fan book of rigid substrates

Get Back: Five Great Substrate Options for Mounted Posters

APRIL 9, 2012| SpeedPro of SF Peninsula



At SpeedPro, we create a lot of mounted posters!  Single sided and two sided; indoor or outdoor; easel-backed, wall mounted and free-standing “meter boards.”  There are many options for mounting material, or rigid substrate, that can back a poster.  As would be expected, each substrate generally has a “sweet spot” for purpose and cost; so we thought it would be useful to review the most common poster/sign substrates and discuss how and where they fit.

The “usual suspects” around our studio on a day-to-day basis are:

  • foamcore,
  • Ultraboard (similar to Gatorfoam board),
  • Expanded PVC sheets (often referred to by the brand name Sintra TM)
  • Falconboard and other “green” thick substrates
  • corrugated plastic (or Coroplast, for short)


Everyone in the display graphics, advertising and event business is familiar with foamcore.  The most common thickness is 3/16” (although it’s sometimes referred to as 1/4”). It’s usually white, although we also stock and use a lot of black foamcore at Speedpro, depending on the coloring of the face print.
Foamcore is great for short term, indoor use — directional signs at conferences & trade shows, event signs, or temporary indoor signage.  The disadvantage of foamcore is that it isn’t weatherproof or durable.  It will warp over time and is susceptible to crushed edges, dinged corners and finger divots.  For use-and-toss purposes, its smooth finish and low price point are perfect, but for a multi-use or longer term scenario, it comes up short.


The next step up in lightweight, foam sandwich construction is often generically referred to as Gatorboard, although that is actually a brand name.  We prefer a product called Ultraboard which is 100% recyclable, and like Gator, has a denser foam between strong sheets.  Ultraboard won’t easily dent, crease or crush like foamcore, so it is better suited for point of purchase use, or for posters that will be used multiple times.  Although it won’t warp like foamcore, Ultraboard and Gatorfoam board are intended for indoor use only.

Expanded PVC

Expanded PVC, sometimes referred to by the brand SintraTM, is a dense, but flexible material that generally is used in 3mm or 6mm thicknesses, but sometimes in thinner weights as a more durable alternative to Styrene in 1mm thickness.  Sintra is a good material for indoor or outdoor use, and is more dent resistant than Ultraboard.  It is also less rigid than Ultraboard which allows it to bend (for example, in a trade show channel system or on a curved podium), if that’s desired.  We stock Sintra panels in white and black, and also have its biodegradable cousin, Foamacell, available in 3mm and 6mm thicknesses if requested.

Falconboard, BioBoard, etc.

There are a number of “green” substrates that are manufactured with a center made of corrugated or honeycomb cardboard instead of foam. When cut, the sides reveal a view to the uneven innards, but some people like the look.  They are strong and lightweight, but the edges are more susceptible to pinching than Ultraboard since the inside is not uniformly filled.


Corrugated plastic, or coroplast, is a favorite for lawn signs, real estate signs, outdoor directional markers and other short term uses.  It is inexpensive, durable and weatherproof, but its downside is the “corduroy” look that comes from the flutes in the material.  But the flutes also provide an added benefit, since “H” stake sign holders can slide into them for the quickie lawn signs that are especially popular during political campaigns.

There are many more substrates that can be used for signs and specialty display graphics including aluminum, polystyrene, chipboard and plenty more.  If you’ve got any questions about poster mount options, just give us a call and we’ll start by listening.

Find us Locally or Nationally

If you’re nearby in San Carlos, please feel free to stop by our studio or call us at 650.596.3444. We service San Francisco, Daly City, Burlingame, Pacifica, Foster City, San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View. If your project needs delivery or installation around the USA, we’re part of a network of SpeedPro centers who can help from New Hampshire to Florida and Seattle to San Diego!

Back to Blog

SpeedPro of SF Peninsula

Studio Owner
Paul Reinhardt