Top 10 Rigid Substrates

So you have gone to the shows, spent time researching the best flatbed printer, and now you are about to purchase your new printer or you already have one in your shop. Great! What are you going to print onto? Okay, here are my top 10 best rigid substrates for printing.

  • Dibond—No question here this is a top money maker and a super performer. Dibond is two layers of powder-coated aluminum with polyethylene center. You can run your UV-cure printer at full speed and full lights on this stock, and it just loves the ink. The router can cut it into any shape.
  • Lexan—I prefer Sign Grade 3/16" Lexan that is UV-coated on one side. This is also a huge winner because the only other way to print to this material is to screen print it or stick vinyl to it. This material cuts nice and does not break in the cold. If your printer can print white, you will make a lot of money with this material.
  • PVC—PVC boards are available by many manufacturers and the best feature is that printing onto white PVC boards produces accurate colors. PVC is it is readily available in large sheets (5'x10') and in many colors. It cuts like a dream, is great for double-sided printing and will take a medium heat.
  • Polystyrene—This one is a home run across the board. From .020 to .060 (and thicker), from backlit to full light blocking, to special cutting and bending, polystyrene is just a fantastic product. The ink adhesion is great and the stock holds the image very well. Shipping polystyrene is great as you can roll it and ship it in a tube.
  • Stoplight—This product is an inexpensive paper stock that is 8.5 points thin (less than the thickness of a business card) and inks stick perfectly. Ideal for double-sided prints for window graphics. The material is opaque so you cannot see any light through it. Sheets come in just about any size up to 50" wide and you can also get this on a roll.
  • PETG—PETG looks like Plexiglas and costs a little more, but it is a little softer and as a result prints well and cuts great. Great for backlits, trade show displays and most applications that require a clear, rigid material.
  • Gator Board—I have two favorites here–3/16" and 1/2". I use the 3/16" for all my show and event graphics, the board is nice and light and rigid. Gator will work for both indoor and outdoor applications, and comes in many different sizes and thickness.
  • Coroplast—Coroplast is a great product but adhesion can sometimes be problematic with UV-cure inks. The rumor going around is that Coroplast is coming out with a coated product that will not have issues with ink adhesion. A number of the printer companies today have ink that works very well with Coroplast, but you need to test the substrate.
  • Foam Board—Foam board is basically a light-weight, paper-faced, foam-centered sheet. Some types can warp badly under a flatbed printer’s UV-cure printer lamps, while others run fine. Test your materials. Foam board prints best when done at high speed with and cure lights set to medium.
  • Polyester Sheet—I like the litho-printable polyester that is 10 mils thick. The ink sticks so well you cannot scratch it off, even with a blade. The flexible film is available in clear and white and other colors. This material is excellent for P.O.P. and event graphics.