Printing on Plastics



Choosing the Right Material

With an overwhelming presence of plastics to be used for printing, it can be hard to determine the best material for your printing needs. Two of the most common plastics that are universally used are polystyrene and polypropylene. (Try saying that five times fast)!

Both plastics have benefits but are completely different in terms of suitability. Learn which type of plastic is best for your print project… 


Polystyrene, PS, is a liquid hydrocarbon commercially manufactured from petroleum. The plastic material is widely used in various industries, spanning from electronics and retail to food packaging. PS has a versatile list of applications because of its wide range of sizes, opacities, and thicknesses. Additional uses include retail displays and tradeshows, banners, signage, fuel station promos, and even disposable cutlery. 

Polystyrene offers a print-friendly and compatible surface across various print platforms and uses cases. The clean thermoplastic responds well to molding, which allows customers to customize the size and shape of their printed pieces. Unique shapes, retention of fine details, and eye-catching, crisp coloring contribute to the high-clarity appearance of styrene signage. 

Polystyrene is a lightweight and flexible material, making it extremely durable in its average use-case scenario. This allows for an easier shipping and installation process, as the signage can hold up over time. While polystyrene may be sensitive to ultraviolet rays and heat, it’s commonly used for short-term outdoor applications and events, defying wind, rain, sun rays, heat, and humidity. 

Lastly, the chemical recycling process of polystyrene has made significant advancements over the last decade. While polystyrene cannot be recycled with common curbside recycling, there are programs to transport material to a centralized plant.


Polypropylene, PP, is a common thermoplastic polymer with a variety of potentials. PP comes in various qualities and costs, allowing the plastic to showcase its variability for any printing need.

When printing, the ink bonds to the polypropylene sheets, speeding up the drying process while simultaneously protecting the printed image from accidental wear and tear. However, polypropylene tends to be less receptive to inks compared to polystyrene, often requiring special inks or pre-treatment to achieve the optimal result.

Polypropylene is well suited for outside environments and even chemical or oil exposure, as it can withstand harsh conditions and extreme environments.

The final attribute that polypropylene holds is its accessibility to recycling, creating a strong, protector of ink, and sustainable plastic. According to the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition and The Recycling Partnership, 25 million new pounds of PP are recycled each year.


Polystyrene and Polypropylene are both well-suited for printing with an infinite number of applications. The deciding factor lies on the desired properties, print requirements, and intended use for the final product.

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