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.

Printing and Pasting a Taste of Ireland in New Mexico

Printing ceiling panels with an inkjet printerLaura Reynolds, owner of Print Write Now in Ruidoso, N.M., knew she had an unusual and exciting large-format printing project ahead of her when she was approached by someone with a thick Irish brogue about contributing her expertise to the decoration of a new Irish pub and restaurant.

Though Ruidoso is a worldwide destination resort town in southeastern New Mexico due west of Roswell, Irish accents are few and far between. That’s about to change as Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub prepares to open in Ruidoso with décor that channels a traditional Irish village. The new pub was designed by Thomas Farrell of Ireland, who is also a co-owner with Shari Smith of Ruidoso.

The design team that created the custom paint finishes for the new pub, and known for its upscale design work at five-star properties, was searching for a five-star print shop to handle some of the finer printed details at the pub and Print Write Now fit the bill.

The design team wanted to replicate hand-painted panels with a distinctly Irish flair to be applied to the ceilings of the gaming area in the pub. After consulting with her LexJet customer specialist, Jen Hepner (or JenHep as she is fondly referred to as at LexJet, or maybe just by me), Reynolds decided to print on LexJet TOUGHcoat Water-Resistant Polypropylene with her Canon iPF8100 44-in. wide inkjet printer.

Installing inkjet printed ceiling panels
Installing one of 18 ceiling panels printed on LexJet TOUGHcoat Water-Resistant Polypropylene for Grace O'Malley's Irish Pub in Ruidoso, N.M.

“The main reason we used Water-Resistant Polypropylene was the combination of the different adhesives and finishes they were using on top of the prints. We didn’t want the water-fast inks to be damaged or lift off the surface,” explains Reynolds. “The media printed beautifully. They commented on how this installation went so much more smoothly because the media didn’t wrinkle during installation, particularly since they were applying it on a ceiling upside down. Sometimes when you’re handling paper media or common wallpaper, you may have issues with it where it folds over or sticks back to itself. They didn’t have any issues with this media because it was so flexible to work with.”

Flexibility during and after the installation was especially important since the material was applied like wallpaper, adhered to the ceiling with wallpaper paste, sealed with adhesives along the edges and then finished with brushes for a painterly effect and a wash to give an aged look.

“They are incredible craftsman. The interior is nothing but high quality throughout. I was so impressed with how quickly they did the installation and smoothed it out so that there weren’t any wrinkles. They’re very good at what they do, and with the help of what we do well, we were able to make this happen within 24 hours,” says Reynolds.

Reynolds printed 18, 40 in. x 40 in. panels for the installation, all of which received rave reviews from the design team and the pub’s ownership. The project, and the word of mouth its sure to generate in both Ruidoso and across the Pond, should bode well for Print Write Now and its ability to handle just about any type of printing and graphic design job from small format to large format.