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Whether this is your first trade show or your hundredth, it can be difficult to decide what the best trade show display is for your needs and requirements.  There are so many options available to exhibitors at every size- pop up displays, tension fabric displays with pillowcase graphics or SEG printed display graphics.  How does an exhibitor choose from so many options?  We’ve prepared a primer for you to help you decide which option is best for you.  This should make it easier for you to make your decision.

Brief Description of the Differences in Each Trade Show Display

At Displays & Exhibits, we offer 3 fabric graphics options that can be used for virtually any type of trade show display or reception counters and other trade show accessories.

These are:

  • Tension Fabric Displays
  • SEG Fabric
  • Fabric Pop Up Graphics

So, which one is the better trade show display?  They all have their pros and cons but first let’s explain what they mean so you know what these trade show displays are created with and whether or not that’s something you desire in your next trade show display.

Pop Up Displays are mounted on a light aluminum frame. To build the frame of the trade show display, you lay it down on the floor, expand it  and then attach the border frames to hold the structure in place. The graphics attach to the outline of the frame via velcro points.  This is generally an entry level trade show display but it can also be perfect for a larger company seeking to display their goods and services or unique product messaging in other environments.

     Tip: if the trade show display fabric is wrinkled, you can use a handheld steamer to straighten it out on the trade show floor.  Note: please adhere to all directions of the hand held steamer and all fabric directions inside the instruction booklet that comes with our trade show displays.

Tension Fabric Displays typically consist of an aluminum extrusion tube system and a fabric pillowcase. The aluminum tubes lock together via snap buttons. Once the frame is assembled, all you have to do is to pull the pillowcase over it and fasten its zipper. The tension in the stretch fabric eliminates any wrinkles or folds in the material so you get a nice, smooth surface for your trade show display.

SEG stands for Silicone Edge Graphics. The name comes from the silicone strips that are sewn into the edges of the fabric featured in the trade show display. The frames for SEG fabrics have thin grooves on the sides in which you  push the silicone borders of your fabrics or pull them through a corner using a loop. For this reason, they are also called push-fit graphics.

      SEG Tip: To get a perfectly smooth surface, start this process by securing the corners of the fabric first and then work your way to the middle of the edges. Start by tucking a small section into each corner of your trade show display frame to ensure an even distribution of fabric and prevent the silicone from stretching. Find the center of each side and work in a small portion of the fabric. For larger graphics, do not insert more than 8” of fabric at a time. Continue to do this around the trade show display frame as each untucked section gets halved.

Main Similarities and Differences

Print technology

At Displays & Exhibits, all 3 types of trade show display graphics are printed through a process called dye sublimation.  Although direct print graphics are cheaper and quicker for manufacturers to produce, we prefer dye sublimation for roughly 80-90% of the trade show display graphics we deliver on a monthly basis.

This is because instead of being printed on top of the fabric, dye sublimation uses a special printing press where we load the fabric and a transfer paper that has your design’s mirror printed on it. The printer roll-presses the transfer paper against the fabric while generating a temperature of about 400F. This heat opens up the pores of the plastic fibers and turns the inks from the transfer paper from a solid state directly into a gas that gets imbued into the pores of the trade show display graphic.

When exposed to room temperature, the inks turn solid again and the pores shrink, trapping the inks inside the material of the trade show display graphic. This is why dye sublimation alone guarantees a soft printed surface that is more resilient to dry cleaning and the usual aging and fading of colors.


All types of graphics displays are close in price. Typically, SEG displays are a bit more expensive with tension fabric displays coming in second and pop ups being the cheapest trade show display.  Depending upon your event, your budget, or your need, each of these would make a fine trade show display or event accessory to increase brand awareness.


Because of the constant tension that is sustained by the trade show displayframe, tension fabric displays tend to be sturdier and a bit heavier than the other two. SEG displays come second due to the extruded aluminum frames while pop up displays are supported by the lightest frames.

Assembly Time and Complexity

Tension fabric and pop up displays generally do not require any tools to assemble. SEG displays may require a hex key or a screwdriver that are usually included in the trade show display kit that you purchase.

Because you have to fully expand the trade show display on the ground before sliding on the pillowcase, tension fabric displays are slightly more complex in their assembly, although they are still quite easy to assemble alone prior to your trade show appearance.

With the fabrics already attached to the expanding trade show display frame, pop up displays tend to take only a couple of minutes to set up. Be careful when collapsing the pop up trade show display. Most pop up displays use a series of connecting beams to stabilize the frame. Before shrinking the trade show display frame, make sure that every beam has been disconnected or it may snap.

Tension fabric displays come in second while SEG displays may take a few more minutes to set up because you have to carefully push the silicone edged fabric into the grooves of the extruded aluminum frame. The frames for SEG displays might also require tightening with a hex key or screws so it’s only natural to take a bit longer than the others.  However, each of these are still relatively easy to assemble with only one or two people and don’t require union labor to set up your trade show display.


What you can take from this article is that depending upon your needs and requirements, there are multiple trade show display options for you.  This can change event to event or it can change depending on what you’d like to communicate and in what forum to exhibit hall attendees.

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