Kick Off 2020 with the First Printer Webinars of the Year

Now that the holidays are over, take some time for yourself by attending a free printer webinar. If a new printer is in your 2020 business plan, then don’t miss your opportunity to learn about some of the most popular aqueous and latex printers available today. You can register for sessions from Canon PRO-Series or HP Latex industry pros. Learn about the latest technology, new applications, and receive extra savings on qualified purchases as a “thank you” for attending. Don’t wait to register, space is limited.

Canon

  • What? Learn about the next generation Canon PRO-Series printers, software, and new contoured-cut bundles.
  • Who? Pete Wright, an award-winning photographer, discusses the benefits of the recently updated PRO-Series printers.
  • When? Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 11 a.m. ET
  • Why? Attendees will receive an additional 5% off their PRO-Series printer purchase. SIGN UP NOW

HP

  • What? Join us for the free HP Latex printer technology webinar
  • Who? John Stevens, one of the industry’s leading latex specialists, will discuss the applications and benefits of HP Latex technology.
  • When? Friday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. ET
  • Why? Attend and you will save $1,000 on an HP Latex 315 Print & Cut Bundle or HP Latex 335 Print & Cut Bundle, or save $4,000 on an HP Latex 560 or HP Latex 570. SIGN UP NOW

Sign up online or call one of our printer specialists at 800-453-9538 for additional information.

Three Major Wide-format Trends to Watch in 2020

If you’ve been in wide format printing for a while, or even if you’re new here, you’ve probably noticed that things move pretty quickly in this space, from customer expectations to equipment upgrades to new material launches. These changes, upgrades and improvements are never-ending, so here’s a quick list of what we see as the hot topics to watch as 2020 gets started:

Strategic Convergence. You heard a lot about convergence at Printing United, specifically. There was a wave of chatter about diversifying and jumping into different segments to stay relevant, serving at least two segments, like sign & graphic, apparel or packaging. Sales and profitability were both up the most in 2018 for sign & graphic producers, according to NAPCO Research and SGIA. But when diversifying, businesses may have growing pains from adding staff or lacking focus. Working with a good partner who supplies material as well as education and business consultation is key to helping you make the best decisions of material inventory, equipment upgrades and workflow efficiencies. Get a handle on these issues, and your team can converge strategically.

Environmental Responsibility. If there’s one topic on everyone’s tongues, it’s sustainability. At Printing United, some customers who visited our booth were only interested in eco-friendly material options. There’s a generational divide to keep in mind: While Baby Boomer customers tend to embrace their brand loyalty, Millennials and younger are willing to pay more for products made with sustainability in mind. This is true in the consumer world, and growing increasingly true in the business decisions they make. Our industry is working hard to find ways to make materials from recycled or reclaimed items, like plastic water bottles, and, in turn, ways for those products to be recycled or reused to create a circular economy that the print world hasn’t seen previously. Stay tuned for product releases that are better for the earth so you can plan to market them to the customers who are the most receptive to them.

Increased Competition. This isn’t competition from the sign shop down the street. It’s competition from your own customers, who now have access to lower-priced, entry-level printing equipment that’s allowing them to do their own in-house printing — like retail outlets, schools and more. Combat this by excelling in areas they can’t, such as more complex decor applications that require more intense set up and installation; investment in new technology, like dye-sublimation, which can advance you into textile printing; or offer customization in printing with software that allows your team to use variable data to create unique prints (like these serialized decals). Wow your customers with your experience, craftsmanship and innovation, and they won’t want to do it without you.

2019 International Photographic Competition Winners Recognized

Congratulations to the 2019 International Photographic Competition winners. Earlier this summer, the top images were selected from the PPA District Sunset Print Award recipients:

1st Place – Brian Castle “Sins Broken Chains

2nd Place – Kimberly Smith “Owl Always Kneed You

3rd Place – Brooke Kasper “Solitary Journey

Each year, the judges award the top three prints that best embody the 12 Elements of Merit. This year’s district winners included everything from a rocky rush of water in Kari Douma’s “Just Around the River Bend” to a burgeoning chemist in Vanessa Longuski’s “Science.” As always, the talent at the district level makes it difficult for the judges selecting the National IPC winners.

Castle, who took third place in last year’s event, was once again inspired by a dream. “I dropped to my knees and prayed, this light came from above and Archangel Michael came and loaned me his wings to rip the chains apart so we could ascend to Heaven,” he says. What he didn’t expect was to be so personally affected by the photo shoot. “What did people go through back in Biblical days when they were chained like this? I teared up, it was emotional, I couldn’t hold it back,” he says.

Smith, who consistently finishes with district and national wins, had a most unusual image serve as the inspiration for her 2019 entry. “I had to have a knee MRI and they sent me home with the disk,” she says. “As I’m going through them, I noticed one of them looked like an owl.” She combined an image of a tree from a previous photography session and the base image from the MRI into an artistic image of an owl and her owlet. She won the PPA Southwest District award, subsequently leading to her second-place national finish.

Kasper says her award-winning image is extremely personal. While she may be on her own “Solitary Journey,” she has a strong faith in God, so she knows she is never truly alone. “We all have our own personal stories, and this one represents how I’m charting my course,” she says. “We may feel abandoned and alone at times, but we are surrounded by so many wonderful memories of people and things that have given us strength, even in solitude.”

Along with an engraved crystal trophy, the winners also receive cash prizes: $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. The awards for the winning photographers will be presented at Imaging USA – Nashville in January.

We want to thank all the participants in the 2019 Sunset Print Awards. You can see these and other winners on our newly redesigned Sunset Print Awards site. If you are interested in the 2020 Sunset Print Awards, have your chairperson fill out the application. The Sunset Print Award is offered to those competitions judging a minimum of 150 printed entries.

Everything You Need to Transform Your Space for the Big Game

Is your town hosting the next big game? For your customers who manage restaurants, bars and other gathering places, help them optimize the opportunity to celebrate the game while prepping their space with fun graphics for windows, walls, floors, tabletops and more.

We’ve hand-selected some of the versatile media products you’ll want to stock up now, before the rush hits your print shop! (Look for the ֍ for super multi-purpose products that work for a variety of jobs.) These easy-to-handle, quick-install products are ideal for these temporary applications:

Indoor Walls, Backlit & Temporary Signage:

LexJet Simple WallCal. A premium matte, semi-rigid white vinyl film that provides exceptional image quality, ease of handling, perfect for contour cutting and won’t curl over time. Simple to print, install and remove wall graphics, murals and decals.

HP Durable Backlit Fabric. An enhanced fabric used to create high-impact displays for retail POP with outstanding image quality when printed with HP Latex Inks. Excellent for indoor signage and backlit displays.

LexJet 8 Mil Absolute Backlit. A translucent, 8-mil polyester film with an instant-dry, matte-finish coating on the front surface of the film produces a super-wide color gamut for brilliant colors and sharp details. Add a pressure-sensitive laminating film to protect the prints while handling.

֍HP Prime Matte Air GR. This matte-finish, intermediate adhesive vinyl offers outstanding image quality and “pop.” The gray removable adhesive is opaque for maximum coverage. This vinyl installs easily with a low-profile air release liner. Also a good option for windows.

Banners, Banner Stands & More:

Ultraflex SuperPrint Plus 13 oz Matte or Gloss. A front-lit banner or billboard material with a smooth front-side finish for picture perfect imaging and an enhanced backside surface for better movement across the print platen and an improved white point.

HP Everyday Blockout Display Film. A heavyweight film at an economical price with a light-blocking opaque layer that prevents show-through so viewers see clean, crisp images.

֍LexJet FlexTek 170g  or FlexTek SUV 200g. Super-versatile media that works for banners, temporary signage and even gallery wraps. The non-woven technical fabric base provides stability and strength for grommets, stitching, wrapping and folding.

֍LexJet Satin Poster Paper 200g. A PVC-free, indoor sign and poster paper with a bright white satin finish that produces richly detailed posters and water-resistant prints. It’s ideal for poster and POS signage applications and compatible with most over laminates and protective coatings for more durable indoor and short-term outdoor applications.

Windows, Floors & Exterior Walls: 

LexJet Simple Perforated Window Vinyl 70/30. Produce see-through window graphics that attract attention and increase store traffic. The 70% printable area, 30% open area pattern, and 1.5 mm hole size is an ideal combination for producing eye-catching prints that do not obstruct visibility.

֍panoRama Walk & Wall. The ultimate one-step solution for indoor and outdoor floors, walls and more. Repositionable and durable, with no lamination required. Slip resistant and sticks to almost any surface: tile, glass, carpet, metal, sidewalks, etc.

HP Grip Matte Polymeric Air. An aggressive, high-tack adhesive is the ideal choice when mounting to rough surfaces or demanding low-energy plastics. Save time during installation with double-sided, lay-flat, air release liner for easy, bubble-free installation.

Menu Boards & Countertops:

֍HP Optimal Gloss Air GRP. A premium polymeric calendered vinyl that provides stunning print performance. The gray repositionable adhesive provides opacity to achieve the desired hiding power on multiple surfaces. Very versatile product that works for indoor and outdoor signage, fleet graphics, windows, retail displays, decals and more.

Magnum Magnetic DigiMag Matte or Gloss. A versatile magnetic substrate allows you to print directly to magnet without the need to over-laminate. The material can be cut to any shape with cutters, plotters, or even a pair of scissors.

Vehicles & Transit:

Avery MPI 1105 Series. A premium gloss opaque vinyl designed for use in fleet marking and vehicle wrap as well as corporate identity applications. Superior conformability to irregular surfaces such as compound curves and corrugations.

General Formulations MetroMark Transit Vinyl. A flexible matte opaque vinyl with a removable adhesive. Applications include bus kings, queens and tail posters as well as many short and long term removable graphics.

More Space-Transforming Ideas:

LexJet Promo-Point Table Tents. Printable media for any laser printer that can take up to 12.9 in. material widths. Made for high visual impact, and used at the point of sale for bars, grills and restaurants. Each sheet produces three full-bleed table tents.

LexJet Promo-Point Decals. New and improved decals that adhere to any smooth surface and remove without leaving residue. Available in a multitude of different finishes and looks for use on laser printers for water and fade resistance.

Prints That Win: Sins Broken Chains

Last year, Kingsport, Tenn., photographer Brian Castle not only won a PPA Southeast District award for his portrait “Heaven’s Hands of Hope,” but he also took third place in the 2018 IPC awards, in which he saw stiff competition from all of the District PPA Sunset Print Award winners. Because he had such a personal connection to his 2018 award-winning image, Castle wasn’t sure if he could surpass it in 2019.

As it turns out, he not only exceeded his 2018 accomplishments, he blew them out of the water. He once again took home a Sunset Print Award for PPA Southeast District Portrait with “Sins Broken Chains” and, after the judging was finished at the 2019 IPC, it was revealed that Castle would take first place in this year’s competition.

“I was a handler at this year’s competition, so I put each of the competition images on the turntables for the judges,” he says. “It was a neat experience to see the live judging, especially since my image received a ‘Unanimous Loan’ from all five judges.”

Like his previous image, “Sins Broken Chains” came to him in a dream. “In the dream, I was in a dungeon with a family member who couldn’t get free of the shackles,” he says. “I dropped to my knees and prayed, this light came from above and Archangel Michael came and loaned me his wings to rip the chains apart so we could ascend to Heaven.”

To recreate the dream for his photo shoot, he knew it was going to take the right setting, light, staging and props. The day of the shoot was a true family affair. “My whole family was helping: my wife, my mom and dad,” Castle says. “My dad taught me how to shoot on a film camera, so who better to have on-site than someone who has experience and who can set up the lights.”

Castle says the actual shoot took about nine hours from setting up to costuming and makeup, as well as additional action shots to get the chains breaking. “We rented the basement of an abandoned department store, originally built in the 1920s,” he says. “I borrowed the pants from a local theater group, I bought a brand-new white t-shirt, ripped it with a razor and dyed it with teabags. I took theater makeup and smudged it all over to give me a dirty look.”

As he was shackled for the shoot, Castle had an unexpected emotional reaction. “I had these big logging chains attached to me and I had this quarter-inch plate shackle around my wrist, all I could think was ‘What did people go through back in Biblical days when they were chained like this?’ I teared up, it was emotional, I couldn’t hold it back,” he says. “The chains were so heavy, and they wore my arms and shoulders out. I felt the pain a little bit.”

One thing Castle has learned over the years is that it’s important to get every angle, light setting or version of a shot while the scene is set. “For example, to capture the broken chain, my dad whipped the chains and I photographed it several different ways to make sure I had enough for the image,” Castle says. “Newer photographers don’t know to get those extra shots. Through competitions, I’ve learned to think about editing before I’m through shooting, that way if I missed something, I can get it then and won’t need to redo it, later.”

Castle has accomplished quite a few things in 2019. Not only did he receive the top prize in the Sunset Print Awards competition for the first time, but he also completed his first two photography degrees: Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman. “Now I am going for the Master Artist degree,” he says.

Castle says he uses the Sunset Bright Velvet Rag on his Canon PRO-4000 because the paper came highly recommended by fellow Sunset winner Kimberly Smith. “Kim told me about it, and I want every piece to be printed on Velvet Rag; I love it. I will never go to another fine art paper,” he says. “I know LexJet sells other brands, but that Velvet Rag produces more accurate colors, and it’s not as expensive.”

He also travels around the country for speaking engagements where he shares his experiences and success stories. “I travel from Memphis to Atlanta and from Florida to Virginia and I always mention LexJet and the papers,” he says. “I tell them ‘when you buy from LexJet, you’re not just buying the printer and the paper, you’re buying their customer service, too.’”

With another Sunset Print Award-winning image and a first-place finish in 2019, it seems that Brian Castle’s work really is the stuff of dreams.

5 Products that Changed the Game for Wide Format in 2019

In 2019, we looked to the market and our customers to find the gaps we could fill with problem-solving product innovations. As a company that marked its 25th anniversary this year, we’ve built our foundation on finding new ways to help our customers thrive. As the year comes to an end, we take a look back at some of the product launches customers and the industry asked for.

In case you didn’t catch them previously, here’s a look at five new media products that changed the game for the wide-format industry:

Squid, for High-End Window Graphics. Likely one of the most buzz-worthy products of the year, Squid is a self-adhesive, printable window textile that offers an elegant-looking alternative to window films that is more environmentally friendly and provides privacy while blocking the sun’s rays. With several color bases that range from a light Chalk to a dark Coal, Squid can be used alone or enhanced with eco-solvent or UV-curable print. In November, we announced that the Chalk version of Squid is now available for Latex printers.

Fredrix Metallic Canvas in Pearl and Gold. Maybe you didn’t think you needed a metallic-based canvas product, but now that it’s here, we don’t think there’s any going back. Before Fredrix dreamed up these dreamy canvases, the only option for creating a metallic gallery wrap was to use a wallcovering product, with dubious effect when wrapping it around those stretcher bars. Today, we’ve got Fredrix Metallic Pearl, which provides a glamorous, iridescent base that puts print jobs like bridal portraits in a whole new stratosphere. The Fredrix Metallic Gold is a showy option that looks amazing with rich, black inks. It also took the 2019 SGIA Product of the Year for Media – Textile – Canvas.

Dye-sub Fisher Textiles in Wide-Format Sizes. With the introduction of wide-format width dye-sub printers hitting the market from the likes of Epson and HP, the industry was in need of some quality dye-sub fabrics in the right widths. Until we partnered with Fisher Textiles, there weren’t many options. We brought right-sized rolls to the industry for a variety of applications, such as flags, soft signage, table skirts, drapery, banners, backdrops and much more.

New Sunset SUV Fine Art for Large Runs. As the preferred printer technologies in the market begin to shift to eco-solvent, we’re finding a bigger need for traditionally aqueous-based media to be re-formulated. Where better to start than with the fine-art segment? We introduced Sunset SUV Fine Art Paper 210g for high-volume art and photography reproductions at a cost-conscious price. For customers loyal to aqueous inks, we also launched Sunset Hot Press Smooth Bright White and Sunset Cold Press Textured Bright White papers to give them another budget-friendly, high-quality option.

High-Tack HP Grip Matte for Stickier Situations. All year we’ve seen the relatively new HP Adhesive Vinyl portfolio of products become customer favorites. Yet, the line was missing a high-tack option that could be used on hard-to-stick-to surfaces, such as trash cans and other low-energy plastics. So we brought on HP Grip Polymeric Air with its aggressive, high-tack clear adhesive, which works on rough surfaces as well as low-energy, while providing an easy, bubble-free installation.

Do you have any product favorites from 2019? Tell us in the comments below, or let us know what other solutions you’ve been looking for.