BIG Printer Primer

Does ordering a sign or banner seem like a daunting task?

Large format printers start where most traditional print shops leave off. Although large format printers have the ability to print the smaller sized graphic requests, these firms specialize in producing large graphics including foamcore signs, posters, vehicle wraps, tradeshow displays, full color banners, and much more.

Some of the terminology may sound strange, but don’t be put off. Here are some basics to help your communications flow better and help you get the product you need.


Media is the material that your graphic is printed on. We print on many different types of media including banner material, poster, adhesive backed vinyl, fabrics, backlit material, and many others.


Substrates are rigid materials often used for signs such as foamcore, gatorboard, MDO board, acrylic, Max-Metal, polystyrene, PVC, etc. Adhesive backed graphics are mounted to these types of materials to add strength and rigidity. Or we print directly to these substrates—depending on the application.


Laminate is sometimes applied on top of media or substrates to further protect the graphic from abuse. There are a multitude of laminates, ranging from matte to high gloss that can be used depending on the use. However, by directly printing to substrates using flatbed printers, there is less need for laminate.

Print Files

To print big, printers need “big” hi-quality, hi-resolution images and files. Images copied/pasted off the internet do not work well for large format.  But what does that mean?

Generally, we can edit and print files ending in .ai and .eps.  Often—depending on whether how the files was produced—we can print .pdf and some .jpg and .tif files.  GIF files are rarely printable as they are made for websites.

Big messages and bold brands need big graphics. But even if you don’t have a big understanding, printers can help you walk through the process to make it simpler.

Author: Roman Blazauskas, Owner, SpeedPro Imaging Northern Virginia, 571-313-8334


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