What are “substrates”?

Written by: Amy Virgl

For most business owners, there is an incredible amount of thought given to the idea of building a business and branding. It’s often something that is continually on the back burner as your time permits. If you are a smaller business, you are trying to get the day-to-day done while mentally forecasting your business needs into the future.

How do you make it all happen? Who do you trust? What do you ask for?

If you don’t have a staff person handling your marketing efforts, you start an internet search for ideas or see something someone else has done that makes you think of the ‘back burner.’

As you investigate, you may find yourself heading into a whole host of industry words that may sound a bit daunting. Words like “large-format substrates” might come into play as you reach out and inquire about a project. What substrate you select is based on what you hope to accomplish.

This is where working with a trusted company like Revolution Wraps can alleviate a lot of your headache and allow you to get the best quality material and biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Revolution Wraps provides you with a team working to complete your marketing needs. From initial contact to completed project, your vision will come to fruition with someone to carry the ball through the process for you, helping you conceptualize your vision and carry it into design and through production. We take the guesswork out of what materials to select and how it will withstand the elements. We will assure your project gets completed correctly, with the highest quality industry product and back our efforts with your total satisfaction. Feels like that headache is dissipating already, doesn’t it!?


So, let’s start with the basics…

What do you want to do?
Will your project need to withstand the elements? Is it going to be displayed outdoors? Some considerations for outdoor projects and substrate selection would take into consideration moisture and UV exposure. Wind is a big consideration for outdoor materials, too.

How is it going to be installed?
The two main considerations in this area are whether you print to a rigid or soft material and what mechanisms will be used to mount the project.

Lastly, is your motto “Go Big or Go Home?!”
Do you envision a project that can be seen from the highway or other distance? Do you have a huge wall within your business that looks empty and could easily market your successes with the use of a mural? Do you want to emphasize the name of your business dimensionally, at the point of entry, possibly providing a backlight to offer an impressive ‘wow’ factor with the highest level of durability in the substrate industry? Well, we’ve got you covered.

The main difference in printed materials relates to it going into a printer. Unless you are talking about specialty projects with dimension, the two choices are roll-fed (rolled through a printer) or flat-fed. Roll-fed substrates (materials) are flexible papers, canvas, vinyl and plastics which are sold and shipped on a roll. There is a huge array of offerings in this type of substrate.

Paper varies in color, weight and textures and depending on the scope of your project is a fairly low-cost alternative easily handled by smaller or large-format printing.

Vinyl can feature a removable or non-removable application process and is often used in banners, signage and walls as it can be easily cut and shaped. Vinyl can also handle full color images and is a slightly more expensive option than paper.

Textiles and Canvas can be used for signage and although textile substrates may need to be pre-treated, depending on the printing process, there are organic printing options available. Canvas is usually a go-to product for art or photographic prints. This high-resolution capability means canvas is a slightly more expensive product in the rolled substrates.


Rigid Substrates:

If all of this information hasn’t met your project needs, it might be time to consider the flat-fed options that can take your project to a more solid substrate. This is where imagination meets reality as there are a myriad of products available for you to choose from and we are continually experimenting with new industry offerings to provide a greater selection for your marketing ideas.

Have you ever thought about printing on aluminum? There are a variety of colors and finishes available for aluminum or aluminum composite substrates. Although the cost of aluminum is higher than paper or vinyl, the end product provides a sleek look that really grabs attention.

Signs & Banners

Printed on 6mm Polymetal






Styrene is a product that is basically thin PVC. It can be used indoors or outdoors for fairly inexpensive sign solutions. By selecting a thicker styrene product, you can end up with a freestanding display.







An economical substrate that is great for indoor advertising material is foam-centered. It can handle extremely high-resolution images based on the surface materials.

Flatbed print to foamcore







Magnetics are a form of foam-centered substrates that has a layer of magnetic material fused to it. This product can be used in small to large production and can provide you with an object that needs to be placed on top of a substrate’s surface.

Magnetic Menu Board






Acrylics may be the newer trend in printing and probably ends up being at the higher end of the substrate materials in terms of cost. But this is mostly due to the image resolution and overall design capabilities. Acrylics allow you to print to a higher depth level and it is possible to create dimension that pops off of the wall and instantly grabs your client’s attention.

Contour Cut White Acrylic







Hopefully this has streamlined the information overload you can feel when you start to explore marketing options for your company. The gallery on our website provides a wealth of visual examples of business uses for large-format substrates.

Are you feeling more confident about taking your idea off of the back burner and bringing your marketing efforts up a notch? Give us a call, request a quote, or stop in and see some of our own marketing examples in either our Omaha or Lincoln offices. We are here to take your ideas and create a marketing project you can be proud of, sure to increase your company’s image and client traffic!