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Which Type Of Vinyl? The Pro’s & Cons’ Of Calendered And Cast Films

The Pro’s and Con’s of Calendered & Cast Films

Choosing the right vinyl is an essential part of the sign making / printing process, but which type?
It is crucial to buy media which is fit for its intended use or you risk failure of even the most expertly executed application.

The Pro’s and Con’s of monomeric vinyls

Monomeric vinyls contain plasticisers which use short-chain chemical bonds so don’t bind into the film as efficiently so will more easily migrate from the film leaving it brittle over time.

Monomeric films are suitable for most internal applications and selective short-term external applications, are generally quite stiff so can be harder on blade wear and are barely conformable over contours so are recommended for flat-sided applications only.

Usually monomeric vinyls are 75-85 microns thick.

Recommended uses for monomeric films: Interior work and short term external applications where life span is expected to be 1-5 years (check product data sheets for expected lifespan as films will differ depending on the plasticisers etc used in manufacture).


  • Ideal for flat sided applications
  • Suitable for most customers job requirements
  • Can be lower in price than polymeric and cast vinyls
  • Short to medium life span
  • Stiffer/thicker films make handling easier
  • The thicker films allow for greater abrasion resistance
  • Usually 75-85 microns thick
  • Expected life span is 2, 3 and 3-5 years


  • Not suitable for applications onto uneven or contoured surfaces
  • Can be susceptible to slight shrinkage over the life span of the vinyl

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The Pro’s and Con’s of Polymeric Vinyls

Polymeric vinyls, sometimes known as ‘stabilised films’ or ‘extended life films’ contain long-chain plasticisers which allow them to bind into the film more efficiently, thus reducing the migratory effect. These films are generally less prone to shrinkage, typically 50% less than a monomeric vinyl.

Polymeric films feel softer and in general have a longer outdoor life expectancy compared to monomerics.

These films are primarily available in a gloss finish, although translucent and matt finishes are also obtainable.

They are suitable for most external applications, but conformability over complex contours is somewhat limited.

Polymeric vinyls are most usually 70-75 microns thick.

Recommended uses for polymeric films: Interior work and intermediate external applications where cast films are not an option. Polymeric vinyls are ideal for flat or slightly curved surfaces. Life span can be 1-8+ years (check product data sheets for expected lifespan as films will differ depending on the plasticisers etc used in manufacture).


  • Longer life span than monomerics
  • Less shrinkage than monomeric films
  • Ideal for flat and slightly curved applications
  • Stiffer/thicker films make handling easier
  • The thicker films allow for greater abrasion resistance
  • Usually 70-75 microns thick
  • Expected life span is 5-7 years and 8+ years life span


  • More expensive than monomeric calendered vinyls

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Cast Vinyls, the Pro’s and… the Pro’s!!!

Cast vinyls are the choice where dimensionally stable applications are required.

The liquified resin is coated onto a highly polished substrate i.e. casting paper, to produce an extremely thin film of vinyl.

Due to the lack of mechanical force being used cast films do not retain ‘memory’ as with calendered vinyls, consequently shrinkage is minimal (typically 50% less than polymeric films).

Cast films are generally very soft to handle and are easier to cut, weed and apply than calendered alternatives.

Cast films are primarily available in a high gloss finish and are the ultimate in terms of conformability over complex contours i.e. rivets, corrugations etc. and are the preferred option for the most extreme exterior applications and vehicle wraps.

All the ingredients used in the production of cast vinyl are of the best quality so performance is superior in terms of temperature ranges, colorfastness etc. is generally better than that of calendered films.

Cast films also perform equally well in both directions, i.e. in machine direction and cross machine direction.

Cast films are usually 50-60 microns thick, and are thinner than calendered films.

Recommended uses for cast films: Due to a cast films long life, stability and quality it is suitable for most types of work where there is any doubt as to which type of vinyl is best to use, and is a premium vinyl for interior and external applications.
Cast vinyls are soft, thin and flexible so are ideal for all types of vehicle wraps.
Normally cast films are 8-10 year films (check product data sheets for expected lifespan as films will differ depending on the plasticisers etc used in manufacture).


  • The longest life span for vinyls
  • The quality raw materials used give cast vinyls the highest levels of durability
  • No shrinkage
  • Soft, flexible and thin so is conformable over complex contours (i.e. rivets, corrugations etc) as well as for use on flat sided surfaces
  • A greater level of vinyl colour choices are available
  • Bespoke colours can be more easily manufactured than with calendered vinyls
  • Colour macthing between batches is more accurate
  • Cast vinyls maintain vinyl colour and other properties better than other vinyl films, resulting in better pigments and UV absorber performance
  • Usually 50-60 microns thick
  • Expected life span is 8-10 years


  • None! If a high level of conformability and/or durability is needed then Cast vinyls are your choice

Do you have any additional questions about choosing the right vinyl for your projects?

For all enquiries and to request samples and pricing, call us on: 01753 696977 or 01709 829800 or email: sales@allprint.co.uk

Vinyls in general are manufactured in one of two ways; ‘calendering’ or ‘casting’. 
While at first glance these vinyl’s appear similar their differences become apparent over time, and when applied in demanding environments.
The differences are in the manufacturing process and also in the plasticisers and stabilisers used.

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‘Calendered’ vinyls are manufactured differently, using an ‘extruded’ or ‘rolled’ process which is more stressful on the PVC resulting in less dimensional stability in the direction it was rolled, it is however a lot cheaper than cast films.

A diagram illustrating the manufacturing process of a calendered PVC.
The PVC ‘Calendering’ process.

Calendered vinyls are either ‘monomeric‘ or ‘polymeric‘ dependent on the plasticiser’s molecular structure.

  • ‘Monomeric’ vinyls use plasticisers with a smaller molecule size so there is more molecular migration than in polymerics and will therefore have more effect on the adhesive and laminates used.
    These shorter chains of molecules also make the vinyl brittle when used in more demanding environmental conditions over time and resulting in shrinkage or ‘pulling’.
  • ‘Polymeric’ vinyls have longer molecular chains and larger molecules allowing less migration from the vinyl and so have less effect on the adhesive and will aid better longevity, flexibility and additional film stability with less shrinkage.

It is possible to buy monomeric or polymeric vinyls in either ‘calendered’ or ‘cast’ though it is pretty rare to get a monomeric cast film, and in most cases a cast film is a polymeric type of vinyl.
The type of plasticisers used will have a noticeable effect on digital printing and how conformable the vinyl is.
Polymerics are generally a lot better to print on than monomerics due to the surface plasticisers.

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‘Cast’ vinyls are manufactured in a less stressed process than used in the manufacture of ‘calendered’ vinyls.
Cast films have the resin poured to form an extremely thin layer onto a very smooth surface before going through curing ovens.

A diagram illustrating the manufacturing process of 'casting' PVC.
The PVC ‘Casting’ process.

Cast vinyl generally have better dimensional stability, colour pigmentation, UV stability, and higher gloss levels.