By Olivia Cahoon
Trade shows offer an ideal opportunity to showcase products and attract new customers. Blockout fabric helps exhibitors to direct attention to their products with high-impact graphics.
Blockout fabric is popular in retail and trade show settings because it provides an opaque substrate, allowing stunning image quality. Print service providers (PSPs) suggest masking stands with this fabric type for a more appealing display.
Both double- and single-sided options are available. Double-sided products are considered a premium and cost about 20 percent more than single-sided offerings.
Layering for Light Blocking
Blockout fabrics are often composed of polyester and woven fabrics. This is because knit fabrics aren’t opaque enough to block out light. However, blockout fabrics vary in, material composition, coating, and quality. The printing composition and differentiating characteristics provide PSPs with options.
There are two basic types of blockout fabrics. Those with one layer of fabric and a backing of gray or black blockout liner and those with a blockout liner between two printable fabrics. The first offers the ability to print double sided, while the two-layer version is limited to single-sided prints.
For double-sided printing, a black woven yarn base added between the outer print layers of material or coatings offers greater opacity than that of perhaps a gray yarn, ultimately resulting in an enhanced image quality, offers Joseph Rooney, sales manager, Heytex.
Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag US, points out that laminating a black or white foil on both sides of the fabric—or even a black foil on the back, creates the blockout visual. Other methods include using a black or gray-based coat with a white topcoat on the fabric for PVC or coated textiles. Even 3D woven textiles have the ability to blockout light because of the black yarns in the middle layer. “This only works in medium and low widths and where the white surface is not really a bright white, as you can’t cover or hide the black yarns completely,” says Tischer.
Rooney says that a single-sided fabric has a backside coating or polyurethane (PUR) treatment that allows for complete blockout coverage. It also makes the fabric more durable.
Michael Sanders, VP, Pacific Coast Fabrics, points out that the back coating of blockout fabrics impact the structure of the fabric by increasing thickness and opaqueness.
Trade Shows, Retail, and More
Because blockout fabric conceals framing systems commonly used to structure booth displays, it is a good option for this type of signage. It creates a fully opaque look that isn’t possible with transparent fabric, and blocks light from behind the image so the frame isn’t visible. This optimizes the printability of the image and draws attention to printed graphics. However, it has many uses outside the booth as well.
Mike Compton, product marketing manager, Top Value Fabrics, says that blockout fabrics are typically multipurpose and heavyweight blockouts make terrific options for banners, banner stands, display graphics, and table cloths.
Sanders agrees, noting that while blockout fabrics are great for creating a fully opaque look in frame systems, it’s also useful in multi-image lightboxes and roll-ups. “By using blockout fabric in between lightbox images you can ensure individual image clarity,” he says.
In addition to blocking light, the fabric also saves time and money because of its ability to handle the job of two fabrics. Sharon Roland, advertising manager, Fisher Textiles, shares that blockout fabric is a popular choice in retail because it can be used for double-sided prints in point of purchase (POP) displays and banners.
“Iit makes sense to use a one-ply printable blockout fabric for certain jobs because it can do the job of two fabrics and save the cut and sew step, which can be costly and time consuming,” adds Roland.
Rooney says that blockout fabric is popular in retail and trade show applications because the fabric properties allow for a lighter weight that reduces shipping costs. He points out that the textile feel is more appealing in both settings compared with traditional vinyl or PET offerings. It also tends to photograph well because of the enhanced image quality.
Blockout fabric is well suited for densely lit areas where advertisement’s focus is integral. “The gorgeous, wide color range is only enhanced by the fabric’s blockout properties. A good quality blockout offers a smooth, elegant drape and a slight stretch to ensure a good fit in retail and expo frame systems,” says Compton.
It can also be used to optimize small spaces. “Blockout fabrics offer the print provider and retailer the option for double-sided printing to best utilize retail space if needed, without any imaging or verbiage showing through to the imaging on the opposite side,” says Tischer.
While many great fabric options exist in the market, PSPs should consider several specific qualities. For starters, blockout fabrics should always be 100 percent light proof.
Finding the perfect blockout fabric also depends on what it is being used for. Some fabrics are more durable than others. If it isn’t durable enough, the fabric can peel off or disintegrate completely. But a fabric that is too durable can affect the fabric’s ease of use. “Some blockout fabrics have a coating that makes the fabric rigid and stiff, thus making the installation into frame systems challenging,” says Sanders.
Slightly stretchy blockout fabrics work well for trade show graphics because the elasticity prevents needle holes in the fabric and improper placement on the framing system. “If looking to pillowcase two fabrics together, it’s important for the blockout to have some stretch so it can properly align,” says Roland.
To save material costs PSPs can also look at printability. Testing the fabric can ensure it will yield a wide color gamut with the desired ink compatibly. Compton shares that some blockout fabrics will yield brilliant results using dye-sublimation (dye-sub) transfer, dye-sub direct, UV, or latex.
Ultimately, the qualities to look for depend on the application and how the blockout fabric can enhance its features. “Printability and the product’s hand are also key to many retailers as they want to showcase a product with image, pop, and clarity,” says Tischer.
On the Market
Here we review the composition of a selection of blockout fabrics on the market today.
Fisher Textiles GF 8873 white/black/white, GF 8880 Opaque White, and DD 8881 Opaque White are three layered material blockout fabrics with a layer of black in the middle for a sandwich effect and a soft hand. The GF 4100 Sheeting and GF 7100 X-Out is a woven fabric coated with a multi-layering for opaqueness. The GF 7100 X-Out is a polyester fabric with a viscose and rayon flocking intended for blockout liner and opaque single-sided banner applications. Most of the company’s coated blockout fabrics are printed with UV curable machines while uncoated fabrics are used for dye-sub transfer.
“Our GF 8880 Opaque White and DD 8881 Opaque White have an extreme white point. GF 7110 has excellent stretch,” says Roland.
Heytex’s new Deco-Flex Opaque offers a knitted polyester base with a backside PUR treatment affording todays printers up to five meters or 197 inches for grand format textile blockout applications. Rooney says it can be printed with direct disperse dye-sub, UV, and latex printing. The fabric has a black backside and features bending resistance and foldability if using bubble wraps.
Pacific Coast Fabrics offers the optic white Deko-Tex Blockout 7255KMFLBS by Georg+Otto Friedrich, which is made entirely of polyester. It is flame repellent and has a slight elasticity so that it doesn’t cause needle holes. The fabric has an aqueous finishing and is capable of printing transfer dye-sub, disperse direct to fabric, UV, and HP Latex printing.
Top Value Fabrics offers its Midnight Blockout option which is a knitted polyester fabric engineered with a durable black back to ensure opacity for applications that require blockout. It features a slight stretch to make it an ideal option for a variety of exhibit frames, retail POP, theatrical displays, and banner stands. The fabric features an acrylic black back that offers optimal blockout and increased durability.
Verseidag US features the seemee Blockout Premium B1104 and B1108. The base fabric is polyester with PVC coating on both sides. The B1104 has a width of 10.6 inches, while the B1108 measures 16.4 inches. Designed for indoor and outdoor use, the coating provides smoothness and its finishing prevents sticking during printing. The print topcoat achieves consistent image quality and color reproduction alongside UV stability.
Blockout fabrics are used for banners, display graphics, light boxes, and frame systems. The woven fabrics and multi-layers create an opaque look that conceals hardware and draws attention to advertised products. Because of this, the fabric is desirable in retail and trade show settings.
PSPs considering blockout fabric should determine what qualities are most important. While some fabrics are more durable, others can be slightly elastic, flame repellant certified, and have offer a higher printability. They can also be two or multi-layered.
With many options to choose from, it shouldn’t be difficult to find the perfect blockout fabric. DO
Dec2016, Digital Output