is, the plastic of the clings had been perforated with the metal cutting rules but the thick backing sheet had not. So I could easily peel off the precise, diecut image of each Peanuts character without having part of the backing sheet come away with the plastic of the cling.
  5. Once I had accurately positioned the clings on the walls, columns, and concession stands (there were nineteen large format print clings in all), I could easily rub them down with my squeegie. (This is a flat plastic wedge that looks like a pan scraper used to clean food out of pots and pans. If you rub it across the surface of the clings, from the center to the perimeter of the images, it will drag the air bubbles away from the center of the cling toward the edges where they can be released. The cling will then lie completely flat with no air bubbles. The clings were even strong enough, and the adhesive flexible enough, for this to happen.)

Why You Should Care

Here are some thoughts on applying this case study to your own work:

  1. Good marketing catches the eye of the prospect by being different in some way. If it’s a postcard printed on clear plastic, it will stand out from all other mail in your mailbox. If it’s a non-glass “cling,” then having an irregular contour (in the case of the Peanuts characters, the contour was the shape of Snoopy, Linus, etc.) sets the cling apart from its surroundings. For instance, when I put four characters on top of four rectangular one-sheet lightboxes, you could see them from across the mall outside the theater. Why? Because everything else (all the back-lit posters) were rectangular. So the “take-away” is that as a designer you should consider ways to make your project different from the competition’s design pieces.
  2. Printing is a physical operation. Consider the substrate you’re printing on. Consider its dimensional stability, its flexibility, and the adhesive applied to its sticky side. If you need to remove and reposition a large format print, you’ll be grateful you thought about these characteristics.
  3. Research the use of extended color sets in inkjet digital printing and the value of opaque white as a background. This is new technology (both for inkjet and laser), and it deserves a close study. If you understand and apply it, your design pieces will “pop.”
  4. Look around, wherever you go. I’ll bet that you’ll see more and more large format print signage. As a designer, this bodes well for your future.

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