The Perfect Flag
If you are a regular watcher of the Big Bang Theory you know that Sheldon Cooper is probably one of the biggest fans of flags. The character’s “Sheldon Cooper’s Fun with Flags” YouTube/podcast on the show teaches viewers about vexillology—a real word that means "the study of flags."
Over the years flags have also become a hit with retailers, corporations, municipalities, museums and of course sports franchises too. Flags as well as banner fabrics are now a mainstay in visual advertisement, both for interior and exterior applications. Flags offer a translucent, flowing and lightweight product solution typically without the need for cumbersome displays. In addition, flags—due to their air permeability and bleed through—make for a great marketing medium from traditional, tear drop or pole banner applications.
Selecting the proper fabric is critical to any successful flag project, especially considering the types of fabrics and printing methods that are available.
With such a variety of inks and textile fabrics on the market, all with different properties, it is essential to select the right combination based on the application.
Technical Director, Karl of SPM’s R&D Department for Top Value Fabrics (TVF), says that when choosing a fabric for flags, bow-flags, and pole banners, buyers will want to consider many factors including hand, drape, environment, function and printing process.
“A warp knit fabric will suit all three applications best due to its locking-stitch construction. Woven fabrics can also be used but the product is at a higher risk of ripping along the fill line whereas a warp knit’s locking stitch will not fray,” he says. “When it comes to traditional two-sided flags, clients typically want the best print-through possible and 70-100% print-through can be achieved with direct disperse printing. One-sided flags can be printed through dye-sublimation, UV, and Latex. Though, it is important to note that UV can alter the hand of the fabric and affect the drape,” Karl explains.
How’s it Hanging?
West Tigers photographer and marketing guru Alan Mac from Balmain, NSW, says a key thing to consider when working on a project is how the banner or flag will be hanging, whether or not an image bleed through is needed and length of time it will be used. “Outdoor flags and wind flags are generally produced on nylon or polyester. There are many more options for fabrics for indoor banners. If a client chooses a fabric that cannot be digitally printed, the fabric can still be screen printed in many cases.”
Alan adds that from a production standpoint, almost any fabric can be used for indoor banners, but most popular choices are polyester knits and poly poplin due to their inherent wrinkle resistance and flame resistance and the fact that you can easily digitally print on them. She notes that popular outdoor banner materials are vinyl, Sunbrella, nylon and polyester.
Getting Comfortable with Fabric
Ahmad Mohammed, Hills district Manager at Hills Banners trains their customers on what fabrics to use based on machine type, direct or transfer, ink output and application. “This is an ever-changing field and must be - simply because if you aren’t changing and improving, you end up last in your field. Today, customers demand better, quicker, sharper imagery.”
Single- or Double-sided Printing Tips
“When creating single and double-sided flags, your customer needs to determine if they want a flag that shows graphics on one side or if they want a double-sided print with same or different image,” Tim Beeny from Bannerworld states.
“What our sales team does when they have questions in this area is to present our series of translucent flag fabrics based on their print method-whether they prefer dye sub transfer, direct UV, Latex or direct dye sub. “
He adds an ideal single sided translucent flag media gives an 80% bleed-thru in dye sub transfer. “When printing double sided, Bannerworld sales department reviews fabrics that might have a blockout center like our fused Cooper DS fabric which saves much time and labor because the printer is using one fabric versus two, without the need of printing and stitching the two fabrics together with a blockout material in between.” He says that this fabric must have very good white point on both sides.
Many of the flags and banners Bannerworld prints are single/reverse, which means the print reads correct on the front and have a reverse bleed through image on the backside. “This is ideal for outdoor flags flying on flagpoles as the single layer of fabric keeps the flags lightweight and fly well. We strongly advise against double-sided flags as they are comprised of three layers of fabric (front, back and liner) and don’t fly well. Light pole banners are generally double-sided and blade flags can be either single/reverse or double depending on the client’s needs.