Technically, a substrate is any material that can be printed on directly. However, in grand format printing, we differentiate between materials that are flexible and come on a roll versus rigid substrates that come in sheets. It is these rigid products we’re referring to when we talk about direct to substrate material printing.

The ability to print directly on hard substrates – in extremely large sizes — has opened many new doors for businesses and marketers that want to make their visual point in a truly big way. It eliminates the former multi-step process that involved printing on a flexible, adhesive material then mounting it on the base material (or substrate). Far broader printing possibilities make far more applications possible.

Choosing the Right Substrate for Your Job

Some materials are only appropriate for indoor use, whereas others are tough and resilient enough to withstand outdoor conditions. Many are very lightweight, which makes them even more attractive for grand format applications. At Grand Image, we use all the products listed below, working with each of our wholesale customers to identify the best substrate for your application:


This is a corrugated plastic that is commonly used for lawn signs. As you might guess, Coroplast is a good low-cost option for outdoor use.


This product has a foam center covered with a paper exterior. Signs shops have used foamcore for years as a print-and-mount backing. It is a good choice for POP displays and signage.


This low-cost plastic material is impact-resistant and rigid, good for indoor signage and display panels.


Ultraboard is a heavy-duty all plastic material that is specially designed to provide long lasting , durable and vividly printed panels for permanent signage or high use displays. It is warp-resistant and lightweight, good for indoor signage, exhibits and POS displays.

Expanded PVC:

Also known as Sintra, this is another premium option for indoor signage. It is available in a wide range of colors and can be used for signage, display boards and exhibits.

Aluminum composite panel:

ACP is an aluminum-surfaced, solid polyethylene core board. It is ideal for outdoor signage, particularly if you need long-term durability. Aluminum composite panel offers super rigidity and is available in a wide range of colors.


An alternative to aluminum composite, anodized aluminum is ideal for outdoor signage that requires photo-quality printing plus particularly high levels of moisture resistance.


You may know this high-impact-resistant rigid substrate by its trade name, LexanTM. It can be transparent or a translucent white and is an excellent choice for windows and backlit displays as well as other applications.


Extruded acrylic is softer than polycarbonate, making it ideal for smooth edges. Cast acrylic is more durable and yields frost white markings when etched. Both of these products are good choices for signage and POP displays.

If you’re ready to send a project out for bid, simply request a quote! We look forward to hearing from you and hopefully begin a long-standing partnership as your grand format printer.