Retail Signage: New Family of Opaque Paperboard Offers Ideal Solution for Many POP Applications

By Mark J. Rowell, president, Mammoth Media

Supermarkets, apparel chains and other retail outlets need clear signage with messaging that is sharply and professionally printed to draw in customers.

However, signs, posters or banners that are printed on both sides of a single piece of paperboard may bleed through to either side if the proper technology is not used.  The effect will be accentuated in the light of day, for example, with a storefront window sign.  This poor print execution where a customer will see backwards type from the opposite side of the sign looks unprofessional and may confuse the customer because it’s difficult to read.

This is not a problem, though, if the right paper is used in the print process, whether it is done by a commercial printer or by the in-house sign department of a large corporation or major retailer, where large format digital printers that can handle this sort of job are increasingly found.

Think of a deck of playing cards.  It’s essential that players not see each other’s hand, so playing cards are printed on paper stock that has black in the middle that prevents seeing through to the other side of the card. There are similar solutions for banners and other POP signage that needs to be visible from two sides, with either a different or the same message on each side. If it’s in a storefront or other well-lit area, it’s even more critical that the right kind of paper stock is used.

New types of “block-out” or “stop-light” papers are the ideal stock for retail window signage and banners. Although it is only available from select sources throughout the United States, the 100% opaque paper board is perfect both for large retailers that have large format digital print capabilities in house and for commercial printers.

This specialized product is created from two papers, with a black adhesive between them, laminated to create one piece. The black center makes the paper opaque, allowing for clean, double-sided, no-bleed-through printing.  So viewers only see what they’re supposed to see – there’s no seeing through to the printing on the other side.

This type of paper is well suited to window applications, because it so effectively blocks direct sunlight.  We have used it on many retail POP signage projects, small and large, including major programs which require printing and distribution of materials across a nationwide chain.

One paper we have used for numerous POP client needs is Opacity II, a branded product from Lamitech, a fully integrated paperboard manufacturing company based in Cranbury, New Jersey. The product has superior print quality for digital, offset and screen printing, and the standard clay coating works well for two-sided printing.  Opacity II is a brighter white than its predecessor, Opacity, and was created specifically to meet the needs of the digital print market.

The availability of the product in sheets up to 70” as well as in rolls makes it versatile to meet our diverse printing needs. For a project that required printing and distribution to 1,900 retail locations, rolls were the right match for the job that required 32,000 sq. ft. of paper – or about
1 ¼ miles of printing.

As a digital provider, a client will come to me with an idea or problem, and they rely on me to come up with the right answer. In turn, I rely on my paper suppliers to come up with the best fit in often a quick turnaround. We might call in the morning, and the product will ship that night. They’ve really adapted to develop product on demand in an increasingly faster moving digital age.  

This is another benefit of working with a producer such as Lamitech — they can produce an order quickly at a reasonable price.

Other commercial printers also appreciate the value of block-out papers, and find them tremendously flexible.

We are receiving more and more requests for opaque signs to block sunlight, fluorescent lights or other light sources. In the past, it was difficult to achieve opacity in a thin-paper format – earlier options included opaque styrene, but it was a thick material.  But Opacity II, with its charcoal center and availability in calipers of .0085 or .011, works perfectly for double-sided print pieces for printing with offset lithography, large format digital or conventional silk screen.

The lightweight, flexible paper stock helps reduce shipping expense too, an important factor as transportation costs have continued to increase. Shipping can be a significant budget item for many retailers that often must use overnight services to meet aggressive advertising and promotional campaign deadlines across multiple locations. Since the paper is flexible, it is easy for signage to be rolled and mailed in a tube, but once unrolled, it stays flat and thus hangs well.

In the past, a 60” sign, for example, would have to ship flat, which meant more packaging; the flexibility to roll just wasn’t there. So there are significant cost savings if you can roll material and use smaller packaging (tubes).  If you have 500 stores that need signage kits and you had to ship flat – the old style – the packaging and shipping could cost more than the printing. It’s an innovative solution to business needs.

The opaque paper board also is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable, which is important for businesses invested in sustainable practices and the triple bottom line. Today many retailers prefer using signage created from paper rather than foam board or plastics, because it is more easily recycled.

Lamitech also offers a broad range of sheet and roll products, including virgin paperboard, cardstock, recycled chipboard, laminated materials, foils and films for commercial printers and major box and packaging companies in North America.

Mark J. Rowell is president of Mammoth Media, a digital print house specializing in wide format printing based in Pembroke, Massachusetts For more information on the use of Opacity II papers in printing  POP materials, visit


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