On the Shade

With today’s available technology, there really isn’t anything that cannot be printed. And one company is using this to take the concept of window browsing to a whole other level.


Located in Garland, Texas, Texton, Inc. is a family-owned wholesale fabricator that’s been around since 1941 and works on any type of interior or exterior window covering. They’re specialists in interior design, and the company’s forty-eight employees work at a nearly 40,000-square foot facility providing solutions for clients in this field.

The company has been using its 104-inch Roland AdvancedJet AJ-1000 (mainly built for billboard printing, making it ideal for graphics geared to face outwards toward the sun) to custom-print window shades and coverings. They’re printing full-color logos, graphics, and photographs onto window shades for businesses like nail salons, restaurants, or hotels, as well as the press box at nearby Southern Methodist University’s football stadium.

“The [window coverings] industry is still getting used to the idea of putting graphics onto shades,” states current CEO and third-generation Owner Ed Williams.

Texton got involved with printed shades after winning a project bid for the W Hotel in downtown New York City. “They required a thousand graphic shades in the rooms with these tiny Ws forming a mosaic,” says Williams, “and with the AJ-1000, we realized we didn’t need to sub out that work after all. It prints up to 102 inches wide, and typically the standard roll widths in our industry is 98 inches.”

With this realization, they aggressively started offering these printed window shade solutions to their customers.

Williams says banner material is ideal for use as a darkening material in some rooms. He goes on to say that PVC-coated and solar screen materials work best for shades. (Note: PVC-coated materials don’t wick.) “The textured surface of solar screen material gives graphics another level of depth. It’s also very forgiving,” he says.

For most projects, Texton supplies the fabric materials, which Williams prefers. He explains, “If you have a window opening that’s five feet wide-by-ten feet tall, clients would have to provide much more than they’d need for us to hook it up to the roll-to-roll printer.

“We don’t waste as much when using our own materials.”

Williams cites a custom-printed shades project his company is currently doing for a big hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio. “It’s really just a simple design,” he says. “They were going to provide us with rolls of materials, but thanks to our buying power, we were able to get the material and sell it back to them for cheaper.”

Concerning production, Williams explains that after the shade fabrics are output from the roll-to-roll printer, they don’t touch it. “It takes a couple of minutes for it to set and dry properly,” he says. “The printer heats up the material just enough to apply the ink.”

The designs that can be printed onto shades are limitless, yet Williams find this mindset can still prove difficult for clients to grasp. “One thing we’ve done is produce a library of designs [clients] can choose from,” he says. “This helps get them thinking in the right direction.”

Still Williams enjoys working with customers from scratch. To come up with design placement, he uses a simple worksheet showing where the images should be placed in the middle or how far left or right or from the bottom the customer wants it.

A designer recently came to his shop with a project involving an interesting pattern on some drapery fabric that she wanted for shades. “I took a photograph of it on my iPhone, redesigned it, and made a few changes to render that image onto a shade,” he says.

Williams has also been working with a non-profit historical museum in Houston for the past year on an ongoing project involving custom-printed shades throughout its facility. “They have all of these archived images—like pictures of Bob Hope and his wife coming off a DC-3, for example,” he says. “But we have to consider how the photographs that are normally wider than taller are going to interact with a shade that’s traditionally taller than wide. So we played around with cropping it and manipulating its position to get it right.”

Meanwhile for the hotel in Cincinnati, the big challenge is that the material they’re printing on for these shades is directional in nature. “So it’s not like we can turn an image sideways,” he says. “They all have to be north-south because of the weave, the unique pattern of the material.”

When working with old photography for reproduction, Williams says companies might do a little touch-up work to them—if necessary. “However some of the blemishes add to their nostalgic look,” he says, bringing up the aforementioned historical museum.

Williams says that if they get a damaged photograph intended for a business, they’ll do a little more work to it. “We’ll kind of blend it in and fill in the spot that’s missing,” he says.

When they do big projects, Texton loves printing them all at once, as it’s more efficient, but Williams admits that this really is up to the customer—and the project.

WindowShade3

“For the hotel in Cincinnati, we’re breaking down our supply to the installers into individual floors,” he says. “We’ll manage and nest the images onto the material the most efficient way for a single floor.” (Note: Williams likens the process to playing the Tetris™ video game when it comes to trying to nest everything properly.)

“But the reality,” he says, “is that, while we’ll supply one floor or two floors at a time, we print everything up at one time.”

Williams points out that the process of printing onto shades did have quite a learning curve, but his company overcame this through testing and trial-and-retrial.

 

One early stumble was the thought that they could simply print everything onto white material for any colors needed. “I figured if someone wanted a green background shade with graphics,” he says, “instead of looking for that particular green material, I would just print it out onto white.

“But this process isn’t as conducive to printing a solid color for long periods of time. You’ll start to see lines in it, as well as track wheels.”

Williams would like to go even further into hospitality markets with these printed window shades, since that’s where the most opportunity lies. “Blinds can be considered the red-headed stepchildren of interior design,” he says, “but hospitality is where your most bold design concepts happen—whether it’s restaurants or hotel lobbies or spas.”

And to reach even more print providers and let them know about custom-printed shades, Texton, Inc., recently partnered with FASTSIGNS® International. Thanks to this hook-up, the company is reaching even more high-end designers beyond hospitality. So don’t be surprised if you notice more and more printed window shades being drawn up.

By Jeff Wooten

Photos (top to bottom): Roland DGA; Texton


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