Printing is not one-size-fits-all. While you can randomly pick a printing substrate and slap a message on it, it doesn't mean you should. Different materials work better for different messages. Let's take a look at different print materials and what messages work best with each.

What is Affected by Different Substrates? 

Each type of print material has different properties. These properties affect the quality of the print, including:

  • Color brightness
  • Clarity of the images
  • The ability to withstand being folded
  • The shelf life of the piece

Each type of substrate has a place in the printing world and a type of message that it can best convey. Do your research before you order print materials.

Related: Substrate varieties


When most people think of print, this is the substrate that comes to mind. Not all paper is created equal. There are many different types of paper with different finishes. Let's stick to the four main categories.

  • Coated Paper - This variety can either have a glossy or matte appearance. Coated paper is ideal for photographs, postcards, and brochures. A matte finish is better for messages that are primarily text, while a glossy finish is better for images. This type of print material is durable and provides a smooth, high-quality color.
  • Uncoated Paper - This paper has a more textured finish, like cloth. It gives pieces a more classic look and works best with invitations, stationery, and business cards. 
  • Natural Paper - Natural papers typically contain at least 10-30% recycled material and are made from trees and plants. Natural paper is a great choice for companies who are looking for the greenest options. 
  • Synthetic Paper - Actually made from plastic, this material is more durable than natural paper. Synthetic paper is also water-resistant, making it a great option for outdoor signage and restaurant menus.

Plastic Print Materials

Plastic print materials can be made from a wide variety of substances, including acrylic and PVC. This is a durable option offering a great deal of versatility. Plastic is perfect for a wide variety of materials, such as coasters, phone cases, nameplates, and so much more!


Sintra print material is an extremely durable and waterproof type of plastic print material. This is a great substrate for exterior signage such as lawn or event signage. You can also use sintra to print branded promotional products such as coasters. This is a great option for both messages that primarily contain text, and messages that primarily contain graphics.


Silicone is an extremely durable material that comes in a variety of colors. The use of this print material is most commonly associated with branded promotional items, such as silicone bracelets with the company's name and a mission statement. Keychains, cups, and phone cases are just a few examples of silicone items that can be printed on. Ironmark specializes in silicone printing to deliver you state-of-the-art branded promotional items. 

Fabric Print Materials

Fabric is an ideal option for large-format printing. This is the best material to choose when it comes to large banners and flags. Fabric offers supreme quality print that gives the final product a high-end look. One of the best aspects of using fabric for large-format printing is the ability to easily fold and transport the signage without any damage to the print.

Faux Leather

This may seem like an unusual print material choice, but it is actually quite popular.  Faux leather allows for embossing, branding, and even full-color CMYK printing. This is a good option for stationery items and branded promotional products. For example, you could create a notebook with a branded faux leather cover for staff, as well as current and potential clients. 

Which Print Material is Right for Your Needs?

There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on the project. Here are factors you should take into consideration when choosing the appropriate print substrate:

  • Will it be exposed to the elements?
  • How durable does it need to be?
  • How long does it need to last?
  • Is the message primarily text or graphics?


All of Your Printing Needs Under One Roof

If you need it printed, we can help you. Ironmark is a leader in print services. We offer digital, offset, large-format, book, mailing, apparel, and promotional printing services. Our expert team will guide you through every step of the process to make sure the finished product is one you love. Not sure which print material is best? That's okay! This is what we are here for. Tell us what you need and we will present you with your options. Contact us today for all of your printing needs! 

Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
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