Keeping the Beat with Custom Drum Graphics

Printing custom drum graphics and images

Decorating drums with custom images is a real challenge. Though you can get the drums in hundreds of different colors and styles, from wood grain to pearlescent, it’s not very practical to apply photographs and other full-color designs to a drum kit.

That may have all changed recently when custom drum maker, Bill Cardwell of C&C Custom Drums in Gladstone, Mo., decorated custom drums for the closing ceremonies of this summer’s Olympic Games. Cardwell was introduced to the material that would make this particular project work, and work well, by Mike Bertram, a doctor with a drumming habit who’s been working on a simple and efficient way to produce custom drum graphics.

Bertram told Cardwell about LexJet Avatrex and the race was on to provide the custom graphics for the Olympics as quickly as possible since there were only a few days left to get them produced and shipped.

Cardwell got the images from Coca-Cola, one of the sponsors of the closing ceremonies, and Bertram had the images printed in reverse on LexJet Avatrex and sent to Cardwell to apply to the drums. Cardwell says he applied the graphics with a drop of dishwashing liquid and water and it went on smoothly and easily.

“One of the problems we’ve run into in the past with vinyl is that it has a tendency to crimp up along the edges where the metal parts are attached to the drum shell. The Infinium is so thin and conformable that it doesn’t have the same problem,” explains Cardwell. “And, we’ve always had to put a clear coat of some sort over the top of it for protection, and we didn’t have to put anything on the Avatrex. It was also easier to lay flat and work out the bubbles. It really worked well for applying it to a drum shell.”

Avatrex is typically applied with heat and pressure for more permanent applications, conforming to the material to which it’s applied and essentially becoming part of that material. However, since this was a temporary application and time was of the essence, a “cold” application works just fine.

“As a drummer, I’ve watched the industry evolve over time, but the application of custom graphics to drums really hasn’t changed much over the years,” says Bertram. “Now that Avatrex is available it’s a whole new ballgame because the process can be streamlined and it applies to wood really well.”

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.

How to Apply Infinium to Canvas and a Wood Coaster

Printing canvas with a conformable materialLexJet’s new Infinium is the industry’s first transportable graphic. When properly applied it takes on the characteristics – the look and feel – of the material to which it’s applied.

In a typical advertising and promotional program, for instance, graphics for events, trade shows, retail environments and promotional materials often require different types of materials on different printer technology platforms.

With Infinium, one inkjet printable material can be transported to just about everything. This ensures accuracy and brand consistency as well as a reduction in time and materials. Moreover, because it is conformable to almost anything, it can be used creatively in unusual applications, like ceiling tiles, bricks, shoes, footballs, leather and ceramics, as well as more traditional materials like glass, wood and graphic arts boards.

Infinium is not a paper, it’s not a film, and it’s not a transfer material. Simply put, it’s a printable material with laminate and adhesive qualities all in one material. So, for applications that required multiple materials and multiple steps, Infinium does it with one material in two steps: Print and apply.

You can apply it to practically any surface you can imagine, including irregular surfaces and curves, using heat, water or a primer (LexJet Infinium Bond). This technology allows you to pick the surface or substrate you want to image, the print method you want to use and the application method.

LexJet Infinium Gloss and Infinium Matte are compatible with solvent, low solvent, latex and UV-curable printers, and like all LexJet products they come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and super-fast $9.99 flat rate shipping from LexJet’s nationwide network of distribution centers.

In the instructional videos below you’ll see how Infinium retains the texture and look of gesso-coated canvas and a wood coaster when applied using a thermal laminator…

How to Apply LexJet Infinium to Plexiglass

Printing graphics for application to plexiglassAs mentioned in an earlier post, LexJet Infinium is a new inkjet-printable material that conforms to virtually any substrate to which you apply it. Infinium is not a paper, film or transfer medium but a material with adhesive, laminate and print receptive qualities built into it.

When properly applied, Infinium not only conforms to the material but takes on the texture and look of the material. It can be applied with heat, water or a primer (LexJet Infinium Bond), depending on how temporary or permanent the graphic needs to be.

The current generation of LexJet Infinium is compatible with solvent, low solvent, latex and UV curable printers and comes in gloss and matte finishes in roll widths ranging from 25″-54″. For more information about LexJet Infinium, contact a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538.

In the video below, see how Infinium is applied to plexiglass with a thermal laminator… 

How to Apply LexJet Infinium with a Thermal Laminator

Inkjet printing leatherLexJet Infinium conforms to virtually any surface, taking on the characteristics of that surface when it’s properly applied. When applied to leather or canvas, for instance, Infinium essentially becomes part of the material, retaining its look and texture.

Infinium is not a transfer medium, a paper or a film. You print directly to it in reverse and apply it to the substrate using heat, water or a primer (LexJet Infinium Bond), depending on whether it’s meant to be a temporary or permanent graphic.

The first generation of LexJet Infinium is compatible with solvent, low solvent, latex and UV curable printers. It is available in gloss and matte finishes in roll widths ranging from 25 inches to 54 inches wide.

In the video below, see how Infinium is applied and conforms to a flat piece of finished leather and a piece of leather mounted to cardboard with a thermal laminator. If you have any questions and would like to try a roll (all LexJet products come with a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee), contact a LexJet account specialist at 800-453-9538.