By Cassandra Balentine
Magnetic signage offers many opportunities, especially in retail environments, on vehicles, and at restaurants. The ability to change-out graphics quickly and easily is the primary advantage. Magnetic and magnetic-receptive substrate manufacturers and suppliers continue to introduce and enhance product offerings to provide even bigger benefits to print providers.
One way this type of media is adding value is through specialty finishes, such as a chalkboard or whiteboard effects. Print service providers benefit from magnetic media options and the innovative, specialty finishes available for them.
Above: VM-Graphic Systems a division of Visual Magnetics produces many custom specialty finishes from canvas to soft touch chrome and chalkboard.
Finishes for Magnetic Media
In addition to plain white vinyl and paper options, a variety of finishes such as canvas, fabric, chalkboard, whiteboard, soft touch, and wood are available for magnetic sheeting.
“Magnetic materials can be customized with many different finishes,” comments Darrell Adams, VP North America, Newlife Magnetics LLC. He says the most popular are printable white PVC and PET films. “Printable canvas is sometimes used for artistic graphics and wall murals. “Magnetic materials are also available with white dry erase finishes or black chalkboard finishes,” he adds.
Newlife offers a full line of white, dry erase, and green and black chalkboard materials. The company laminates these substrates onto magnet sheeting or magnetic-receptive sheeting. It offers solutions to apply re-writable dry erase or chalkboard material to glass, metal, or dry wall surfaces.
Joe Deetz, CEO, VM-Graphic Systems a division of Visual Magnetics, says most options on the market are white print films, but unique finishes like fabrics, chalkboard, soft touch, and wood are available in addition to standard products.
VM-Graphic Systems a division of Visual Magnetics produces many custom specialty finishes from canvas to soft touch to chrome and chalkboard.
“In addition to the printable top coatings such as vinyl, coated, and paper that have been around for quite a while, chalkboard and whiteboard/dry erase finishes are relatively new for magnetic sheeting,” agrees Mike Gertz, marketing manager, Master Magnetics, Inc.
Master Magnetics offers specialty finishes including Flexible Magnetic Chalkboard and Memo Magnet. Its Flexible Magnetic Chalkboard features a writable finish, allowing users to create messages, menus, sale specials, and designs with chalk or chalk markers. The chalk is easily erased with a damp cloth. It can be printed on with solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex ink systems.
In terms of popularity, several finishing effects stand out. “Dry erase magnetic materials are the most popular finishes and can be found in many different installation and application methods,” points out Adams. For example, magnetic sheeting with a dry erase finish might be used to resurface a conventional dry erase board at a low cost. Dry erase magnetic-receptive materials are also used in combination with other magnet and magnet-receptive materials to create custom walls with both dry erase and printed graphics.
Deetz sees a higher demand for magnetic-receptive canvas and chalkboard finishes. “A natural cotton-based canvas as a magnetic-receptive media is a true rarity. The result is an authentic and show-stopping image that elevates the overall production value of the space, and most importantly, can be updated in seconds.”
Magnetic-receptive print media in a chalkboard finish is an impressive option for signage and wallcoverings, admits Deetz. “Not only does it pass as the real thing, it is PVC-free, easy for chalk artists to work with, and can incorporate printed graphics. When updating a chalk illustration, a professional—or novice—can create beautiful artwork or lettering using liquid or regular chalk, with the chalkboard media layer laid out on a table and then easily hang the lightweight finished chalkboard graphic in seconds. Magnetic-receptive media can also be printed onto, so combining chalk art and graphics are no problem.”
VM-Graphic Systems a division of Visual Magnetics’ customers also use its straight white print surfaces—such as VM-POLYeight and VM-SYNpaper—as a base that can then have any finish applied in print and laminated with a desired surface treatment. “Regardless of the specialty finish used, you have to start with a high-quality substrate that is stable during printing, lamination, installation, and presentation,” recommends Deetz.
Gertz believes that flexible magnetic sheeting with vinyl finishes are still the most popular products since they are printable with the widest range and most common ink systems—including solvent, eco-solvent, and latex—and have been around the longest.
According to Larry Budnik, sales manager, Adams Magnetic Products, PET is the company’s most popular magnetic-receptive finish due to the availability and printer compatability. For printable magnet, vinyl is more popular than PET he says because of printer capabilities coupled with quality.
The allure of magnetic media is well known, it provides a cost efficient and easy installation. “Many times the need for these types of materials are temporary so low cost and easy installation are key to buying decisions,” says Adams.
The availability of finishing effects presents even more opportunities.
“There was a high demand in specialty finishes soon after we introduced magnetic-receptive media to the market in 2007. Retailers want the unparalleled flexibility that magnetic receptive offers, combined with unique textures and overall higher quality graphics—sometimes the desired result is a lifestyle or product image, but more frequently we see a trend of murals that create a mood or bespoke wallcoverings that can easily be changed,” shares Deetz.
He says the goal in retail design is to create warm and inviting environments that elevate the experience, not simply convey the latest campaign. “As brick and mortar continue to feel the pressure of direct to consumer and online retail, the bar for a high-quality, in-store experience is raised considerably. Retail spaces are designed to feel more authentic and less like walking into a life-sized print advertisement.”
The increased demand for finishes like magnetic chalkboard is driven by a combination of new creative methods for signage that provides the convenience of quickly and easily changeable handwritten information with the simplicity of installation and repositioning of a magnet, offers Gertz. “For example, many restaurants utilize magnetic chalkboards for menu boards or to promote daily specials. It is common to print the template for the permanent information and the variable daily information is handwritten with chalk or chalk pens for a colorful, more informal sign.”
The allure of a combination approach with chalkboard or dry erase surfaces used as part of a layered magnetic graphic system is strong. “The main, permanent printed areas are output on magnetic sheeting such as ThinFORCE or PrintMagnetVinyl, leaving an area that the Memo Magnet—Master Magnetics’ dry erase brand—can layer over and allow for handwritten information that is easily wiped off to change frequently,” says Gertz.
Benefits and Challenges
When using specialty media options—like magnetic and magnetic-receptive systems—there are benefits and challenges. This is furthered when you add in specialty finishing effects.
The possibilities of changing all aspects of the look and feel of wall surfaces and fixtures are endless. Deetz points out that nothing about these products feel temporary or quick change in a tacky way. “They feel entirely blended into the space, elevating the mood and allowing for that mood to boundlessly transform.”
Specialty finishes can make prints more durable and sometimes change the gloss level. “The most creative use of magnetic-receptive graphics is when multiple finishes are combined using layering of the material itself. Imagine, a partially printed chalkboard background blended with a high-resolution graphic of a fruit that pops with a bit of gloss,” offers Deetz.
The ability to print direct to the magnet or magnetic-receptive sheeting for a one-step printing process is a major benefit of the substrates and the available specialty finishes. “This creates a faster, more efficient and profitable process than the traditional two-step method of printing on another substrate such as vinyl and then laminating to the magnet,” shares Gertz.
Another benefit focuses on sustainability. “In the printing industry, magnets enable signage and displays to be assembled and updated quickly and neatly with minimal tools and no training—reducing installation time and increasingly profitability,” explains Budnik.
Adams’ GreenMAG printable magnet sheet is coated instead of laminated. Recyclable, the magnet won’t delaminate or curl. The flexible magnets Adams supplies contain no phthalates or conflict minerals.
In terms of challenges, Deetz says he hasn’t encountered customers having any issues with printing given the advanced technology and substrate quality. “When you see curling of graphic edges—or tunneling—that is usually due to a sub-par base substrate and stability issues, which are only amplified if a low-quality magnetic receptive is combined with a specialty finish,” he states.
For printing to magnetic materials in general, Gertz warns of several considerations, including weight, thickness, and dealing with a metal platen. “Printing direct to magnet if the platen is metal can be easily resolved by covering the platen with styrene, chipboard, vinyl, or another smooth, flat, material to create an air gap, allowing the magnetic sheeting to smoothly feed through the printer.”
Ink compatibility should also be considered. Adams points out that dry erase magnetic materials usually require a different ink set, which can be purchased from most ink providers if custom printing is required.
Gertz says solvent, eco-solvent, UV, and latex inks are all compatible with its PrintMagnetVinyl, ThinFORCE, and chalkboard magnetic sheeting, in addition to FlexIRON magnetic-receptive sheeting. Its PrintMagnet high-gloss and matte paper topcoats are compatible with aqueous inks.
He adds that latex, UV, solvent, and eco-solvent inks do not require a pre- or post-treatment, but a protective laminate can be used to extend the durability when used outdoors. “Paper topcoats printed with aqueous ink definitely require a protective laminate if used outdoors, or if the printed piece is handled often,” offers Gertz.
“Some media is designed for multiple print technologies and others are platform specific,” continues Deetz. He says most of VM-Graphic Systems a division of Visual Magnetics’ specialty substrates are designed to perform as-is and don’t require pre- or post-treatment. “Our magnetic-receptive canvas for instance is a true, natural cotton canvas with a high-quality white print coat. Specialty magnetic-receptive media can be matched with specialty printing or post-treatments to create an even more unique finish—and those combinations are endless.”
Magnetic and magnetic-receptive media options are unique in their own right. Adding specialty finishes heightens appeal and broadens application reach. Canvas, fabric, chalkboard, and whiteboard are just some of the many unique options available beyond traditional white vinyl and paper.
Jul2019, Digital Output