If you are thinking about a custom POP display to merchandise your product, you should give important consideration to the finishes used on the various materials incorporated into your display. Finishes can not only affect the aesthetics of your POP display but also the durability and economics. In today’s blog, we’ll offer a few tips that we hope will help you make the right finish choices so your display can be the best it can be.
Let’s start with metal finishes. The most common metal finish is powder coating, which is also known as epoxy coating. Black, white, and silver are the most common finishes used on POP displays, but virtually any color is available, including PMS matches, provided you meet certain minimum order quantities. It is not enough to specify a black or white powder coat finish for your display. You’ll want to specify a matte or glossy finish. In most cases, the choice is one of personal preference, but it is important to note that glossy finishes tend to reflect the light more so if your display incorporates LED lighting, we generally recommend matte finishes. Furthermore, matte finishes tend to scratch less easily and are therefore considered more durable.
Another type of powder coating, which is particularly popular in retail segments like Action Sports, is clear coating. The intent of clear coating is to create more of a raw steel look, celebrating weld marks rather than covering them up. Clear coating can look cool, but if not executed well, it can look like your dog just peed on your expensive new fixture.
There are many other types of metal finishes such as zinc-plated, chrome-plated, nickel-plated, and anodized finishes for aluminum materials. Generally, plating finishes are more expensive than powder-coated finishes and are also considerably less environmentally friendly. In fact, fewer and fewer factories in China are doing plating due to increasing environmental laws in many of China’s heavy manufacturing provinces.
One last metal finish we’ll mention is vinyl dipping, a finish that is still available but has become less popular in the POP display industry over the last several years. Vinyl dipping is executed by submerging metal parts into a tank of hot liquid vinyl and then baking it until it cures in an oven. The result is a rubber-like coating which you can easily find by looking at the shelves in your refrigerator. One thing to note with vinyl dipping: it’s easy for manufacturers to cheat on the thickness of the wire used in making your display since the vinyl adds girth to the wire. Be aware that the extra girth doesn’t necessarily add strength.
Let’s move on to MDF finishes. We won’t go into great detail here, but we’ll try to give you a few basics. MDF, which stands for Medium Density Fiberboard, is a wood composite material frequently used in making a custom POP display or store fixture. It’s also used frequently in furniture. MDF can be left unfinished, but that’s not too common. If you are after a raw MDF look, it’s more common to use a clear coat finish.
MDF can be painted any color. It also can be PU coated. PU stands for polyurethane. PU coating can produce a high-gloss, high-end finish, but it is labor intensive and involves multiple coats so it is more expensive than other finishes.
The most common finish for MDF is melamine, which is a paper-based product. Melamine comes in many different colors and patterns because it is produced using a printing process. You can even get melamine to look like marble as shown in the picture of the tables below.
Melamine is a good finishing choice for parts of a POP display that are not subject to a lot of wear and tear, such as a decorative panel, for example. Aside from the wide variety of choices with melamine, its main advantage is that it is relatively economical. Common types of melamine such as black and white are the most affordable since they are produced in high quantities and are virtually a commodity.
If you have a bigger budget and are looking for a more durable MDF finish option, then a laminate might be a good choice. Laminates also come in many different colors and patterns and make sense for parts of a custom POP display that is likely to be subject to abuse. Laminates are considered a bit higher end than melamine finishes and, as you might expect, are more expensive. MDF that utilizes melamine or laminate finishes requires edge banding. Edge banding comes in many different material types—from PVC to real wood—and is offered in a choice of thicknesses.
When it comes to solid wood finishes, there are also a wide range of choices. Obviously, painting is an option for any type of solid wood. If you are on a tight budget or are after a wood look, we generally recommend that a sealer be applied to the wood since, left untreated, many species of wood tend to yellow or darken over time. Another option to give a wood display a more finished look is to apply a clear coat finish. Clear coating can help to protect the wood while also bringing out some of the character of the wood grain.
Wood displays can be treated with a color wash such as the gray wash finish in the picture below. Alternatively, staining wood is perhaps the most popular finish option for a wood custom POP display. If you are interested in checking out the range of available options, we wrote a 2-part blog on this subject called “Wood Stain and Finish Options to Consider for Your Next POP Display.” You can check out Part I here and Part II here.
There are a number of other ways to create unique wood finishes. Some customers are interested in a distressed wood finish which can be accomplished by beating the wood with a chain or other destructive object to compromise the surface of the wood. Once distressed, the wood can then be treated with acid to create somewhat of a reclaimed wood finish. Another approach that is used is torching the wood prior to applying a clear coat finish. The result as you can see in the picture below is a unique finish.
We’ll finish up today with a note on acrylic. There’s really no finishing work to be done with acrylic (other than polishing) since it comes as a pre-fabricated material. However, acrylic material choices can impact the look of your display. Acrylic is available in clear, frosted, and a variety of colors—both solid and translucent. Edge lit acrylic is another option to give your custom POP display a high-end touch. Edge lit acrylic is designed so the ambient light in a retail store creates a glow effect on the edges of the material without requiring LED lights. There are many other types of acrylic that can give your display a unique look, such as the acrylic shown below, which incorporates glitter fabric into the material.
Selecting the right material finish can make the difference between a good custom POP display and a great display. Be sure to explore your options with your POP display supplier before investing in your next display.