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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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: Standees Encompass Most Printing Technologies

I may have mentioned this before. In addition to brokering printing, I install signage in movie theaters. This includes “standees,” the large, cardboard advertising environments and statues promoting upcoming movies.

At a recent install, I thought about all the various skills, areas of knowledge, and technical operations that go into creating and distributing a standee. And I thought you might find it interesting to see how many of these pertain directly to commercial printing.

Offset Custom Printing

Most of the standees are printed via offset lithography. I know this for several reasons.

  1. Under a loupe, I can see the rosette patterns in the halftones (circular patterns of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black halftone dots). Xerography (digital printing) shows a pattern of dots under magnification, but not true rosettes. Inkjet (also digital printing) shows minuscule spots of ink under a loupe, not halftone dots or rosettes.
  2. I can see offset color bars on the edges of the enamel litho paper on which the standees have been printed. Printing companies add these notations to press sheets to show solid ink colors and color combinations as well as halftone tint percentages.
  3. Standees go to multiple locations. It would be most cost-effective to print these larger press runs on printing companies’ offset litho presses rather than digital presses.

Digital Printing

The huge wall banners promoting upcoming films are probably produced via inkjet technology, because:

  1. The banners are much larger than the offset presses owned by printing companies could produce.
  2. The banners are produced on vinyl, which would not hold its dimensional stability on an offset press (i.e., it would wrinkle and move around, or stretch).
  3. Under a loupe, you can see minuscule ink spots in no regular pattern (i.e., dithering, which is indicative of inkjet printing).


The bases and pedestals of many of the standees are printed in matte black ink directly on the corrugated board, whereas the graphic panels of the standees are printed on gloss litho paper glued to the corrugated board. This is a dead giveaway that rubber flexographic plates were used to print the matte black ink on the bases of the standees, and that printing companies produced the graphic panels via offset lithography.

Finishing Techniques

Here are some general finishing techniques used in standee construction:

  1. The standee graphic panels are often laminated (covered by the printing companies with a thin film of adhesive plastic sheeting for protection).
  2. Panels are scored (probably on a letterpress by a commercial printing company) to allow for folding. After all, the cardboard elements of the standee arrive flat and must be accurately folded by hand.
  3. Tabs and slots are diecut, along with screw holes (also probably by commercial printers on a letterpress). Tabs, slots, and screws allow standee installers to put all the pieces together into the huge movie environments.
  4. Often portions of the standee are silhouetted. That is, the figures must be die cut on a letterpress by a commercial printing company.
  5. Printing companies use pattern gluing to attach pieces of cardboard to other pieces of cardboard. For example, separate fold-out tabs may be glued to the back of a movie character within the standee environment.

Exotic Fabrication Techniques

  1. One standee for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax included a composition plastic molded figure (or possibly fiberglass) that was approximately three feet tall. It had been masked off in various areas and (probably) spray painted in a number of oil-based colors. Most printing companies do not do this kind of work, but three-dimensional fabricators often use skills related to printing.
  2. Lollipop poles coming out of the Lorax standee had cardboard circles attached to their tops. The circles were covered with faux fur. This involved not only the die-cutting of the lollipops but also the pattern gluing of the fur material.

The Larger Picture: Marketing Design, Production, and Distribution

All of the standees come in flat cardboard boxes. All of the cardboard pieces must be punched out (non-image areas of die-cuts removed from image areas), folded, and assembled based on the accompanying directions. Picture this as a huge, 3-D puzzle. But it is only a component in a larger scheme.

Someone has to design the standee. It has to fit into a marketing strategy to promote the film all over the country. It must be able to be assembled (i.e., the standee designer must take into account logical construction concerns based on physics). The standee must stand by itself, bear weight in some cases, and last for months.

Unassembled, the standee must fit into a carton of a certain weight and dimension that will be transportable by a freight carrier. It cannot break apart. The carton must protect the contents, so small pieces of the standee don’t get broken (which they still often do, requiring artistic skill on the part of the installers to repair the standees).

Someone has to choose destination theaters and send the boxes, track them, and make sure installers show up and assemble the standees correctly (confirmed through photographs uploaded to a “cloud-based” database).

A huge amount of thought and money go into this. It is a true marriage of art and science.

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