Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms for Signs, Banners, Window Lettering and Printing!

Don’t be confused by other sign makers’ language. Sign-Ups shares common terms with you. As the trusted, Houston-area banner maker, we’re dedicated to a relationship with you.



This is a type of plastic, commonly referred to by its brand name Plexiglas that can be formed and cut to make interior or exterior signage. Its polished finish gives it a glossy and elegant appearance which is great for office signs or more upscale occasions.


Aluminum is one of the best and long-lasting materials for outdoor applications. It has a factory-baked enamel finish and will not rust.  It is available in a range of sizes and colors. Typical applications include real estate signs, apartment signs, directional signs, parking signs and any area where durability is a factor.



A high gloss or matte lightweight plastic used for advertising ideas such as sales, openings and special events. Banners differ from flags in that they are expected to hang open and be readable with or without the benefit of wind.


Strips of fabric, usually colored, that are used to decorate a large area or stage. Bunting is often used at political events and rallies. Bunting can be laid flat or can be ‘swagged’ around a stage.



Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty, plain, woven fabric. Want to give your prints a distinguished and classic look? Canvas posters will turn any photo, ad or graphic into a work of art.  Give your next project a new dimension. Go canvas!


Coroplast is an inexpensive, lightweight corrugated plastic material used for mostly small, indoor signs or outdoor signs that are temporary.  Use coroplast stakes and you have an instant yard or tournament sign!



A metal loop in the shape of the letter “D” used to finish the corners of large flags and banners. Snap hooks attach to “D”-rings.

DPI or ‘dots-per-inch’

DPI is a way of expressing a bitmap or raster image’s resolution. An image that has a higher DPI uses more (and smaller) ‘dots’ (or pixels) to create the image and so can be enlarged without breaking down. If an image of insufficient DPI is enlarged too far, it may pixelate.



Fine needlework that creates shapes and images on fabric using tightly stitched areas of thread.



A pole ornament that appears on the end of a flag or banner pole. Finials can take simple shapes like a ball or a spear, but can be specialized for specific flags. The Israeli flag, for example, should be displayed using the ‘Star of David’ finial, and the U.S. flag typically has an eagle-shaped ornament.


A strip of cloth used for advertising a person, idea, organization or business. Flags differ from banners in that they are expected to catch the wind and are usually single-reversed.


The trailing edge of a flag farthest from the flag pole. The fly-end of a flag is the part of the flag that often endures the greatest stress from wind. When a flag whips in the wind, the fly-end receives most of the energy. For this reason, the fly-end of a flag gets some extra reinforcing.

formal flag setup

These are flags meant to be used in either parades, in offices or on stages. These flags differ from conventional outdoor flags because they are usually fringed and have pole sleeves. A typical formal flag setup includes the fringed flag, decorative cord and tassel, an oak pole, and a gold-toned base so that the entire assembly can stand vertically.

four color process

A way of describing a color gamut through four “CMYK” color values (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and BlacK). This term is sometimes used to refer to any imaging process used to render a photographic image.


A decorative trim that is sometimes put on the edges of flags and banners.  Fringe is usually a yellow-gold color, but other colors are available. Fringe is not meant to withstand weather and should be kept dry.



Every color combination that is possible to produce with a given set of colorants on a given device or system. When a color is said to be ‘within’ a printing machine’s ‘gamut’, it means that the color can be reproduced by the printer. Colors described as ‘outside the gamut’ cannot be reproduced.


A small, metal, reinforced ring placed in the corners and/or edges of banners and flags.  A banner or flag can be attached to nearly anything with a grommet. For very large flags or banners that will be subjected to great wind or weather, “D”-rings can be used. Grommets also appear on the cotton headers of outdoor flags.



The rope used to raise or lower a flag or banner.


A thick strip of cotton or other strong material attached to the end of a flag, to reinforce the edge of the flag. Grommets are placed in the corners of the header, which are used to attach the flag to a halyard.


To reinforce the edges of a banner, the material is turned over on itself once or multiple times and sewn.


inkjet printing

A method of large format printing where a ‘print head’ move across a substrate, laying down small dots of ink, which, when viewed together, create an image.


An additional layer (or layers) of fabric placed between the two sides of a double-sided flag. The interliner is added so that the two sides of the flag will not ‘show through’ when sunlight hits the flag.



A thin film of protective material usually laid on top of the final image to protect it from ultraviolet radiation, grit and other damaging forces. Signs mounted to foamcore, vehicle graphics and floor graphics usually get some form of lamination. Temporary or one-time use signs usually don’t require lamination.

large format

A term used to refer to any ‘large-sized’ digital printing. It usually refers to inkjet or solvent printing technologies.



Magnetics can be cut into all shapes and sizes, and can be used outdoors or indoors. They are weather-resistant and color stable. One of the most popular uses for magnetics is on vehicle doors for effective advertising that can be moved between vehicles.

MDO (medium density overlay plywood)

MDO is thick, durable, layered plywood that can be cut into many different shapes and sizes.  It is layered to prevent warping and coated with a finish so that vinyl and adhesives take to the material easier. Typical application includes job site signs, semi-permanent signs, development signs and directional signs.


A type of vinyl substrate typically used for large outdoor wall or fence banners. Printing on to mesh cuts down on the banner’s weight significantly, making them easier to install. Also, the open weave of the mesh allows wind to pass through the banner more easily.



A synthetic fabric substrate.


outrigger pole

A way of installing an outdoor banner pole. A single pole is installed onto the face of the building, and the top of the banner is attached to the pole. The bottom end of the banner is allowed to hang free.


pantone colors

A color-matching method invented by Pantone, a company which publishes books with colored tiles. This system allows people to discuss color in an objective way. Also called ‘PMS colors’ (Pantone Matching System).

parade banner

A style of banner used in parades. A parade banner is typically horizontal with a pole sleeve along the top. A pole is inserted across the top of the banner and marchers can hold the pole (and the banner) and march comfortably. Parade style banners are usually 30 inches in height and their width can vary.

parade flag

A parade flag is very similar to a formal flag setup, but without the base that allows it to be stood upright. A parade marcher will typically use a belt with a special cup in which the butt of the pole can be rested.


A triangular-shaped flag.

pennant string

A string of pennants, attached to line, used as retail decoration.


When a bitmap or raster graphic is enlarged beyond what its resolution can handle, the individual ‘dots’ or ‘pixels’ can be seen, making the image unattractive and seem ‘blocky’ or ‘blurry’.

podium banner

A type of small banner attached to the front of a podium or lectern to identify the organization hosting the event or to indicate who the speaker represents.

pole hem / pole sleeve

A way of finishing a banner where the edge of the banner is turned over itself in order to create a sleeve through which a pole can pass.


This is an inexpensive, non-glare smooth plastic that is very easy to work with.  It is best for interior signage. This material is light weight and easy to transport.  Because of its flexible nature, polystyrene is perfect for a sign that has to fit or contour to a curved surface.


PVC is a rigid plastic board available in many different colors. This material is easy to cut into different sizes and shapes. It has a textured surface for a matte appearance and is flame-retardant. It is great for retail store directional signs, menu boards, point-of-purchase displays and interior identification signs.


raster or bitmap graphics

A type of graphic file that stores visual information in the form of pixels, discrete squares of color. Raster images that are intended for reproduction on banners or flags must be of a sufficiently high resolution or pixilation may occur after the graphic is enlarged.



A lustrous, shiny fabric, suitable for making indoor banners.


If you have signs that are needed in high quantities, screen printing is the way to go.  It’s much more cost-effective that vinyl lettering. Screen-printing is a method of manufacturing banners in which a frame is built. The frame has a mesh stretched across the frame. By blocking out certain areas of the screen and leaving others open, inks can be passed through the mesh screen, forming a pattern on a substrate underneath the frame.


Most flags are designed to be single-reverse, which means that the image or message on the flag reads correctly on only one side and is ‘reversed’ on the other side.

snap hook

A spring-loaded metal hook attached to a halyard that is used to attach flags and banners.

solvent printing

A kind of printing that uses solvent inks. Solvent inks are chemically aggressive, which work their way down into the substrate.  Solvent inks can be used to create durable outdoor signs and banners.

step-and-repeat banner

Step-and-repeat banners are large banners used as backdrops against which celebrities and event attendees can be photographed. They’re called step-and-repeat banners because a logo or logos are repeated on them, usually staggered. In this way, no matter how people are photographed, the event sponsor’s logo is always present somewhere in the photo.

street banners

A type of banner installed on the lamp posts.


Any material that receives an image. Substrates can be soft materials like fabrics and vinyls or harder surfaces like sintra, glass or foamcore. The substrate is whatever ‘receives’ the design or image.


table banner

Any banner that is meant to cover or adorn a table. Often used at trade shows or other events, a table banner can take on many different forms. Some table banners are attached just to the forward edge of the table surface and hang over the front. Others can drape over the entire top of the table and the front. Others can completely cover a table on all four sides.


A bunch of cords gathered at one end. Tassels are used to decorate formal flag setups.

top-and-bottom poles

Some banners are installed with two poles, one on the top and one on the

bottom pole.


vector graphics

Vector graphics is the line of art or the wireframe of your art. Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves and polygons to represent images. Vector art can usually be reduced or enlarged without the loss of resolution. This is the only type of art that can be used with our vinyl plotter.


A substrate made of extruded plastic material, often used to make outdoor banners.

vinyl lettering

Vinyl lettering or RTA (ready to apply) vinyl is customized to your measurements and specifications.  Vinyl can be applied to almost any smooth surface such as windows, doors, boats and vehicles.


window lettering

Pressure-sensitive (adhesive-backed) vinyl material can be machine-cut to add window graphics.

wall banner

A kind of banner, almost always single-sided, that is attached flat against a wall or other vertical barrier.

wind slits or wind vents

Small openings cut into a banner (and rarely, flags) to allow the wind to pass through the banner. A large banner without wind vents is really more of a sail. Without vents to reduce some of the wind force on a banner, the banner could rip.