Friday, 15 November 2013 00:00

How to Print a Fabric Poster

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Print1As the Annual Meeting approaches, it's time to start thinking about printing your poster. If you're not looking forward to the prospect of traveling with a giant cardboard tube, yet you're reluctant to return to the days of the multiple-panel poster, consider printing on fabric.

I took a look at three different fabric printing services available in the Boston area. One is a university poster printing service, another a for-profit company, and the third, Spoonflower, is a large on-demand custom fabric printer—not normally an option people consider in the scientific community. In terms of print quality, cost, and fabric properties, Spoonflower easily came out on top, but you have to carefully choose among many fabric options and some of their fabrics are better for posters than others.

 

Service

Cost (36” x 58”) + shipping

Texture

Wrinkle resistance

Reproduction quality

Normal turnaround time

Rush turnaround time (cost)

University service

>$120

Heavy primed canvas

+

+++

Same day (print while you wait)

n/a

Commercial service

$110

Lightweight, shiny satin

+

+

Next day

n/a

Spoonflower (linen-cotton canvas)

$30

Canvas

-

++

10 calendar days

$25

Spoonflower (performance knit fabric)

$25

Tight polyester interlock knit with sheen

+++

+++

10 calendar days

$25

  • @marainniss's poster printed with our university's printing service. The reproduction quality is great, but the heavy, coated fabric can crease:

Print2

  • A poster printed with a local commercial poster printer. Shiny, lightweight fabric, but the reproduction is not as vivid:

Print3

  • Spoonflower's linen-cotton canvas. Print quality is good, but it wrinkles too easily:

Print4

  • The same poster printed on Spoonflowers' performance knit. Very vivid colors, and superlative wrinkle-resistance from the dense but lightweight polyester. Small wrinkles are visible after transporting it, balled up, in my backpack (see bar chart "...at ¼ points of cell") but no ironing is needed:

Print5

 

Personally, after seeing the convenience, print quality, and cost of the performance knit, I'm never printing a paper poster again. The only exception would be for last-minute jobs: Spoonflower has a rush service (which costs more than the poster itself) but this still takes a few business days.

How to Print with Spoonflower

To print your next poster on fabric with Spoonflower, you'll first want to consider the maximum dimensions of your chosen fabric. For performance knit, the largest poster you can print is 36" x 58", but of course, smaller sizes will be fine too. Make your poster in .png format (you can use GIMP to convert from .pdf). Spoonflower will convert from other image formats for you, but doing it yourself will allow you to carefully proof the image. Prepare the image at 300dpi—the fabric printing process is not likely to offer benefits for higher resolutions, which are lost at poster viewing distances anyway.

Once you upload the file, you'll see a screen that looks like this:

Print6

For fabric, select "Performance Knit." Set the unit size to "Yards." For repeat pattern, you can safely select either Basic, Center, or Mirror. Click the "bigger" and "smaller" buttons until the poster fills the yardage and the resolution matches that of your original file. That's it!

When your poster arrives, trim off any excess fabric (which may not be necessary with the "Center" repeat layout); the performance knit won't fray or curl, so hemming is unnecessary. Before the meeting, try hanging it up to get familiar with the fabric's drape. You'll probably find that eight pushpins (four across the top, one at each bottom corner, and one at the middle of each side) will keep the poster straight.

Given how wrinkle-resistant the performance knit is, you could probably just stuff it into your suitcase, but it's probably wise to heed wrinkle-fighting packing tips: roll when possible, and stuff folds with other soft items. Or just wear your poster as a fabulous scarf as you travel (my plan). If you do end up with wrinkles, use your hotel's iron on the coolest setting to gently press them out.

If you're apprehensive about printing on fabric, come check mine out in person (abstract 273, in the Protists, Parasites, and Prokaryotes session on Sunday, December 15)!

Jessica Polka

Jessica Polka is interested in the spatial organization of the bacterial cell. Having studied a plasmid-segregating actin homolog during her PhD with Dyche Mullins at UCSF, she is currently a working on a natural and engineered bacterial compartments during a postdoc in Pam Silver's lab at the Harvard Medical School.

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