Backlit Graphics: Choosing The Right Media

Backlit graphics and printed signage has long been a compelling advertising platform. You’ve seen them used effectively in retail stores, attention-grabbing POP displays, breathtaking trade show exhibits and leveraged in Out-Of-Home advertising venues; airports, casinos, hotels, transit shelters and shopping malls.

Lighting is crucial to the way your backlit project reaches the consumer; need a light source for maximum visibility? Traditional fluorescent tube cabinets or LED (Light Emitting Diode) displays are the way to go.

Fast Fact – LED’s cost less to operate than fluorescents, have a smaller carbon footprint and require less maintenance, all the while providing maximum impact by making every inch of the backit graphic equally illuminated.

Below are popular backlit graphic options and what makes them versatile marketing weapons:


Duratrans® – a Kodak product, is the benchmark for backlit advertising. Duratrans is a translucent, silver-halide, photographic film that is printed by exposing red, green and blue lasers from a large-format photo laser printer. As a backlit graphic, Duratrans excels in color saturation, brilliance and contrast. Duratrans is the perfect choice for the highest end applications such as jewelry stores, cosmetic boutiques, fine art galleries and upscale malls. Other terms often used interchangeably with Duratrans are C Prints, Lambda Prints and LightJet Prints. Though each is produced using different equipment, the end results are very similar.

Inkjet Backlit Film – known by a variety of names, such as DuraPrint, DuraTex or DuraView, PET film with an ink-receptive backlit coating has become the standard for digitally printed backlit graphics. Printed on either a high-resolution latex ink press, such as the HP Latex 3000 or a variable dot UV-curable ink press such as the Vutek GS3250 Pro, this substrate is a close second to Duratrans in quality, only much less expensive. Scratch, tear and smudge-resistant, backlit PET film looks great as a front lit or backlit graphic. It is becoming the standard substrate for high-end outdoor displays such as New York Newsstands.

Semi Opaque Polystyrene – called translucent styrene, is even more cost-effective than backlit PET film and particularly suited to high-quantity backlit roll-outs. Styrene is manufactured in a variety of thicknesses and opacities, from translucent to dead-white opaque. While thicker and more opaque versions are ubiquitous throughout the retail environment as front-lit graphics; thinner, more translucent variants are a wonderful choice for backlit advertising, including out-of-home advertising structures such as bus shelters and telephone kiosks.

Fast Fact – if you operate in the quick-service or fast-casual restaurant vertical, the ease of use, cost-effectiveness and durability of either inkjet backlit film or translucent styrene for your menu boards is a sure way to light up your restaurant sales without incurring the high upfront costs, power consumption and content management fees associated with digital menu boards.

silicone edge backlit fabric graphicSEG Fabric Backlit – Designers and brand managers are discovering dye-sublimated fabrics for their backlit graphics since they are lightweight, easy to install, come in endless sizes and produce stunning, vibrant colors. Often referred to as Silicone Edge Graphics (SEG), the fabric has a thin bead of silicone sewn around the perimeter which is then inserted into the aluminum channel of the backlit graphic. It is important to select a fabric that diffuses the light evenly when installed. The best fabrics for this purpose are woven, such as Triple White, available from a number of manufactures. Woven fabrics, unlike their knit cousins, don’t “pin hole” or allow small holes of light to show through the fabric when installed. Though fabric can be printed with latex or UV-curable inks, for the absolute best results be sure that your print provider uses dye-sublimation printing. Click here for more information about Silicone Edge Fabric.


second surface acrylic graphic
Acrylic – clear and durable, consider acrylic when your backlit graphics require a distinctive, quality look with a sense of depth and are designed for long-term use. A popular choice for interior design, second-surface printing (the image is inverted during printing to appear right-reading when viewed) on clear acrylic is effective for high-end displays and environmental graphics. In addition to the dimension added by looking through the clear acrylic to the image, the surface of the acrylic becomes a protective barrier between the viewing side and the printed side. For more knowledge on second-surface printing, click here.

Fast Fact – So how do you get white information out of a digital file that only has cyan, magenta, yellow and black? In Photoshop, white is printed using a fifth channel, and then processed by the rip.

Peter FradinAbout the author: Peter Fradin is a 25 year industry veteran and a display solutions print specialist with BPGraphics. BPGraphics is a nationally recognized screen and digital graphics printer offering large, wide and grand format print solutions for 55 years. From fabric to vinyl – to rigid substrates of all kinds – big or small, BPGraphics’ knowledge and experience in the industry is unparalleled. You can reach Peter at 602-272-7907 or peter.f@bpgraphics.com