Saturday, April 18, 2015

All About Banners

A banner helps your work stand out in a crowd, especially if everyone else in the crowd has banners.  A banner allows you to reach a potential customer from across the room, giving them all the relevant information- who you are, what you're selling, and what your art looks like.  As convention setups become more elaborate, the need for a banner becomes more pressing- it's easy to get lost when you're first starting out, especially when you're surrounded by people who've done conventions for years.

A banner is a good first investment in making sure your setup can compete with the big dogs, and it doesn't have to be expensive. 

Common Banner Sizes and Uses

3'x4' Poster Banner- If you don't have room behind your table for a standing banner, but have a curtain (like at MoCCA-fest), this might be a great solution.  In the past, we've clipped it to the curtain at MoCCA, as there's no easy way to display it standing.


Spotted in the Wild at: MoCCA-fest 2014



7"x3" Vertical Banner:  Great for half table displays that sit low on the table.  Often seen at indie cons and superhero cons, useful for promoting your comic rather than promoting you.  You'll need a stand for this, it's easiest to just buy the stand and the banner at the same time.


Spotted in the Wild At: Otakon 2011 (photo doesn't want to load), will have new banner above at TCAF 2015


6'x18" Horizontal Banners(buy a 6'x2' and trim it down, the unfinished edge won't be noticable):  For your whole table setups, used on either a pole display or wire grids.




Spotted in the Wild At: Anime Weekend Atlanta 2014, Mechacon 2014, Anime Blast Chattanooga (displayed on an 8' table)

2'x3' Horizontal Banners:  Great for half tables, both above your table or across the front.  You don't need a stand, but will need to set at least six grommets. 



Bottom of table display at Ohaoyocon, with 'studio' banner displayed above.  We had hoped this would help people differentiate between our halves of the table.  It did not.


Above table display with pipe structure for support.  This table layout was confusing to customers who assumed we were one seller.
Spotted in the Wild At: Ohayocon 2014, NOCAZfest (an indie con), Nekocon 2013

Places to Buy

BuildASign:  This is where all of my current banners are from.  While their print quality isn't photo quality, it's fine for a banner as people won't be closely scrutinizing your print quality anyway.  This printer is quick and very affordable, and I've gotten banners for as little as $10, with my most expensive banner (the vertical 3'x6') being $79 (technically like $65, I caught a deal from RetailMeNot that included free shipping) and includes the stand.  Still extremely reasonable.

VistaPrints:  My first banner came from here, but was before I started writing reviews, so unfortunately I can't link to one.  The print quality is really high, much higher than BuildASign, but I find VistaPrints to be too expensive considering how often I like to switch and update my banners.  I also ordered a stand for my banner, and from what I remember, it cost about $150 all included.

I believe you can order in person from the following places, and I think you can pick up in-store:

Staples:  Their banners seem expensive unless you catch a sale.  I've never printed with them.

Office Max/Office Depot:  I've never printed with them.

FedEx: Never printed with them.

Tips and Tricks

  • Don't pay for the banner printing service to set your grommets.  Invest in a grommet kit from Michaels, and set them at home!  This way, you're not only saving money, but you can put the grommets exactly where you want them.
  • For most banners, you don't really need a banner stand- you can hang your banner from an inexpensive and lightweight home built stand made of pipes, a photo backdrop setup, or your wire mesh cubes.
  • Order your banner at least a month ahead of when you'll need it, to make sure it arrives in time for your show.
  • Test out your setup before the show, in case you need to make any changes.
  • Watch sites like RetailMeNot and Slickdeals for sales that will help you save money when ordering your banner.
  • Banners that have grommets can be attached with zipties or ribbon. 
Alternatives to Printed Banners

I mentioned in the Artist Alley Essentials series that you could paint your own banner at home.  This really only saves you money if you have most of the supplies at home.


To Paint a Banner, You'll Need:

  • Length of Cloth slightly larger than what you want your banner to be
  • Acrylic Paints (the cheap stuff is fine)
  • Paint Brushes (stiff bristle brushes really work best here)
  • Thread, Needle, or Sewing Machine
  • Grommets
  • Color pencils
Begin by hemming your length of cloth on all four edges, so there are no rough seams.   While you don't have to do an amazing job, you should use thread that matches your banner.   Set your grommets.  If you don't have grommets, and know how to sew buttonholes, those work too.  Sketch your design out lightly with a color pencil.  Once you've figured out the basics, go ahead and darken it so you can see it better, refining details.  When you're satisfied with your design, you can start painting.  I recommend 'sketching' in your letters with a smaller brush, filling in the letters with your larger brush, and then adding details with the smaller brush once the paint is dry.

Paper Signage:

While paper signage isn't ideal, it's better than nothing, and can be quite effective when used with other types of banners.  If you're going the low-budget route, poster boards with cute sketches on them are large enough to attract attention, especially if displayed high above your tabletop.  Posterboard cutouts of your characters can also be attractive and engaging.