Large companies used to be, for budgetary reasons, the only ones that were able to afford full color printing of banners. This is because they could order hundreds or thousands of banners. Orders in large quantities could bring pricing to affordable levels as the set up costs were so high for screen-printed 4-color-process (4CP) banners or displays. Small companies could typically only order a few banners, and likely only one or two colors, as they could not afford to buy the banners at quantity-discounted prices like the bigger companies could.
In this article, I won’t be giving you quotes on banner printing prices. Instead, I will be sharing significant information on what you need to know about banner pricing if you opt to seek professional printing services to make the banners for you.
Digital and Screen Printing in the 90's
I started a banner and sign printing business back in the early 90’s. At the time, digital printers were not yet available to most small sign shops. If a client wanted to order full color printing, it had to be in bulk orders and screen printed using, as stated above, 4CP printing, which uses four base colors that are printed in a specific order to produce photographic or semi-photographic prints on banners or other displays. Otherwise, we couldn’t quote most of our clients because setting up screen printing was and is quite expensive. A few colors could be “printed” on banners and displays using pressure-sensitive vinyl, die cut with a graphic plotter cutter.
Full color graphics could also be printed using other methods if you were printing small boxes or brochures and the like with offset printing, but there were limitations when it came to sizing. If you were to make a graphic print spot colors, you could seam banners by stitching between the copy lines or upright between lettering, however, it was impossible to do this with full color printing. It was even difficult to produce large format sizes similar to a billboard size. Currently, you can now get a full colored printed wide format billboard sizes at very inexpensive cost compared to 25 years ago. Most billboards, for instance, used to be coated with printed strips of paper. Now, large singe-piece vinyl banners are stretched over the billboard face. And not only are they cheaper, they can last a very long time. I drove by one we installed in 2001 the other day, and while it has faded over the past couple years, it is still quite readable 16 years later!
Large Format Printing Evolution in 2000s
With the advent of roll-to-roll digital large format printers, by the early 2000’s, smaller businesses began to be able to afford the lower full color printing prices when purchasing banners and displays for their businesses or trade show displays. Almost overnight, large format printed graphics went from one to three colors to full color, and many businesses jumped on the bandwagon. Pricing to print a banner went from impossibly expensive to easily affordable in a few years. Great for the consumer also was that banner pricing dropped anywhere from 25% to 75%, depending on the quantities ordered.
Here’s How to Look for Banner Printing Shops at Affordable Rates
Let me give you a little bit of advice with regards to purchasing banners from printing shops or services. I remember the advice I learned early in my business career; don’t always purchase the lowest price available. I know companies that offer really low rates – super cheap per square foot. Very cheap offers would surely attract anyone who wants to save money, right?
Well, here’s the thing - the quality of the banners at that price is something you don’t want your target clients to see. With that cost, the item may be coming from China, printed with poor quality inks on low quality vinyl banner material. Always get samples of the printing and materials, as not all printing from China is poor quality. We import a lot of vinyl and fabric banners, but only from a couple printers who don’t use Chinese inks or printers on our clients’ banners. The printers are typically from Japan or Korea, and the inks are from the US, Italy, Germany, or Japan. At this writing, Chinese inks are simply not acceptable to most of our clients.
Finally, if you plan to advertise your business at trade show events, and want to impress potential clients, you may want to look into dye sublimation printed fabric banners. Ask us for the pricing per square foot – although we do now have a 250 sq. ft. minimum order. You’ll be very pleased with the quality of the printing, even up close.