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Sustainable soft signage leads to profit

Graphics | March 1, 2008 | By:

The digital printing of textiles has been going on since the mid-90’s with electrostatic (e-stat) and ink jet printers, either by direct printing (in the case of ink jet) and via dye sublimation transfer (ink jet and e-stat).

Today, advances in ink jet printers, (direct to fabric sublimation printers), combined with growth in textile applications, such as soft signage and apparel, are driving the market for digital textile printing. The biggest application for digital textile printing is soft signage, which accounts for about 75 percent of the output in terms of square feet printed. I.T. Strategies estimates that in 2007 the retail value of digitally printed soft signage was more than $1 billion worldwide. Over time, the PFP market has come to realize the importance of soft signage (signage printed on fabric) over paper and vinyl.

The reasons for the success of digitally printed signage include:

  • Differentiation from paper/vinyl. In the world of signage, it’s all about getting the viewers’ attention. If the other signs are paper or vinyl, a fabric sign will stand out.
  • Upscale perception. Fabric creates a more sophisticated look, especially for certain advertisers, such as cosmetics companies, and customers, such as museums.
  • Reduced costs. Fabric is lightweight and flexible. It costs less to ship (from print shop to customer and from customer to wherever) and can be folded without damaging.

Soft signage = sustainable products

Stella Color was one of the early print shops to see the advantages of printing textiles for signage. One of Stella Color’s clients reported that it saved $200,000 in shipping costs by switching to fabric signage for its trade show booth; the company went from shipping its trade show booth in six 8-by-6-foot crates to one.

This not only saved the client money in actual shipping costs but made a big impact in overall sustainability issues: less gas needed to move the crates, signage that was easier to install, (thus taking less time), and less reprinting due to damage. This is just one example, but there are many ways that you can make sustainability choices profitable for you and your clients.

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on digital printing of textiles and sustainability, one of the most discussed issues in our industry today. The co-authors are Lynn Krinsky of Stella Color (, a digital print shop in Seattle, Wash., and Patti Williams of I.T. Strategies (, Hanover, Mass., a market research and consulting company focusing on digital printing.

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