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A Guide To Outdoor Banners – Signage 101

Advertising a product or a service? Celebrating a special occasion, or announcing an important message? Outdoor banners are an indispensable communication tool. Banners are versatile, durable, and practical. 

Anyone who needs to get their message out needs a banner. Banners provide a great way for business owners (and others!) to broaden their reach and communicate important messaging, such as a sale, a new product or event, or a promotion. Like other kinds of outdoor signs, banners offer an affordable and effective way to reach new customers and reconnect with old buyers. Schools can use it for important announcements or celebrations. Non-profits and advocacy groups can use it to raise awareness about issues they care about. Event managers can use it to promote their events and on the actual day of the event itself. And the list goes on. In short, banners are widely used in many different outdoor scenarios due to the variety of advantages they offer. 

If you’re looking to design your own outdoor banner but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. In this Signage 101 article, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide with everything you need to know to get your own outdoor banner. 

What Are Banners Made Of?

Banners typically come in vinyl, fabric, and mesh. When it comes to outdoor advertising, vinyl banners are our top performers.  

Vinyl is durable, affordable, and long-lasting – it’s resistant to weather, water, and humidity – making it the best choice for outdoor displays. In contrast, fabric banners are made of lightweight polyester, which makes these portable and easy to display but not suited for outdoor use. On the other hand, mesh banners also offer a great outdoor banner option but are lighter and more resistant to wind, thanks to their mesh construction. Thus, if the wind is your primary concern, then mesh banners might be the right choice for you. Otherwise, vinyl banners offer the all-around best banner option for outdoor use. 

Read our article on banner material comparison for more details.

Why Are Vinyl Banners the Best Option for Outdoor Use?

Vinyl banners are made with durable yet lightweight material that’s waterproof and weatherproof. This durability comes from how the vinyl itself is manufactured. Basically, the internal makeup of the vinyl (called a “weft inserted knit” or internal scrim) reinforces the material and makes for a very strong and durable outdoor material for your sign. This durable construction of the material doesn’t sacrifice image quality as they also provide an excellent printing surface. Our vinyl banners come in two thickness options: 

  • Thirteen-ounce (13 oz.) vinyl – ideal for everyday display. This is the same material commonly used for billboards.  
  • Eighteen-ounce (18 oz.) vinyl – recommended for heavy-duty displays. This high-grade banner material is heavier and more durable.

When placed and used correctly, your vinyl banner is durable enough to withstand constant exposure to the elements. In fact, with proper placement and care, your vinyl banner can last more than three years. In many cases, this lifespan can be much longer if you’re aware of the factors that may affect the durability of your banner. 

To maximize the lifespan of your banner and make it last as long as possible outdoors, it is worth noting some of the main factors that can affect its lifespan: 

  • Sun Exposure – Prolonged exposure to natural light and heat can cause your banner to deteriorate quickly. So, while you can leave your banner up year-round (excepting inclement weather), to prolong the lifespan of your banner even further you can take down and store your banner if your end-use allows. 
  • Wind – Strong winds can be bad for vinyl banners. If you’re going to use your banner in a particularly windy place you could opt to go for a mesh banner as discussed above or securely display your banner. Typically, the damage from windy conditions comes from a banner that is poorly displayed and the resulting flapping/movement can cause damage. Selecting and using sufficient number of grommets and bungee cords or rope, or other comparably sturdy display methods, should mitigate risk of wind damage to your banner.  
  • Weather – Prolonged and frequent exposure to heavy rain and very low temperatures can lead to a shorter lifespan for your banner. Unfortunately, this is true no matter what you do for your banner – or where you buy it from. Simply put, some climates and locations are more favorable to your banner’s lifespan. 
  • Pollution – While this is the least likely factor to affect the lifespan of your banner, pollution can wear down your banner fast. When exposed to excessive pollution, the colors can fade, and your banner will be covered in grime. If you live in a very high pollution area, much like inclement weather, we’d recommend that you display your banner only when needed and store it to prolong its lifespan. 

Popular Sizes for Outdoor Banners

Vinyl banners come in pretty much every size imaginable. And due to the wide variety of end uses for banners there is often no one size fits all for what size you might need your banner to be. That said, in our experience the most popular size for an outdoor vinyl banner is 6′ wide x 3′ high. This size provides one that is big enough to be visible but not so big that it is overwhelming. It also results in a banner that comes in at a very affordable price point. 

The most important thing to consider when deciding how big your banner needs to be is the end-use. Where will it be displayed? Who will be looking at it? Drivers? Pedestrians? Knowing these things will help ensure that it is sufficiently big and readable to those that need to see it. As a reference point, the image below shows some of the most common signs you might see on a day-to-day basis and how they compare to the 6’x3’ banner size referenced above.

Further, to help you determine what size to order for your specific needs, you can jump over and read our article on our standard vinyl banner sizes and our guide on letter height and viewing distances.

How to Put Up Outdoor Banners

There are a variety of ways you can display your vinyl banner outdoors, depending on its size. You can use velcro strips or small screws through the grommets and hang your banner against a wall. In some cases, specialty adhesive tape can also be used for flat surface display. You can also suspend the banner between two posts using ropes or zip ties – a very common and practical display method.  

If you want to hang your banner from the ceiling or an awning, use the grommets to pull up your banner with a string or a rope. You can also use bungee cords to pull your banner tight, or nylon rope, hanging clips (or carabiners), zip ties, or even suction cups/hooks. 

Other ways to display your banner include hanging the banner on a fence, a table, or the side of a slow-moving or parked vehicle. For a static display, use a pole or hang your banner against a wall or a frame. 

The most important thing to remember when displaying your banner is to do so securely. A banner that moves, slides, or flaps in the wind is much more likely to be damaged over the long term. Securely displayed vinyl banners can last for years in the right conditions and with the right care.  

Learn more about how to hang your banner.

What You Need to Create Outdoor Banners That Stand Out

With your material and size selected, and now that you’re well versed on what affects the lifespan of your banner and how to display it, it’s also important to make sure your banner is well-designed!  

If you don’t have any previous design experience, creating a custom outdoor banner can be intimidating. We’re here to walk you through the essentials of a good vinyl banner design. Here are the most important things you should consider when designing a banner that you will be proud to display – and get you results.  

1. A Clear Purpose  
 
What message do you want to convey? What’s your call to action? Your message should be clear and direct, whether it’s promoting a store opening, announcing a seasonal sale, directing foot traffic to your storefront, or inviting trade show attendees to your booth. 

2. A Good Location for Display 

As with any sign, the location of your banner is crucial to its effectiveness. Your chosen location will influence the size of the banner, the colors you would use, and the messaging. Will your audience be walking, standing, or driving when they see your banner? How can your banner copy help capture your audience’s attention? Does your messaging need to be concise? Or can you afford to put more information on it? Consider where the banner will be displayed as you customize your banner’s written component. 
 
Once you have a good idea of where you’ll display your vinyl banner and what it will say, you can select a color scheme for your design. It’s not enough that the colors you choose are attention-grabbing; these should also contrast nicely with the background. You don’t want to use brick red in your design when you’re going to set up your banner against a red brick wall. 

3. Eye-catching Colors and Fonts  

We’re not talking about your brand colors and font – ideally, you shouldn’t change that – but what colors to use for your signage. Remember to choose a color scheme that doesn’t clash with your brand and fully conveys your message. For example, avoid putting dark-colored type against a dark background.  

When designing your banner, remember not to use too many colors that may distract from your message. 

It’s also important to choose the right font. We recommend a good, solid sans serif font that is easy to read. Our design team believes that the best fonts are the classics.  

Our top five fonts include Helvetica, Futura, Bebas, Avenir, and Proxima Nova. (We love to talk about this! We have an in-depth article on the best font types to use for signs.) 

Care Tips for Your Banner

After you’ve done everything else for your new outdoor banner don’t forget to take good care of it! Here are some tips on how you can take care of your banner and extend its lifespan: 

  • Regularly clean your banner with soap and warm water. 
  • Avoid displaying your banner in an area that is exposed to the elements for a long time. Sun exposure, pollution, and strong winds will affect the durability of your banner. Try to place the banner in a spot that does not constantly receive direct sunlight to prevent fading. Or as noted above, in some cases you can remove and re-display it as needed if the extra lifespan is worth the effort of doing so. 
  • Ensure the surface or the poles where you hang your banner are free from rust, grime, or anything that can stain your banner. Also, ensure your banner is securely displayed! 
  • Never iron your vinyl banner. To smooth out wrinkles, you can try placing a flat, heavy object on top of your banner and leaving it in the heat of the sun. 

An Outdoor Banner for Years to Come!

Although mesh and fabric banners are also great banner options, vinyl banners are the best choice for outdoor use. With the right banner type, size, design, and placement, you can effortlessly connect with your audience, buyers, or prospective customers and broaden the reach of your message. And with proper care, your banner should last for years to come!

Create Your Own Outdoor Banner Design  

Need help printing your own vinyl banner? Wondering where to buy outdoor banners that will last? We’re here to help!  

Customize the banner size, color, and material using our online design tool. We have a library of free templates that you can use for inspiration or you can upload your own design to have it printed with us. 

If you have an idea that you want a professional designer to bring to life, check out our free design services.