Shedding New Light on Tension Fabric Exhibits

The improved backlighting options for your exhibit graphics

As the popularity of fabric exhibit systems and tension fabric signs trend into exhibit halls around the world you can not help but wonder what the next level will be to enhance these lightweight solutions. In the past different manufacturers have tried to illuminate these using traditional bulbs and fluorescent tubes, but they always seem to look streaky or splotchy, and never seem to translate well on show floors that are really well lit.

The LED solution

beMatrix backlit fabric elementsThe game has changed over the last few years with the rise of LED lighting options available to exhibit houses, and we are seeing some very creative and outstanding backlit fabric options emerging.  Some translate better than others but overall, if used strategically they can really work well in your exhibit structure.  Most tend to use diffuser panels buffering the lights from directly hitting the face graphic itself.

Pre-fab adaptation

backlit_hopup_lightsSome pre-fab systems are adapting their current inventory of frame work to accommodate the thin and very bright LED strips with mixed results.  Frame shadows and structural element seem to cast a shadow on these where the fabric and frame have to meet, and sometimes have darker areas towards the center.  They still look good, and should only get better within the next year, as there have already been significant improvements since the 2012 Exhibitor show.

The example on the left shows a fluorescent  tube adaptation, however many have an LED strip configuration as well.


six sided backlit hanging sign

The six sided hanging sign above shows well, and the frame  distraction is limited.

We have found that the best overall backlit solutions are straight in design or have broader sweeping curved frames which tend not to contain other structural elements that could cast shadows on the face of the graphic. We have a couple systems we find very nice (in particular the beMatrix system) and we have just finished a 22′ x 8′ ft sign that looks absolutely spectacular as a focal element on one of our custom builds.

Here is an example of the type of light box we decided to use. Nice diffusion and very bright.  Side mounts allow for double sided option.

backlit tension fabric 2 backlit tension fabric  3

Lets take a look at this case study in particular, overall we were very pleased with the results and even more impressed with how bright the graphics were once the LEDs were activated on the light box. I created the graphic to be overall pretty dark and was counting on the lighter portions of graphic to stand out more. The results were more than we expected for brightness as you can see below.  The whites popped and the darker areas are not blown out and show definition based on the original design.

Double sided backlit tension fabric sign

The 22′ frame has a center split for breakdown during shipping, and it was not as visible as I expected which was a pleasant surprise. The photographs we took in our custom build shop when the lights were off really tell the story – very bright and very visible. Once the ambient light from the exhibit floor hits the face of the graphic this should even out a bit and I expect a very pleasant result overall.

I have some show photographs heading my way here shortly to show how the combination of a typical exhibiting hall and the backlit tension fabric sign really compliment each other to create a spectacular focal point for any exhibit. I will post them here as soon as I can.

Arista Backlit Tension Fabric Sign

I highly recommend giving your tension fabric graphics an upgrade where you have the opportunity on your booth.  The LED backlighting really sheds a new light on a standard tension fabrics!


About Matt Smith

Matt Smith - Creative Director - Leveraging over 22 years of diverse agency and graphic industry experience, Matt oversees all visual elements internally and for our clients to ensure the highest quality results for all graphics and dimensional structures.

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