By Lisa Guerriero
Vying for customers’ attention, brick-and-mortar retailers regularly compete with each other and online sites. Eye-catching display and point of purchase (POP) signage help retailers stand out.
Utilizing existing space to boost sales and create a lasting impact is achieved with window graphics. Digital Output defines three main categories of window media—adhesive-backed perforated, adhesive-backed unperforated, and cling, which includes static, suction cup, and other technologies.
To select the correct window media for the intended environment, the print service provider (PSP) must evaluate the customer’s needs. Important factors include substrate composition, unique advantages of the specific media, level of transparency and/or light, durability and intended longevity of the media, and municipal or county signage codes.
It is essential that PSPs become familiar with the print and install requirements of all three window media categories. Each substrate has its own nuances to consider, such as whether it is adhered to the outside or inside of the glass, also known as first or second surface, respectively; ink type compatibility; and special print challenges.
Adhesive-backed perforated media provides compelling POP graphics for a storefront without blocking the view of customers and staff inside the store. Some end users prefer perforation characteristics to prevent a shop from feeling small or claustrophobic or for security reasons.
“Perforated media creates one-way vision graphics on windows—the printed graphic is visible on the outside, but allows visibility from the inside,” explains Nicole Shokralla, associate product manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
Though typically vinyl, some adhesive-backed perforated products consist of polyester—affecting application. In this scenario, “the graphic is mounted to the inside of the glass with permanent or removable two-side tape,” explains Larry Delesio, business development manager, wide format materials, DAF Products, Inc.
The level of transparency varies between products. A 60/40 ratio—60 percent media to 40 percent perforation—is frequently utilized to balance visibility with image quality. Sean McGettigan, technical marketing manager, Hewlett-Packard, suggests that using a material with less open area for retail windows yields better results.
However, opinions differ as to the optimal ratio. While a see-through quality is essential to adhesive-backed perforated media, some customers prefer the inherent benefits of a material with more density and less transparency.
An 80/20 perforation pattern offers “color pop, the best sun screen, and the most privacy,” points out Stan Holt, business development manager North America, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
Adhesive-backed perforated media is well suited to long- or medium-term display and POP signage. Often, vendors offer different levels or grades of their products to help PSPs match the material cost and the customer’s need for durability.
“If messaging is short-term, then an intermediate media may be most suitable,” says Holly Coleman, market development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions. “If the graphic is in place longer, then a premium product may be more appropriate.”
Many adhesive-backed perforated products meet fire safety standards ranging from flame resistance to self extinguishing, rated by ASTM International, the National Fire Protection Association, or both. However, a PSP may not need to factor in fire resistance, as this type of window material is often mounted outside where fire ratings aren’t applicable.
Unperforated adhesive-backed media is commonly used as a décor element in retail spaces. This category offers numerous colors and texture effects to suit the end user’s needs.
For example, “if a long-term logo or graphic needs to look like it is part of the window, an optically clear polyester may be the answer. If a translucent or etched glass effect is desired, a frosted or dusted vinyl material is a solution,” suggests Jason Yard, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products.
Adhesive-backed unperforated media can be made up of polyester and vinyl or PVC. The substrate itself can be dark or light, matte or gloss. Some end users prefer clear material as a way of retaining visibility without using a perforation.
Most unperforated options are designed for medium- or long-term use. There are a range of durability levels for adhesive-backed unperforated media. Some jobs require a higher priced product to ensure long-term durability from wear and tear. This can be especially challenging when a retailer requests durability in addition to ease of install. Brian Cheshire, sales manager, Xcel Products, Inc., recommends PSPs “menu sell” to customers, offering several products within a price range.
To promote longevity for long-term prints, an overlaminate or coating is recommended. While this may be a requirement for vinyl- and polyester-based adhesive-backed unperforated window media, John Coyne, sales manager, Lintec Corporation of America, suggests it is especially true of polyester.
“Polyester films offer minimal heat shrinkage and cold cracking, making them ideal for long-term applications. However, vinyl tends to be a better option for long-term outdoor applications due to their weathering characteristics,” he says.
“Durability is a direct result of media and adhesive choice—coupled with an overlaminate—from a product standpoint,” agrees Dennis Brunnett, product manager, advertising, FLEXcon.
Some adhesive-backed unperforated products offer flame resistance or self-extinguishing properties, while others are not designed to address fire resistance concerns at all.
Cling window media—whether static, suction, or a proprietary technology—is ideal for end users that require non-professional installation and graphics that are removed and reused later.
This substrate is traditionally a vinyl, but today some products are now polyester or polypropylene.
A key advantage of cling is the potential for removability, especially for retailers with seasonal window campaigns or promotions. Suction-based products are easily cleanable, which is well suited for removal and reuse.
Reusability is a factor for graphics that need to be “taken down, stored, and re-used at a later date or the next advertising cycle for a seasonal product,” notes Darrell Adams, VP – North America, Newlife Magnetics LLC.
Intended longevity is often less than three months to one year. Although some products are designed for long-term use, these are typically restricted to two years.
Since some clings are intended only for temporary use, PSPs should ask the customer “the expected term to remain on the window to make sure something is selected with the longevity of the advertising campaign,” says Bruce Walker, client solutions – NE/apps tech, Sihl Inc.
Despite this, durability is still a consideration. PSPs should consult the end user about graphic location to determine the level of human interaction.
As some products offer temperature and humidity resistance, print providers should also consider whether the graphic will be installed indoors or outdoors. “Pertaining to outdoors, it’s important to use a material that can withstand humidity and change of climates,” observes Walter Gierlach Jr., owner, Pro-Graphics Network, LLC.
For products used in temporary applications—three months or less—indoor use is usually required. These window-focused materials are “best placed away from doors, vents, or other drafty areas,” recommends Liz Delp, VP, sales and marketing, ClingZ, Inc.
Due to the short-term quality of window clings, fire ratings are generally not offered for media in this category.
Printing and Installation
The print and install processes of adhesive-backed perforated, adhesive-backed unperforated, and cling window media vary. Whether the media is adhered to first or second surface is an important consideration when it comes to printing.
Secondly, ink type compatibility plays a role. Many polyesters are only UV printable, while vinyl is receptive to a combination of solvent, latex, or UV. PVC products, or those featuring a layer of PVC facestock, are usually receptive to multiple ink sets.
Other nuances effect each specific product, for example the perforation pattern or lack there of. The same is said for the actual install process, as the material used and where it is placed dictates the level of ease in application and whether it will require additional tools to properly adhere the graphic.
Adhesive-backed perforated media can be mounted on the first or second glass surface. Graphics are printed in reverse if second surface install is planned.
A PSP’s choice of interior or exterior adhesive-backed perforated media is based on a number of factors. For example, first surface media can be problematic for retail shops where the exterior windows are hard to reach or are subject to strict local signage codes.
According to Patrick Henrietta, director of sales, Contra Vision North America, Inc., the decision “is driven by ease of access or whether the material could possibly be tampered with—for example an inside-based application offers protection from vandalism.”
Substrates in this category are typically compatible with solvent, latex, or UV ink sets.
The perforation pattern sometimes presents printing challenges. “The image saturation level may have to be increased when using perforated products due to the perforations,” says John Mitchell, VP of sales, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
“With perforated window media, not printing on a solid material automatically limits color gamut. A 70/30 perforated media gains more image area to print, thus increasing impact,” suggests Vincent Bejar, customer business development, LexJet Corporation.
Craig Campbell, market manager – graphic products, ORAFOL Americas, suggests either a double-pass print for heavier ink saturation or layering two identical prints. “If choosing the latter, exact registration of the two prints is a must to avoid ghosting or blurring of the image,” he observes.
Professional installation is recommended for adhesive-backed perforated products, though the scope of the project is a determining factor.
“It is easy for a single installer to manage a smaller application, like a POP display, but if the application was the entire side of a building, you would want more than one installer,” recommends Joey Heiob, technical service representative, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Adhesive-backed unperforated media can be printed double sided. For two-sided prints used in a second surface install, PSPs typically print the first layer in reverse, flood coat with white, and provide a third layer, which creates a two-sided image.
White ink improves image quality by acting as a base layer for a clear substrate, similar to applying primer before painting a wall. “When printing on a clear media it might be best to lay down white ink first, which enables the inks to pop,” suggests Alan Dworman, president, Catalina Graphic Films, Inc.
“If the PSP doesn’t have white ink capability, that provider won’t be able to offer clear media graphics to customers,” recommends Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation.
Depending on the base material, this window media category is compatible with UV, latex, and sometimes solvent inks.
Although professional installation is recommended for many unperforated adhesive-backed products, vendors hone formulations for application and removal by less experienced PSPs.
“These days the application—installation as well as removability—is important. The media has to be applied easily, for experts as well as inexperienced people, and the removability has to be easy as well,” observes Karin Biel, marketing, ASLAN, Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.
Since adhesive-backed unperforated media can be installed first or second surface, it is favorable for those retailers located in cold or inclement climates. Additionally, interior-mount media “is a suitable option to prevent graffiti or when ordinances prohibit exterior-mounted signage,” recommends Judy Bellah, PR manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc.
Several factors affect installation, notes Jim Tufts, business unit manager, Perception Wide Format Media. “Some window products require a solution in order to be applied to the glass and others can only be applied to the window when the temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” he explains.
The type of adhesive backing used on the media in question plays a role. Ritrama recommends substrates with a solvent adhesive “to allow for the wet application method, making installation quick and easy,” says Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama.
Tamara Pitman, product manager, Coveris Advanced Coatings, agrees that adhesive is a factor in ease of installation. “Most window graphics can be mounted easily. Air egress, removable adhesives, and thicker products are typically the easiest to install,” she shares.
Air egress is a growing trend in adhesive-backed unperforated window media. This feature allows trapped air to escape through channels and enables the installer to easily push down bubbles for a smooth finish. Newer products with built-in air egress “are designed to be applied without a paid installer,” notes Gary York, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics.
Clear and white cling each have separate print processes to consider, in addition to where the final graphic is installed. “Whether the graphic is a first or second surface image determines the amount of white ink being used and the appropriate density of the white layers,” explains Mary Ann Geers, area VP – central region, GPA.
Although clear cling can be installed on the first or second surface, it’s often mounted on the interior glass, which requires mirror-image printing. To strengthen the graphic and prevent a washed out look, it is recommended PSPs follow up with opaque white. White cling does not require any special process.
To create a cling graphic that’s visible from both sides, print a mirror image, then print white, and then print the image again in the right direction.
Most cling products are compatible with solvent, UV, and latex printing, though some are limited to UV.
Easy installation draws many retailers to request cling graphics—whether considered static, suction based, or another technology. “PSPs like static cling media because they can be given to any retail worker—regardless of their installation skill level—and be installed quickly and easily,” observes Blake McCleary, marketing manager, General Formulations.
Wet application further facilitates installation for suction-based products.
“The installer may not even want to smooth down the surface depending on how well the media clings by itself upon contact,” says Matt Meyer, marketing coordinator, Plastiprint Sales Company.
Windows are prime real estate for display and POP signage. To optimize potential, three main categories of window media are available—adhesive-backed perforated, adhesive-backed unperforated, and cling, which includes static, suction cup, and other technologies.
Choosing the correct solution depends on substrate composition, unique advantages of the specific media, level of transparency and/or light, durability and intended longevity of the media, and municipal or county signage codes.
In addition, print and install capabilities must be considered before agreeing to a job. A printer not equipped with white ink or a graphic that requires an experienced installer are two major issues that must be addressed in the beginning of a customer consult.
Understanding the client’s expectations and a print provider’s limitations allows for the best possible scenario. Multiple window media options are available for display and POP signage used in retail environments and there is a solution for a PSP from every background.
Oct2015, Digital Output