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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: Your Options for Political Signage

With the presidential election less than two months away, it’s definitely the season for political signage. And surprisingly enough, there are multiple options to consider if you need to produce this printed product for a client.

Methods for Custom Printing Your Political Signs

While it is certainly possible to use offset custom printing technology to produce paper signage on thick cover stock, by far the more common methods are screen printing and digital inkjet printing.

If you will be printing a one-color or two-color job, you might want to approach a screen printing company. Screen printing uses metal or synthetic screens through which a thick ink is forced with a squeegie. Open areas on the screen allow the ink to pass through onto the printing substrate, while areas blocked out on the screen keep ink from passing through the screen onto the paper.

Set-up charges are rather expensive for screen printing, so the longer the press run the better. For instance, one vendor charges over $8.00 per sign if the press run is 10 copies but only $2.00 per sign if the press run is 100 copies. Long runs drive down the unit cost significantly.

Some screen printing companies do not count the background color (white or yellow, for instance) but only charge for each additional color for type and graphics printed on the sign. One thing to remember is that screen printers often give you a list of standard colors (one particular blue or red, for instance), but if you want to match a particular PMS color, they will charge you extra for the PMS match.

An alternate technology used for much shorter press runs (such as one copy or five copies) is digital inkjet printing, using four process colors to simulate the full color spectrum. Digital inkjet is also a good option for signage incorporating photographs into the design. And with the increasing use of UV ink technology, it is possible to produce political signage that will withstand exposure to both sunlight and rain.

(As a side note, for long runs of signage including 4-color imagery, screen printing can actually be an option as well, since it is possible to use finer halftone screens than in the past.)

The Substrate onto which You Will Print Your Political Signs

Large format printing companies offer a wide variety of substrates for your signs. Cardboard “fold-over” signs are one option. The front and back of the sign are screen printed onto one side of the press sheet, and the sign is then folded in half. A wire structure underneath the cardboard provides the frame that is stuck into the ground.

Polybag plastic sleeve signs are another option. The sign is printed on the front and back of (essentially) a bag with a black interior coating, which creates an opaque barrier between the two sides of the sign. The “bag” fits over a wire support structure, which you can stick into the ground.

A third option is Coroplast, a corrugated plastic similar in structure to the corrugated cardboard in paper cartons. Coroplast has a flat front and back attached to a center made of plastic fluting. Coroplast is both lightweight and durable. You can screen print or inkjet print right on the flat sign material. Wire supports can then be inserted into the fluting of the Coroplast, and the stakes can be inserted into the ground.

For more durable political signage, some custom printing suppliers use .040 aluminum sheets. These can be screen printed or digitally printed depending on the number of colors required and the press run of the sign. The printer can then laminate the sign, which will give it a high gloss appearance, both protecting the ink and increasing the sign’s visual impact.

Unlike political signage produced on Coroplast or cardboard, aluminum signage needs a more substantial mounting structure than just thin wire. Sandwich-board stands (like a tent) are one option. Another option is an inverted “L” bar from which the sign can be suspended (with the base pole inserted into the ground). Other structures for hanging aluminum political signage involve frames made of metal or plastic into which the rectangular signs can be slipped.

Banners: An Alternative to Political Signs

Political signs need not always be printed on rigid material such as thick paper, Coroplast, or aluminum. You may also want to consider inkjet printing your political signage onto vinyl banner material. Large format printing vendors can heat weld the seams of such banners (for added strength) and insert grommets (holes reinforced with metal) through which you can add ropes for handing the banner.

How to Specify Political Signage to Your Printer

Here’s a recap of specifications to consider when you contact your commercial printing supplier:

  1. Printing technology
  2. Size of sign
  3. Number of copies
  4. Number of colors
  5. Whether to print on the front only, or on both the front and back of the sign
  6. Substrate (Coroplast, cardboard, or aluminum)

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