Become A Graphics Expert

Trade show booths are important. But without dazzling graphics and a memorable message, your booth will not perform to its potential.

Trade-show displays are more sophisticated than they were 10, or even five, years ago. With trade shows and convention halls growing in size, exhibitors are using more “tricks of the trade” to lure attendees to their booths. As a result, booth graphics play a central role in achieving your objective. Choosing the right imaging method and material is critical for producing effective trade-show graphics.


A dramatic drop in equipment price, as well as the ability to produce vibrant, short-run graphics, has increased the use of wide-format inkjets (both aqueous and solvent-based) in the trade-show graphics market. This move to inkjet printing has not gone unnoticed by screen printers. Many screen shops have added digital imaging to their capabilities in order to capitalize on booth displays and other applications. And in some cases, screen printing itself can be useful for trade-show graphics, such as for the production of general-purpose displays that can be customized by end users.

Substrate selection

The media you select influences your production methods as much as the print dimensions and total run size. Your choices are almost limitless, and you have plenty of room to develop unique and creative substrate-usage ideas. However, the way in which you plan to display your finished graphic should play a big part in your decision to use a particular material.

Another popular technique involves printing the design onto adhesive vinyl and mounting the graphic to clear or frosted acrylic panels. From there, you can create a backlit graphic, perhaps by inserting the mounted image into a lightbox. Overlaminating materials with different finishes, including satin, luster, and matte, also can add to the visual appeal of a backlit graphic.

Fabric is yet another media alternative. Fabric substrates can be decorated by screen printing or digital imaging and the materials are frequently used to create extra-large, high-impact images. Industry experts say, “This method allows you to produce a large image that is very lightweight. You can then frame the fabric with wood or aluminum, although the latter is more commonly used.”

Trade-show trends

In an ideal world, we’d all be producing the biggest, most elaborate, trade-show graphics we could think of. However, that’s not practical in a tough economy. Floor graphics are typically smaller than the average booth display, yet they can be just as effective. Floor graphics are found in retail stores and museums, and they’re quickly becoming a key part of trade-show-booth promotion. These graphics often are used to highlight a particular product or service the exhibitor is featuring at the event.

Flexible graphics

Trade shows are on the rise and the increase in smaller, regional shows is fueling the industry’s growth. Flexible graphics for use with portable, pop-up, and retractable banner displays can be designed as a few separate pieces. When these pieces are set up next to each other, they create a complete mural effect.

When creating a flexible graphic display, you have many production options to start with, including inkjet printing with various ink systems, photographic prints, screen printing, and electrostatic transfer.


Beyond adding depth and vibrancy, overlaminates lend rigidity to printed images or photos for use in flat or curved display configurations. In addition, overlaminates are ideal for protecting graphics against fading from exposure to high-intensity lights. Those same lights also can create quite a glare, so be sure to select an overlaminate with a luster or matte finish if you wish to reduce or eliminate the glare.

Flexible graphics are often laminated on both sides. The second laminate acts as a backer, increasing thickness, rigidity, and overall protection to further extend the life of the graphics. Backing products are designed for blocking out light, background colors, and structural frames in flexible displays and wall-mounted graphics applications.


You don’t want to package your finished graphics too soon. Allow a two- to four-hour wet-out period before you roll a flexible graphic and prepare it for shipment. This time allows the adhesive system to reach its highest adhesion level and resist tunneling. Always roll the finished graphics with the thicker laminate facing outward for shipping


As discussed earlier, one of the main benefits of flexible graphics is their durability and longevity. Without proper storage or shipping, your display could be compromised through improper packing or environmental damage. Many trade show companies will work with you to arrange storage and shipping information, as well as helpful information on preserving and caring for your trade show materials.

Rental services are usually offered by trade show vendors. Entire booths, pop-up displays, furniture, plasma/audio visual equipment and more can be rented right on location.

Grow with the shows

Trade shows aren’t going away. In fact, they’re expanding–and so are the options you have in producing graphics for these events. The combinations of output technologies, substrates, and media available should provide you with endless opportunities for creativity and innovation. With some trial and error under your belt, you’ll be able to offer your customers a diverse menu of trade-show-graphic solutions. Hopefully the ideas discussed here will help you serve them and whet their appetites for stunning graphics.


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