We recently completed a 24′ h x 40′ w digitally printed project for Brian Setzer for the current “Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza” tour. We have worked with this client before and enjoy doing their projects, and in the past have provided everything from traditional textiles to digitally printed backdrops to stage set elements. But our most favorite time of the year is Christmas – we love to decorate and celebrate – and we always get excited about participating in Christmas shows, so this was a fun print project to tackle.
The project took one week to complete. We did not design the artwork ourselves – instead it was build by the client’s own graphic artist as a vector file in Adobe Illustrator ®. This was a cartoon-style graphic – lots of color and bright imagery.
This type of graphic particularly lends itself to being digitally printed – the blues and bright tones show so well under concert stage lighting.
For this backdrop, we chose a heavy knit for two reasons. First, in our industry, being flame retardant to national standards (at a minimum) is very important, and this material met the client’s requirements in terms of flame retardancy. Second, knit type materials are perfect when the client needs to store the pieces folded up – when re-hung, the knit fabric relaxes and the wrinkles tend to hang out fairly well. As you can imagine, in a stage or concert backdrop, clients don’t want to see wrinkles!
We use exclusively 3M inks with our 120″ Vutek QS3200 printer and use Colorburst for our RIP software. I think the combination of the inks, the printer, and the software really come together for beautiful colors in the end product.
For this project, print time took four hours, not including sewing / finishing time. The piece was finished with webbing, grommets & ties across the top (we use a Jopevi electric grommet machine), which is a traditional backdrop finish. The sides are durably hemmed (we prefer Consew brand commercial sewing machines) and the bottom is completed with a hidden weight pocket to help the drop hang nicely.
Offering digitally printed textiles in addition to our regular services is a benefit to our clients and allows us to keep the complete show in-house in terms of production. I tend to post a lot about concert projects we work on – primarily because those are the projects that we can usually get photos of or find videos on YouTube. However, as a full service sewing shop, we do produce all sorts of textile products for the theatre and stage, including traditional stage draperies, and more and more we are beginning to get request for digitally printed backdrops from schools, churches, and other non-tour customers – they really add a beautiful element to a show, and if the artwork is nice (such as a beautiful snow scene), the drop can be used at the annual holiday show for years to come.