Written by Andrew McConnell

  • Old signOne of the distressed-looking antique signs TPW reproduced
  • Printing in reverse before applying to the substrateThe images were printed in reverse and applied to the substrate, aluminum in this case, with a hot laminator.
  • More signsTPW produced about 90 signs that ranged from 8" x 20" to 36" x 86".

Getting clever with the material options is one way to achieve a particular goal. Often in the digital industry, print is achieved by tried and true methods and materials. But sometimes a client has a need that doesn’t neatly fit into the standard production method. It is these times where an experienced sales rep partnered with an experienced production team can pull things together. Not too long ago, Thomas we approached by a large restaurant chain to authentically reproduce about 90 somewhat distressed-looking antique signs.

Part of the challenge was trying to replicate the look of an antique metal sign. Printing directly to metal left a texture from the ink that didn’t seem authentic, while typical adhesive vinyls had their own problematic surface patterns and plastic look. A transportable graphic material that is printed in reverse and applied to the substrate — aluminum in this case — with a hot laminator was very successful in achieving the desired look.

It was a situation where a new material had been delivered to the shop for an unrelated project and the sales rep recognized that there could be other applications beyond the traditional for a product like this. When the opportunity arose to digitize and reproduce antique metal signs, the idea for trying this new material seemed perfect.

In another scenario, clients will sometimes come to a salesman with a list of materials they have used in the past or actual items that other places have printed. Often, the material used and the material specified would not match up. This is another case where the experience of the rep can be extremely beneficial. They might be able to recognize the discrepancies and provide better options or solutions.

Referring to the metal sign project, the idea was to make them look painted and not digitally printed. They needed to have a certain type of smoothness and reflection on the surface. The material chosen by the rep had never actually been used in this manner, and some testing was required by production to achieve the desired look. In the end, the final product was stunning, and after a short test run, the client ordered several dozen pieces. The experience and time spent by the rep and crew was invaluable to the customer and the business in terms of drawing in a large ongoing project.

Finding a rep with years of industry experience will provide the customer with both the history of traditional material uses and some creativity of usage and innovation with newer materials. Relationships are built over a long time, and so is the experience of a good rep. The time they have spent learning to find the best solutions for their clients and knowing when to apply “out of the box” thinking is a powerful tool for the client to access.

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