Supermarkets, clothing store chains, and other retail outlets need clear signage with messaging that’s sharply and professionally printed to draw in customers.
However, signs, posters, or banners that are printed on both sides of a single piece of paperboard may bleed through to either side if the proper technology is not used. The effect will be accentuated in the light of day, for example, with a storefront window sign. This poor print execution, where a customer will see backwards type from the opposite side of the sign, looks unprofessional and may confuse the customer because it’s difficult to read.
This is not a problem, however, if the right paper is used in the print process. “Think of a deck of playing cards. It’s essential that players not see each other’s hand, so playing cards are printed on paper stock that has black in the middle that prevents seeing through to the other side of the card,” says Mark J. Rowell, president of Mammoth Media, a digital print house in Pembroke, Massachusetts. “There are similar solutions for banners and other POP signage that needs to be visible from two sides, with either a different or the same message on each side. If it’s in a storefront or other well-lit area, it’s even more critical that the right kind of paper stock is used.”
New types of “block-out” or “stop-light” papers are the ideal stock for retail window signage and banners. The specialized product is created from two papers, with a black adhesive between them, laminated to create one piece. The black center makes the paper opaque, allowing for clean, double-sided, no-bleed-through printing.
“This type of paper is well suited to window applications because it so effectively blocks direct sunlight,” says Rowell. He has used it on many retail POP signage projects, small and large, including major programs, which require printing and distribution of materials across a nationwide chain.
One paper Rowell has used for numerous POP client needs is Opacity II, a branded product from Lamitech, a fully integrated paperboard manufacturing company based in Cranbury, New Jersey. The product has superior print quality for digital, offset and screenprinting, and the standard clay coating works well for two-sided printing. Opacity II is a brighter white than its predecessor, Opacity, and it was created specifically to meet the needs of the digital print market.
The opaque paperboard is also recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable, which is important for businesses invested in sustainable practices and the triple bottom line. Today many retailers prefer using signage created from paper rather than foam board or plastics because it is more easily recycled.
Rolls of the product are available in sheets up to 70 inches as well as in rolls, which met Rowell’s diverse printing needs. For a project that required printing and distribution to 1,900 retail locations, Rowell says rolls were the right match for the job that required 32,000 sq. feet of paper—or about 1¼ miles of printing.
“As a digital provider, a client will come to me with an idea or problem, and they rely on me to come up with the right answer,” says Rowell. “In turn, I rely on my paper suppliers to come up with the best fit in often a quick turnaround.”
This is another benefit of working with a producer such as Lamitech, according to Rowell, who says the company can produce an order quickly at a reasonable price.
“We might call in the morning, and the product will ship that night. They’ve really adapted to develop product on demand in an increasingly faster moving digital age,” says Rowell.
Commercial printers also appreciate the value of block-out papers. Among them are SignMasters in Passaic, New Jersey, a full-service commercial printer that creates retail signage for many well known clothing, food and beverage, health care, sports, and transportation brands. As a one-stop shop, SignMasters manages projects beginning with the artwork, then converts it to various sizes for different fixture applications (from sign holders to window displays), and finished by printing and assembling it into kits for distribution to retail points around the country.
Al Raimondi, plant manager for SignMasters, says they are receiving more and more requests for opaque signs to block sunlight, fluorescent lights, or other light sources. In the past, Raimondi says it was difficult to achieve opacity in a thin-paper format—earlier options included opaque styrene, but it was a thick material. But Opacity II, with its charcoal center and availability in calibers of .0085 or .011, works perfectly for double-sided print pieces on any of SignMasters’ three print processes: offset lithography, large format digital, and conventional silk screen.
The lightweight, flexible paper stock helps reduce shipping expenses too, an important factor as transportation costs have continued to increase. Shipping can be a significant budget item for many retailers who often must use overnight services to meet aggressive advertising and promotional campaign deadlines across multiple locations. Since the paper is flexible, it is easy for signage to be rolled and mailed in a tube, but once unrolled, it stays flat and hangs well.
“In the past, a 60-inch sign, for example, would have to ship flat, which meant more packaging; the flexibility to roll just wasn’t there,” says Raimondi. “So there are significant cost savings if you can roll material and use smaller packaging (tubes). If you have 500 stores that need signage kits and you had to ship flat – the old style – the packaging and shipping could cost more than the printing. It’s an innovative solution to business needs.”
Raimondi should know – he’s seen the industry change through several decades. Prior to joining SignMasters, he owned and operated a graphics and printing firm for more than 25 years, and comes from a long family line with ink in their blood—back as far as 16th century Italy when his ancestor, Marcantonio Raimondi, worked as an engraver and printmaker.
By Maria Fotopoulos.
Photos courtesy of Lamitech.