Painting and Aging with Printing using LexJet Infinium

How to print antique signs

When you boil it down to its essence, printing is just another way to solve a problem. The problem (and challenge is really the best word in this case) confronting Thomas Reprographics was reproducing about 90 somewhat distressed-looking antique signs for a restaurant chain that would look as original and authentic as possible.

Printing antique signs
LexJet Infinium is printed in reverse and applied to the substrate, aluminum in this case, with a hot laminator.

Andrew McConnell, strategic account executive for Thomas Reprographics’ Minneapolis Branch (the company is headquartered in Dallas), says the trick was finding a reproduction method and material that would hit the mark.

McConnell says the restaurant combs swap meets and antique shops and buys antique photos and signs that relate to their décor. Over the years Thomas Reprographics has scanned and saved these items in a database.

Printing signs that look like they're antique
Thomas Reprographics produced about 90 signs that ranged from 8" x 20" to 36" x 86".

“When they open a restaurant they order their standard footprint of images,” explains McConnell. “Recently, they came in with a collection of old metal signs. We scanned them and were deciding how to reproduce them. In the past they’ve worked with sign painters, but that would have been hard to mass produce and send out to the restaurants as part of a kit. The first thought was to use a vinyl and adhere it to metal, but there’s a texture with that from the adhesive. It doesn’t look painted; it looks like a decal.”

Instead, they decided to test LexJet’s new Infinium, which is a clear print medium with filmless laminate and adhesive built into one conformable material. The idea was that a clear, conformable material would come closest to seamlessly replicating a hand-painted sign.

“Because you’re printing on the adhesive side and looking through the laminate side it really gives the impression of a painted or enameled sign,” says McConnell.

Aging a sign with printing
Thomas Reprographics built the aged, distressed look of the signs into the design and printed the effect on LexJet Infinium.

The customer was impressed with the test sign and gave the go-ahead for the roll-out of the antique sign program to its various locations across the country. Thomas Reprographics applied Infinium to about 90 white aluminum sign blanks cut to specification in various sizes and configurations (some with rounded corners and most with square edges) that ranged from about 8″ x 20″ to 36″ x 86″.

“We print the images on the Infinium with a small bleed, and then apply it to the aluminum with our laminator at 250 degrees. We’re using the bonding agent [Infinium Bond], apply it on the metal and let it dry for a day. Then we run the printed Infinium through the laminator,” explains McConnell. “The recommended temperature is 300 degrees, but running the laminator at 300 degrees for a big production run like this makes the laminator run way too hot. We ran it at the lower temperature and it seemed to work great. The one piece of advice I have is to be careful not to get the adhesive onto the rollers. You don’t want the material hanging over the edges too much, especially if you have something 80 or 90 inches long to run through. It takes some skill, but we’re lucky to have someone who’s really good using that machine.”

Thomas Reprographics printed the images on Infinium with its Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 low-solvent printer. “It turned out great. The colors reproduced on the Infinium with the GS6000 are perfect – bright and vibrant,” adds McConnell.

Now Thomas Reprographics has another tried and tested tool in its already extensive arsenal to meet the demands of its customer base – a conformable print medium that essentially becomes part of the material to which it is applied.

Photography Pro Kent Foster Converts Images into Permanent Wallcoverings

Photo courtesy of Kent Foster at

When visitors enter the production room at Fostergraphs in Decorah, Iowa, they get the distinct impression that they aren’t in Iowa anymore. The overall effect is “Wow!”

That’s because company owner/professional photographer Kent Foster has converted two images he originally shot for stock photography into visually dramatic wallcoverings. He printed the wallcoverings himself using LexJet’s new inkjet-printable WallPro SUV wallcovering material on his 64-in. Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 low-solvent printer.

Foster plans to use his imaging expertise and 64-in. printing equipment to help other photographers and artists convert their images into new types of products, such as murals and wallcoverings.  For commercial and residential customers, he is offering a concept-to-completion service in which he will shoot whatever image a client might envision. Then, to ensure the utmost quality of the photo mural, Foster will oversee all of the image processing, printing, and installation.

Easy-Install Fabric Photo Posters Honor Movie Theater’s History

The black-and-white posters in the new lobby of The Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA were printed on Photo Tex PSA, an inkjet-printable fabric with a respositionable adhesive for easy installation.

Going to the movies was more of a community experience in the decades before national corporations started building huge, multiplex movie theaters at shopping malls. If the weather was nice, you could pile your friends into a car and head off to a drive-in. But most of the time, you had to go downtown to the local theatre to see the latest releases from Hollywood.

Civic leaders in small towns across America are hoping to recapture some of that sense of community by restoring old theaters and reinventing them as community arts centers.

Such is the case at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA.  The Dietrich Theater first opened in 1937 with just one screen. That was fine until the mid-1980s when the Dietrich Theater couldn’t compete with the new breed of corporate-run multiplex theaters at malls.  After being closed for well over a decade, the Dietrich Theater reopened in 2001—this time with two screens to meet the changing expectations and diverse tastes of moviegoers.  And earlier this summer, the Dietrich Theater opened a new addition to the theater that includes two additional screens as well as space for arts classes and community events.

SLJLizzaDietrich2posters500pOne of the most eye-catching features of the addition to the theater is the series of larger-than life black-and-white photographs hanging above the new lobby. The photo posters were designed by Stephen Hendrickson, a NY-based production designer for television who helps design special events and displays for the Dietrich Theater.  The posters were printed by Lizza Studios, a Tunkhannock-based business that provides large-format, fine-art reproduction services for artists.

The posters were printed on Photo Tex PSA fabric for solvent printers and an Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent inkjet printer from LexJet. The posters were  installed by Bob Lizza, Doug Wilson, and Betsy Green of Lizza Studios.  

The seven posters in the series include three 80 x 82-in. posters on each side of the lobby and a 106 x 80 in. poster at the center. The posters feature some of iconic stars you would have seen in movies at the Dietrich Theater in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Katherine Hepburn.

According to studio manager Betsy Green, this was the first time Lizza Studios had ever attempted a project like this, but they were more than happy to help The Dietrich Theater succeed as an arts center.  She said Lizza Studios typically uses the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 for reproducing art that features bright, saturated colors. But she reports that everyone was extremely pleased by how well the printer reproduced the black-and-white movie stills.

Lizza chose to print on Photo Tex PSA because it is so easy to hang that it doesn’t require any specialized training in installation.  Photo Tex is an inkjet-printable fabric, backed with a repositionable adhesive. The adhesive cures over time so that the mural will stay put, but if you make a mistake when you are installing the printed panels, it’s easy to fix. And, because the fabric “breathes,” you don’t have to spend a lot of time removing the trapped pockets of air.  The adhesive removes cleanly from the walls when it’s time to take the mural down.  Photo Tex PSA is available for both aqueous-ink and solvent-ink printers.   

“If we hadn’t used the Photo Tex material, the job would have been nearly impossible for us.” Green admits.  During installation, they had to work from a high lift and precisely align each panel in the recessed areas the architect had included in the lobby walls.

They had to take the posters on and off a few times to get each poster installed exactly right. But they succeeded, and Green now calls Photo Tex PSA a miracle material: “Whoever invented it is genius. It is user-friendly in every way.”

The addition the Dietrich Theater opened in June and everyone agrees that the black-and-white images look stunning. The prints provide a striking, historic contrast to the ultra-modern design of the lobby below. Hildy Morgan, of the Dietrich Theater, says “It’s the most beautiful visual tie-in that you can imagine.”

At LexJet, we love hearing how customers such as Lizza Studios are using their inkjet printers and alternative materials to contribute to community projects. We’ve published other stories about Photo Tex murals in our In Focus newsletter and we’ll be showing some other examples in upcoming posts on this blog.

For example, you can read about the photo mural Advanced Signs & Graphics installed in a health-care facility or the wrap-around photo murals Tom Grassi of Image-Tec installed as a scenic backdrop at a rehabilitation facility.

If you have any questions about the material or how to use it, please call one of the helpful account specialists at LexJet at 800-453-9538.

You can read more about the extraordinary art-reproduction services offered by Lizza Studios on a separate post on this blog or by visiting their website: