Calling all sign creative-types who want to make an impact with signage design – consider your large format substrates!  

Most marketers who need a large format printing job done only consider the traditional option: heavy-duty paper as the substrate. However, more forward-thinking designers and marketers understand that large format printing can be done on a variety of other materials. Here is a quick rundown on the most interesting (and alternative) options:

WHAT’S A SUBSTRATE? The technical definition: a substance or layer that underlies something, or on which some process occurs. Short answer: anything you can print on.


Printing – large format or otherwise – on glass or an acrylic substrate produces a finished product with much greater luminance and optical depth than on ordinary paper. The acrylic substrate is typically much lighter and more versatile than standard glass. It’s also easier to install. Glass, on the other hand, is ideal for producing outstanding quality photographic images and lightbox applications.

Foamcore (board)

Foamcore – also known simply as “board” in the industry – is the “go to” solution for indoor signage because of its durability. In addition, it is extremely lightweight and easily movable. Foamcore is not only rigid enough to be wall-mounted without a frame, but can be scored and folded to create 3D free-standing displays. In short, large-format signs printed on Foamcore provide a high-quality product at a very cost-effective price.

Metal (dibond)

This particular substrate is composed of a plastic core faced with an aluminum surface. The finished product has an ultra-smooth surface, is essentially maintenance-free and is exceedingly long lasting. The dual aluminum surfaces protects the inner core and make a dibond printed substrate ideal for any indoor or outdoor application.

Related: Making Creative Use of Trade Show Flooring 

Wood (Gatorboard)

Large format printing on fairly thick wood panels provides quite good color quality, excellent coverage and good fidelity, while also incorporating a natural element with surface textures. This provides a rustic style to any art or sign display. However, these types of displays need to be protected from the sun and other elements, as they are highly susceptible to moisture and sunlight. Here at Ironmark, we can print on any substrate 2.5 inches thick! Wood is a really cool option.

Signage Design  - Large Format Substrates

Removable vinyl

This popular substrate is perfect for relatively temporary signage. It is manufactured from vinyl material and backed with a removable adhesive. This substrate is ideal for interior graphics applications. Removable vinyl is remarkably easy to install, even easier to remove and does not leave any residue. In short, you can install it on any wall surface – wood, sheet rock, glass or other type – and not worry about causing damage upon removal.


Another lightweight plastic material that is a cost-effective substrate for large format printing is Coroplast. It is waterproof, rot-resistant and cannot be infiltrated by insects, making it ideal for outdoor use. Unfortunately, it is not particularly durable when it comes to wind and sunlight. Still, it makes an attractive solution for signs that only need to last for few weeks to a few months.


Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Available in both white and black varieties, this substrate makes an excellent choice for signage, both aesthetically and functionally. Both types are renowned for their resilience and durability in even the most demanding outdoor environments. The use of white-ink technology allows black PVC to provide a relatively unique look while still providing the traditional benefits of white PVC.

The Bottom Line

In short, large format printing can be accomplished on almost any substrate that is two inches or less in thickness. For more information on the process and how it can improve your company's marketing efforts, please contact us at Ironmark. Find us online at or reach us directly at 888-775-3737.


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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