Vinyl or Fabric: What’s Best for Your Banner?

When it’s time to order a new visual solution and you’ve finally decided on a banner to send your message, you still have a few questions to finalize the order. Your size, your design, the stand or display option, and finally what material? This is a good question as it is important and will serve you and your investment the best if you get it right. There are two options, vinyl or fabric. However, there are a few sub-options of these that can cater to certain environments and uses, but those specifics are beyond the scope of what we will cover here.

Vinyl or Fabric?

Let’s look at the main differences and then we’ll go into detail about them..

The main differences of vinyl and fabric banners.


Cost is probably the highest criterium on most lists.


Fabric or vinyl will have an impact on the overall appearance of the banner, mostly because surface textures andother material characteristics.


Where and when it will be used and how long it can be used in this way before it fails or looks bad.


When transporting a banner, by shipping, car, plane or train, it will be different depending on your banner.


This will matter the more you use your banner, if it’s just a single use banner then this will not apply to your situation.

Cost Factors

The cost of a banner relies on a few factors.

  • Size
  • Material
  • Ink cost (Measured by image and background color ink densities)
  • Finishing
  • Lead times(the same banner will cost more if the order needs to be rushed, pushed ahead of other orders)


The size of a banner is more of a multiplier to the rest of the other factors. It plays a role in determiningcost, but only after having set the other factors in the equation. A banner costs a certain amount of money to produce depending on the material used, the amount of ink needed to print the images, and the method of finishing whichalso takes time, labor and materials. Given these factors, the bigger the banner, the more it will cost.


As we learned above material will play a part in the cost of the banner. This is simply because some materials cost more than others. Typically fabric will be more expensive across the board, because it is a more expensive material to make and use.


Ink is a very specialized and technical part of this equation and different types of printers use different types of ink. There are differences in ink down to molecular levels that determine its durability and longevity. Most high quality printers will use long lasting and durable inks and some companies will use the cheapest on the market to keep costs down. Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays only uses high quality inks on our products because we care about our reputation and the quality of our products over profit. The material used for the banner also plays a part in how much ink is used, because fabric material is a porous material it requires more ink to create the same image that would need less to be printed on vinyl material. Along with material, the image on the banner and the background color will determine how much ink will be used and again, how much it will cost. A banner that is mostly white will cost less than a banner that is mostly black, or some other dark color.

The banner with the darker background will require more ink and therefore cost more to produce.


Finishing a banner means, what needs to be done to a banner after it is printed to fulfill the order and allow the banner to be easily displayed whether it be hanging on a building or put on a banner stand.

All banners can have grommets, pole pockets, Velcro or simply straight trimmed. The only difference here is that fabric banners require a special trimming method called a hot knife and the edges, whether it’s a hem, pole pocket or Velcro, will need to be sewn to maintain integrity and lasting quality. Where as a vinyl banner can be totally finished using a heat weld or adhesive tape welding methods.

Lead Times

This is applies to both fabric and vinyl. The less time between placing an order and needing to receive the order, the more your order will cost. Rush orders exist because we know sometimes things need to happen fast, but doing certain orders fast requires pushing other orders back and/or having staff go into overtime and extending working hours which all costs money. So the more time you allow for your production the cheaper your banner will be.


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… maybe. I’d wager to say that a lot of people can agree on what looks good and what does not. However, there are situations where a vinyl banner will look better than a fabric banner and visa versa. I need to preface this with “given all other factors remain the same” because there are specialized materials that can work for many situations that basic vinyl and basic fabric will not perform as well in. But for the sake of argument we are comparing the basic elements of fabric and vinyl banner materials.

The main differences in appearance between fabric and vinyl are the surface texture and translucency. If your banner will be part of a photo opportunity you will want to make sure you get a matte finish whether it is vinyl or fabric. However fabric banners will have a much better appearance in photos because of their inherent surface texture. Matte banners work well for photography but they still have a smooth surface and when ink is applied it can still result in a shine or glare in flash photography where fabric just performs much better in these conditions.

Translucency is the materials ability to let light pass through it. This does not matter if your banner is facing the strongest light source or if you are indoors with plenty of ambient light. However, if your banner is facing away from a strong light source and the light source is facing the back of the banner, this light will pass through a fabric banner much easier than a vinyl banner. Light passing through the back of a banner will cause the imageson the face of a banner to look washed out or cause inconsistencies across the banner in photos or real time appearance. This is somewhat negated by the saturation of the ink with fabric prints, but as a general concern some images can be washed out from backlighting, there is a specific material and process used for backlit fabric prints that isn’t used for banners unless specified.

If lighting isn’t an issue then the only note here is that fabric banners can appear more elegant simply because they are fabric and not plastic vinyl. If you’re shopping for a multiple use banner and will be transporting it, the appearance of the banner will heavily depend on the care of the shipping and handling its involved in and a fabric banner is much easier to manage in that regard.


Vinyl banners are more durable IF it will be used outdoors AND you roll it up correctly when stored or transporting it.

Fabric banners are more durable IF you plan on using it over and over again in short term events indoors AND it is properly cared for when transporting.


This is a pretty big factor in many cases, as traveling is a big part of marketing and promotion and you want transporting your banner as easy as possible.

Fabric banners are by far the easier method to travel with because they have the unique ability to be folded without damage where vinyl banners will crease and sometimes crack after some time. A fabric banner can be folded and typically included in the frame or stand it accompanies while a vinyl banner can only be rolled and the size is limited to the shortest dimension of the banner. If the banner is a 8’ by 6’ banner then the shipping container will be a 6’ long box.

You can see here that the fabric banner collapses to a much smaller size.


Maintaining either banner is pretty simple given normal use conditions. Vinyl banners can be rolled onto a core and stored indoors for ages without any noticeable effects. Fabric banners can be folded and stored indoors with the same expectations. However, a vinyl banner has an advantage here because if it were to get dirty, have something spilled on it, or dropped in the dirt it can easily be cleaned by a wet cloth. Whereas a fabric banner is susceptible to stains and dirt and will need to be dry cleaned to have it return to its former glory.


Fabric Banner If:

  • Indoor event with photography
  • Multiple location involving traveling
  • Appearance over Budget
  • Away from dirt and liquids

Vinyl Banner If:

  • Outdoor events
  • Long Term outdoor use
  • Single Use Event
  • Budget over Appearance
  • Not traveling with it or don’t mind shipping.

Again, these are comparing base materials and no specialized materials. There are many varieties of both fabric and vinyl banners engineered to support many different circumstances. If you need a specific type of banner, or any banner at all, Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays is a leading provider of high quality banners and banner stands with quick turn around and shipping times. We have experienced designers and project coordinators on staff ready to help you accomplish your project on time and on budget. We also welcome rush orders as we know when you need it fast, you need it fast, and we do everything we can to meet your needs. Give us a call or get started on a quote and we’ll get started on you banner order today!

If you’re in need of a Fabric Banner or Vinyl Banner in Washington DC, Alexandria VA, and Bethesda MD. Click the button below to request a quote.

#SignCompanyWashingtonDC, #SignMakers, #FabricVinylBanner #HeritagePrintingSigns&Displays

Joe Gass

Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays

A Veteran Owned Company That Seeks To Honor God By Serving Others

2639 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20008 (202) 609-9761

2739 Interstate Street, Charlotte NC 28208 (704) 551-0700

2854 Old Washington Road, Waldorf, MD 20601 (301) 843-1995

Heritage Printing, Signs & Displays

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