Whether you’re looking to spruce up an office, crush a business presentation or improve your event displays, you’ll find many options for printed materials. From fabric to vinyl to metal, it can be challenging to choose the right medium for your purposes. And if you pick something too expensive, it can be a big waste of money.
When it comes to choosing the right material for indoor signage, image displays, and presentation graphics, foam core material is a strong contender. It’s perfect if your plans are short-term, temporary, or required to happen at a low cost. Printed foam core is well known for being versatile, straightforward to purchase and design, inexpensive, and visually attractive.
If you’re looking for the best material options for your next advertising, decorating or presentation product, consider using printed foam core to your advantage.
WHAT IS FOAM CORE?
Foam core is known by many names — foamcore board, foam board, paper-faced foam — and chances are, you’ve seen it before. The material is comprised of a dense foam center pressed between two sheets of thick, matte paper, and it’s typically used for displays and printing. Substrate refers to the stable, foundational material of a sign.
The core is a foam form of polystyrene, a common plastic also found in Styrofoam products. This plastic can contain more than 95% air, making it extremely lightweight and portable. It stays rigid without the assistance of stands or hardware, but because it’s so light, it’s also relatively easy to damage.
Foam core is great for any use that doesn’t involve regular handling or exposure to the elements. In most cases, people use them in indoor spaces, printed for decorative purposes, for meetings or events, for advertising sales, or one of many other possibilities. If you’re looking for a material that’s perfect for short-term use but that will stay rigid, foam board is the way to go.
THE BENEFITS OF FOAM CORE SIGNS
Every company wants to look out for its own best interests in any way possible. Why should that stop at signage? Because of foam board signs’ characteristics, using them for your needs can be highly beneficial to your business. Foam core is:
- Lightweight: Foam polystyrene substrates are made mostly from air, and the external paper surfaces add little weight. While the specific weight depends on the size and thickness you order, foam core boards are easy to lift, transport and move at a moment’s notice. This quality makes them perfect for taking graphics to trade shows or presentations.
- Vibrant: Printing on foam board means your colored graphics and words will come out crisp, clear and vibrant. The paper exterior will allow you to print images and graphics directly on the board, so there’s no hassle of cutting and pasting other materials. You can also get foam core boards in a variety of finishes, making your colors pop.
- Easy to print and cut: Since you can print directly on the board, with the right technology or imaging services, creating and applying a design is a simple process. Custom sizing will allow you to choose the length, height and width of your foam board, or you can easily cut it yourself with a single-edged razor blade, square, metal yardstick and flat surface. If you want a more complex shape, such as the outline of a mascot head or logo, you or a professional can easily shape the board with a router.
- Versatile: Depending on how you intend to use your foam core, there’s a wide variety of display options available. You can post it to a wall with adhesive or mounting supplies, frame it, lean it on an easel, hang it from a ceiling, stand it up on its own or try any other method you can think to use. With such an array of spaces to put them, foam boards are great for any kind of display, too. From promotional sales signs to decorating a wall with image panels to hanging wayfinding signs from the ceilings, this material suits hundreds of uses.
- Cost-effective: Since foam core boards are common, easy to print on and made of two materials, they’re also incredibly cost-effective. You can purchase individual boards or buy them in bulk if you need a large number at once. In most cases, they aren’t meant to be permanent fixtures, but with proper care and in areas that see less traffic, you can make them last. With the money you save, you can afford to get your board laminated or framed as well, expanding its lifespan. And if you break or damage one accidentally, you’ll find that replacing it is a breeze.
Foam core boards are the perfect solution for signs that are temporary, only used every so often, out of reach, employed as decorations for an office or meant for one of the countless other purposes. If these qualifications fit your needs, purchasing and printing a foam board display will give you what you’re looking for along with many added advantages.
APPLICATIONS FOR FOAM BOARD
Due to their versatility, foam core boards have a variety of applications. While they’re intended for indoor spaces, they’re easily portable, so feel free to take them outside in nice weather conditions.
The many uses of foam boards include as:
- Signage: Small or large, directional or for safety, temporary or long-term — foam core is perfect for all kinds of signage throughout offices and workspaces. The boards are easy to mount on walls or from ceilings, ensuring that they’re visible from a distance.
- Routed display: Looking for a specific shape? With foam core, you can transform your boards into any silhouette you’d like, hassle-free. Simply choose your design and have the board routed to the right fit.
- Poster boards: If you want to wow the audience at your next big meeting, poster boards with discussion graphics and figures are a great resource. You can also create display boards for events, open houses, conferences, or any other location where you can show off information. And rather than paste things to a plain board, you can have the entire design printed.
- Graphics: At trade shows and conferences, having large-scale graphics is essential to catching the attention of visitors. You can use foam boards to create logo panels, advertisement signs to draw in potential clients, show product statistics with colorful images, or decorations for your space with pictures.
- Decorative images: Even if you just want to print beautiful pictures on poster board and make a decorative wall arrangement, foam boards will give your design some individuality and dimension. They’ll stand out from the wall and attract the eye of customers and employees alike. You can affix them to the wall in several different ways, so you can choose if they stay there long-term or if you want to switch them out or reorganize them from time to time.
- Architectural models: If you want to get three-dimensional, remember that foam core is sturdy enough to make structural models and other diorama models, which could come in handy for product or service demos.
The above ideas are some of the most common uses for foam core boards, but with a little imagination, the boards can be fitted to almost any environment. Once you get to the design stage, you’ll find that the possibilities are even broader. That said, some scenarios aren’t the best for printed foam core.
THE LIMITATIONS OF FOAM CORE
While there are many perks to using foam board, it does have its limitations, such as:
- Outdoor use: Foam core does not do well outdoors. If it’s exposed to the elements, your sign could become damaged, especially in the case of wind and rain. If it’s a calm, sunny day and you secure the sign properly, you can put it outside. But it can’t stay out overnight, as dew could damage it.
- Long-term use: You can make foam boards last a while with proper care and storage, but they’re not meant to be long-term solutions. They damage easily — a single drop or scrape can ruin the clean look of foam board. However, if you place them out of harm’s way, such as in place as an aisle marker or other hanging application, laminated or framed, they can last longer. Still, expect to need a replacement eventually.
- Acidic damage: Because of its chemical composition, foam core is a bit acidic. This slight acidity is not typically a problem, but it does mean you can’t mount archival materials or documents on the foam boards. The acids from the plastic substrate will cause the artifact to degrade.
Despite these limitations, there are still ways to make foam core boards work for outdoor purposes and in long-term applications. They won’t work everywhere, but they’re an excellent option for most needs and can be set up as a display in many different places.
HOW TO DISPLAY YOUR BOARDS
With the limitless number of available options and customizable designs, you also have a lot of choices in how to display your boards. Some are more long-term than others, but your choice depends on where and how you’ll be using the printed foam core pieces. The various display methods include:
- Wall mounting: If you’re planning on using the foam core as a fixture in a building, you may want to opt for wall mounting. You can purchase mounts that hold the boards off the wall slightly, giving them a floating effect. Mounts are suitable for longer-term use if you know you won’t need to move the panels for a while. Since foam board is so light, you can alternatively use store-bought wall adhesive. It’s less costly and will allow you to rearrange or change the look whenever you want. This option is great for most applications, from advertising short sales to decorating a space. To protect the boards and make them last longer, consider framing them.
- Easels: Many companies use foam core as a temporary solution or to display timely information. In that case, there’s no use in fussing over long-term methods. Easels are the perfect temporary arrangement. All you have to do is set up the easel wherever you’d like the display and place the foam core graphic on its ledge. You can use these easels inside or outside of business lobbies, as parts of trade show exhibits or to show your audience information during a presentation. They’re compatible with many sizes of board, so you can continue to use them through many replacement signs.
- Hanging: In some cases, such as with directional signs or area markers, the best option is to hang your foam boards from the ceiling. This method increases visibility and will preserve the life of your signs, as they’ll be less likely to take on damage in high places. All you need is grommets for as many holes as you plan to put in the board, wire or twine, and hardware to attach it to the ceiling. Since foam core is so light, it only requires low weight capacity hardware.
- Free-standing: Some printing companies offer free-standing boards that require no outside hardware. They’re usually smaller boards that are good for countertop displays, but if you need a particularly large board and don’t want to attach it to anything, you can always opt to lean it strategically against a wall or structure.
Ultimately, how you choose to display your board is up to you, but there are plenty of viable options. In addition to the applications and display possibilities of foam core, you can also customize your signs during and after the printing phase.
OPTIONS FOR PRINTING FOAM CORE
Once you know what type of sign you need and where you intend to display it, you can get to the fun part — design. Studios will require high-quality copies of any images or graphics you want to be printed on the boards, and some will help you with a design consultation if you aren’t exactly sure what you want.
The final draft isn’t the end of the line either. You’ll still have a few options to enhance your sign’s longevity and image. Depending on the studio you work with, you can likely order your board to be:
- Matte or glossy: Most printed foam core comes with a matte finish, so you won’t have to worry about lighting glare obstructing visibility. It will also help your graphics look truer to color since it won’t reflect other nearby graphics or light sources. However, if you would prefer the glossy version, you’ll be happy to know that some printers offer it.
- Double-sided: If you want to use both surfaces of the board with the same or two different designs, you can have it printed double-sided. Doing so will save you money on a second board and reduce the amount of space you use. Double-sided signs are great for several applications, such as window displays that are visible from inside and outside the store, informational posters for presentations, and displays at trade shows.
- Laminated: Foam core signs may take on travel damage. If your sign is for trade shows or other events, you may want to consider having the board laminated, which will help it resist scratches and light damage during transit.
- Heavy-duty: When you’re choosing a foam core board for printing, you can customize the thickness of the sign. In most cases, the standard width is 3/16 inches, but you can purchase thicker board sizes for a more heavy-duty product. Doing so is an excellent option for larger signs and event displays, as they’ll be less likely to bend and break.
With so many combinations and possibilities at your disposal, you can use foam core signs in many areas of your business. Whether you want to print boards for temporary advertising campaigns, create new setup pieces for events or give your building an easy makeover, foam core signs are an excellent investment.