Know Your Lamination From Your Knife Coating For Fun & Profit

If you have been keeping up with our blog you will have read our previous article “why buying a heavy banner material might not get you as much as you expect” and will already have a deep appreciation for the importance of base cloth in banner material.

This time out we are going to look at how banner material is made printable and that means it's time to look at how the surface is applied to the base cloth. There are a variety of different ways of doing this and they result in different attributes in the final media.

There are two primary ways of applying a printable surface:

  • Coat the product with an ink receptive coating.
  • Laminate an ink receptive film to the base material to make it printable.

These are commonly subdivided into three categories of final product:

  • Knife coated (also known as spread or true coated)
  • Lamination
  • Semi coated (also known as hybrid coating)

Knife Coating

This process consists of applying a liquid polymer directly to the base cloth. The thickness of the coating is controlled by applying it via a blade or similar aperture.

This method of production results in the highest quality, most durable banner products. Products produced in this way have greater resistance to shearing forces giving them longer durability, greater resistance to extremes of temperature and the most consistent print surface. You can expect an outdoor life of up to five years. The liquid coating process also allows for the delivery of larger amounts of fire retardant additive allowing the highest classifications of fire protection.

Products of this type are suitable for the most demanding applications such as building wraps and vehicle advertising systems. Materials of this type have a slightly higher and more evenly distributed degree of stretch making them ideal for use in tension systems. For this reason, our Ultima Supreme and Vulite Supreme products have been ideal solutions for frontlit and backlit long term outdoor displays for twenty years.

Know your lamination from your knife coating for fun and profit 1


With a lamination process one or more pre-prepared polymer films is combined with the base cloth by use of adhesives (cold lamination) or heat and pressure (hot lamination).

  • Polymer film (2) Polyester base cloth

With a knife coating process, the base cloth is contained within a homogeneous bubble of the PVC coating like a fly trapped in amber. Hot lamination is more analogous to a cheese toastie in that the pre-existing front and back films are applied to the base cloth and bonded by heat and pressure

This makes lamination a much faster and therefore cost-effective way of producing banner material. It does however result in a less durable product as it is easier for the original components to separate back out from the sum of their parts. Products of this type are suitable for short to medium term outdoor applications dependent on the quality of their base cloth. Our best selling laminated banner material is Superprint 2. It retains a high denier base cloth giving it superior strength for such an affordable product.

Know your lamination from your knife coating for fun and profit 2

Semi Coating / Hybrid Coating

As you would expect from the name semi coating or hybrid coating is a combination of both processes but owes more of it’s DNA to lamination. There are a variety of different approaches to semi coating but for simplicity think of it as a laminated banner with a spread coat on one side to give that material the appearance and feel of a knife coated material.

Materials of this type can very much be a half-way house between pure lamination and knife coating. To ape the look of knife coated materials the base cloths used are often of similar construction to those used in knife coated material and it is certainly possible to get 2 years of outdoor life on a superwide format installation.

Materials produced in this way are often so like their knife coated alternatives that they can be extremely difficult to tell apart from the real thing. Semi coated materials are often not quite as flexible as true knife coated materials but the easiest way to tell them apart is the price. If you have an unusually great price on a “coated” banner material, then there is a good chance that it is really a semi coated product.

Semi coated products are a great compromise as they have a high-quality surface suitable for short viewing distances but can still be produced quickly. This production process when married with a good quality base cloth results in a durable attractive product at a very reasonable price. Our best-selling banner material Ultima Pro is a semi coated material.

Now you know all about how to coat a banner material and which application to use each type for. This will ensure you choose the right product for the job, don’t get ripped off and are a hit at parties.