Context is Everything – Part 1 of 3

APRIL 13, 2017| SpeedPro of Denver


Substrates Series

When we talk to our customers and future customers about print jobs, we tend to ask a lot of questions that sometimes may seem taxing but they all serve a purpose: to recommend the most appropriate substrate for the job.

As you probably know, the substrate is the underlying material, for example, foam core or metal, to be selected based on how a given printed piece will be used and where it will be placed.

So describe the context for us:  Will it be installed on the side of building, on a construction zone fence, on a box truck or in a small conference room, trade show booth or adhered to a jar or bottle? Do you want it to weather Colorado’s four seasons or will be it be used for one short event? Then we can talk about your substrate options.

We will be covering substrates over a couple of blogs; there are so many–and so many uses–we can’t do this topic justice in just one! This first blog will focus on some of the most widely used indoor and outdoor substrates:

Indoor:  Foam Core, ULTRA BOARD, Styrene and PVC

Foam Core (aka foam board) is a very strong, lightweight and easily cut material. It consists of three layers — an inner layer of polystyrene clad with outer facing of either a white clay coated paper or brown Kraft paper.* Available in approx. 1/8” and 3/16” thicknesses, a variety of colors and sizes up to 96″ x 48″, is it choice material for signage that will be used for a short time only such as periodic meetings, trade shows and special events.

ULTRA BOARD is idea for indoors. ULTRA BOARD is a lightweight structural panel consisting of a rigid polystyrene foam core faced on both sides by a smooth, moisture resistant sheet of solid polystyrene. Available in a variety of thicknesses from 3/16” to 1”, it can be cut with a standard table saw into any custom shape and is an excellent choice for signage, photo mounting, exhibits, and point-of-purchase displays.

Styrene is plastic and suitable for indoor and outdoor short-term applications. It is sometimes called poster board and is considered one of the best surfaces for large format photography prints. This product is resistant to weather (but not long-term UV exposure), bumps, drops and scratches while being lightweight and flexible. It is delivered in large flat sheets and then custom cut into any shape. Available in a variety of thickness and sizes it can be printed on both sides.

PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) is a plastic durable and lightweight material available in a variety of colors, sizes and in rigid and flexible formats. This workhorse material can be shaped from 4’ x 8’ sheets into custom designs and is a good choice for short-term exterior uses. You see it everywhere as directional signage, at retail, in meeting rooms, and in grocery stores as shelf signs.

OutdoorMax-metal/Dibond and Coroplast

Max-metal and Dibond are used often for rugged environments (building and road construction sites) and for signs that will stay up and out for years (Don’t Feed the Animals, Joe’s Bistro). Max-metal is two paper-thin sheets of aluminum with a black plastic core. Dibond is an aluminum composite material (ACM) of two pre-painted sheets of 0.012” aluminum with a solid polyethylene core. Indoor applications include retail cabinet signs, menu boards and an endless number of posters. You can get metal or aluminum signs printed in full color and in any size and shape you want!

Coroplast is a corrugated plastic similar in structure to corrugated cardboard and available in sheets up to 5’ x 10’. Produced to print on flatbed printers, coroplast is widely used for political signs, real estate signs, sport-themed cutouts, event signs and other shaped signs.

Our next blog will cover materials for walls, windows and floors.

Don’t hesitate to contact us anytime with questions about these or other substrates you are considering at, 303.426.4199 or

We also welcome your suggestions for topics and materials to cover.


Coroplast is a registered trademark of Coroplast, LLC

Dibond is a registered trademark of 3A Composites USA

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SpeedPro Denver

Studio Owner

Greg Ellison