By Melissa Donovan
Specialty self-adhesive material is trending, specifically with a focus on different textures and finishes. Textures mimicking woodgrain, sand, linen, and canvas are possible.
Above: Avery Dennison offers MPI 2630 and MPI 2631 textured wall films in three finishes—canvas, stucco, or crushed stone.
Printable substrates of this nature bring opportunities for print service providers (PSPs). Graphics with realistic backgrounds are used in residential, commercial, retail, and hospitality environments.
Self-adhesive materials featuring specialty textures or finishes were until recently predominately considered niche and not as easily accessible. In addition, the products were not compatible with digital printing. Today’s newest media advancements have led to printable materials that continue to make their way into the mainstream.
Once thought of as purely for practical purposes, textured material is used for aesthetics as well. “Originally, textured vinyl films were used almost exclusively for floor graphic applications due their slip-resistant characteristics. However, they have since found their way into trade show, wall, window, and décor applications,” explains Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA. Textures like woodgrain, sand, linen, and canvas help to elevate a graphic’s aesthetic.
Metallic or metal effect materials are in high demand, according to Rene Bourgeois, key account manager, ASLAN. “Customers search for solutions that look and feel like the original material but are easier to handle, can be changed frequently, and are cheaper than original materials. We do not consider metal effect films niche products, but a very typical application in retail, exhibitions, and point of sale.”
“Self-adhesive vinyl with textures or finishes are still somewhat considered niche and specialty,” argues Bekie Berg, product manager, FLEXcon. “Special effect films such as glitter-filled or prismatic can be used in seasonal applications such as point of purchase (POP) displays, packaging, labels, and stickers. Whereas textured fabric films are more mainstream and can be used in a variety of applications including architectural wall décor and sound dampening uses.”
Matt Braswell, technical sales specialist, Arlon Graphics, LLC, agrees that while textured films are growing in popularity, they are still niche when compared to traditional films. “Everyone has one or a few variants of a textured film, but more often they are still special order items.”
The products are quickly finding their way into the mainstream “Specialty textured finishes are more common as clients and corporations learn more about them, especially with the ability to customize a message,” notes Amanda Smith, associate marketing manager, Mactac.
“They have become more mainstream recently as the demand for different finishes is getting higher to set the appearance apart from the norm. These textures can offer a totally different look from smooth finishes,” adds Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac.
Many types of customers request specialty self-adhesive materials. The number of environments the final product is placed in is vast.
Textured film is commonly requested by designers and architects for mostly interior applications in the architectural realm, according to Braswell. “A textured film is ideal and often more cost effective and changeable than other options given fashion, style, and business lifecycles.” Arlon offers Arlon DPF 4200 Matte/Canvas as a textured finish option used in wall graphics, home décor, and indoor advertising.
“Customers involved in the transformation of interior corporate spaces, hospitals, and retail establishments can source specialty effect or textured films that will provide differentiating factors such as tactile and movement. Applications include walls, windows, floors, and POP displays,” explains Berg.
Yarbrough says some of the different textures Drytac offers are used in high-end restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and car dealerships. “They offer a richer, deeper look to images. This gives the end user more options to get the exact look and feel they are looking for. It also allows for a business to totally change their look in a day or so depending on the size of the install.” Drytac’s ReTac textures line offers several textured finishes to choose from including canvas, linen, sand, and woodgrain. Custom finishes are available on request.
Wallcoverings heavily utilize specialty self-adhesive materials for environments like trade shows, murals, POP, custom promotions, and seasonal/event theming, suggests Lisa Schultz, operations manager, DreamScape.
Additional locations, lists Smith, include corporate offices, schools, restaurants, hotels, and even residential spaces. “These products are ideal due to their print customization capabilities with the look and feel of wallpaper.”
“Environments that involve people and furniture are popular for wallcoverings. Hallways and lobbies because the finish is already textured and any bumps or bangs disappear more,” notes Cheryl Spade, sales representative, Kapco. For example, the company offers a 6-mil canvas textured vinyl that provides a thicker textured product for high-traffic areas when used as a wallpaper.
Metallic finishes are common in vehicle wrap applications, shares Adrian Cook, digital print marketing manager, 3M Commercial Solutions. “This is when the customer is looking for a unique design that can’t be achieved with traditional media.” One example is 3M Print Wrap Film IJ180mC-120 Metallic Satin White Aluminum, which provides a sparkle finish.
Not a Delicate Flower
The term “specialty” could carry a connotation of fragile or delicate. For some materials in this category, that is not the case. Depending on the media, the level of durability is many times just as high as a traditional self-adhesive product.
For example, Smith says Mactac’s textured films are just as durable as its other products. “Mactac’s PSA textured wall films are made to be on the wall for years, so the applications can be installed—typically—in interior public spaces without any worries about durability.” IMAGin DecoMural and IMAGin DecoFresco are part of this lineup.
Schultz notes that DreamScape WallWrap products—including Ravello, Caviar, and Brilliant—are two to four times thicker than other materials. Although intended for indoor application only, “they are more durable and will not stretch or tear easily. Our unique textures hide most wall imperfections as well.”
ASLAN offers long outdoor durability products of up to five years—including its PrintMetal ASLAN CA 30, which offers metallic effects. This polyester film with a PVC surface is used in architectural applications and available in six polished or brushed metal effect options.
Of course, it is important to check with the manufacturer or distributor to determine the correct specifications like whether it is meant for long- or short-term applications, can be placed outdoors, or recommended for areas with increased human interaction.
“For long-term outdoor applications, a cast or premium polymeric vinyl is required. These types of vinyl are designed to withstand outdoor temperatures as well as UV degradation. For indoor applications, polymeric and monomeric vinyls are appropriate for most short- and long-term projects,” advises Colbath.
Continental Grafix manufactures panoRama Walk&Wall, which is a non-skid textured vinyl with a removable/repositionable adhesive on the back. It can be used indoors or outdoors on vinyl, tile, concrete, and wood surfaces.
Since an overlaminate is not typically used on textured films—the texture of the film prevents the overlaminate from applying correctly—the lifespan of a graphic may be shorter. “Textured wall films typically offer a two year durability. A clear coat could extend the lifespan of the graphic. The smooth finish films can offer a longer term durability since they can be laminated to protect the ink,” explains Molly Waters, senior technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Avery Dennison offers MPI 2630 and MPI 2631 textured wall films available in canvas, stucco, or crushed stone finishes.
Certain materials are more delicate, admits Braswell—citing a carbon fiber weave pattern or woodgrain texture as more likely to tear when handling during installation. “Once applied, textured films are more sensitive to abrasions and collecting dust and debris. Textured films are not ideal for regular human interaction or physical contact as they usually won’t have an overlaminate to protect the inks and surface from abrasion.”
“Textured graphics without overlaminates are typically better suited to indoor areas where they are least likely to be soiled or disturbed,” agrees Cook.
Durability is related to the thickness of the entire construction of the material. Berg notes in this case, consider how the specialty effect was achieved during the manufacturing process. For example, the amount of pressure used to emboss the film or the addition of glitter to the adhesive. FLEXcon offers a few specialty vinyl materials including holographic PRISMcal and SHIMMERcal glitter films.
Another connotation for specialty is expensive—which can be good and bad for the PSP. It costs more for the material per square foot, however, the print provider can also transfer that cost to the customer.
“These products are going to cost more than a plain monomeric vinyl as most are polymeric, thicker, and more durable—which increases the cost of manufacturing,” admits Yarbrough.
Textured material costs more for two reasons, according to Colbath. “There is an added cost of embossing the face of the film during the manufacturing. Also, textured films need to be thick to accept the embossing texture.”
“The material cost for specialty products with textures or finishes is more per square foot as compared to traditional products—as specialty products require more raw material and processing. The end user needs to identify if the specialty product will help meet their goals of the end use application,” shares Berg.
Despite textured films being more costly to manufacture because the minimum order quantities are often higher and the film is generally thicker to accommodate the texture built into the material, “the finished product readily sets the message apart from the norm and it is easy upsell for a PSP,” says Smith.
Colbath doesn’t believe PSPs have trouble convincing their customers that the extra cost of a specialty self-adhesive media is worth it. “In the applications these products are used in the durability, aesthetics, and other benefits are easily recognizable to the customer.”
“This is a specialty product with a higher end finished appearance. If this is what a customer is looking for the print provider should not have any problems selling this to the customer,” agrees Waters.
Print providers should be aware of certain nuances when printing to specialty textured or finished materials.
Material with textures can cause challenges in the printing process. “Because the product is textured, ink isn’t jetting onto a smooth substrate. This can cause a slight color shift versus a comparable smooth product using the same color profile. Also, due to the texture, ink coverage may have to be adjusted to get a satisfactory image,” cautions Colbath.
Different textures mean different surface patterns, and this effects ink laydown. “The surface pattern of textured products can either be random or a repeat pattern. Depending on the surface profile, the amount of ink deposition will need to be adjusted accordingly for 100 percent ink laydown,” explains Berg.
Printer settings may need to adjusted accordingly when printing to a textured material, mostly due to the media’s thickness and handling requirements, notes Smith. Also consider the finishing component—cutting and/or trimming tools may wear out more quickly, depending on the media used. Lastly, she points out that specialty textured media is often offered in shorter roll lengths, so production should be planned accordingly.
“Any time you have a textured print media, you want to be careful not to damage the printheads or other print components,” continues Cook.
Whether it is a wallcovering or a vehicle wrap, many applications, environments, and customers benefit from printable specialty adhesive-backed media options. Textured products with woodgrain, sand, canvas, or linen as well as holographic or metallic options enhance a graphic, creating a high-end look and feel. Despite a higher cost, these materials translate to positive sales for any PSP.
Sep2020, Digital Output