explained in details what is foam board and what is it used for

What Is Foam Board? Pros, Cons, and Ideal Use Cases

What Is Foam Board?

stacks of white foam core board

Foam board is one of the most popular types of signage that you’ve probably seen in your local supermarket or in malls but probably never knew the name. Foam boards are also known as foam core boards, the terms are usually interchangeable. 

Foam board is a sturdy and lightweight material that is easy to cut with a sharp craft knife or with a picture framing mat cutter. A foam board is typically used for mounting prints and photographs and as a backing in picture frames.

Most architectural students use this material to build interior design and building structures. 

Uses of foam board

Lectures, trade shows, presentations, and architectural model buildings and structures can all be done with foam board. A lot of businesses use foam board signs for events or to display sales for their customers. Other uses include:

  • Aisle markers
  • Menu boards
  • Notices
  • Advertise sales
  • Science fair and research projects 
  • Photo galleries
  • Lobby décor
  • Portable signage and the list goes on…

Foam boards have three layers: an inner layer of polystyrene or polyurethane foam, covered with an outer facing on each side of either a white clay coated paper, cotton archival paper or common brown Kraft paper

Acid-free alpha-cellulose clad boards are one of the best foam boards for picture frames. They last longer and do not leach acids into the artworks. 

Advantages of using foam board 

stack of foam board art

If you’re looking for a sturdy, less-malleable material, foamboards are ideal. Compared to other types of poster boards, foam board has a solid core and is completely rigid. The material lies flat without aid, it can stay straight when propped up or hung and is highly resistant to curling and bending. Foam boards are a better option is you’re in search of a hard poster board.

Foam board is also very lightweight and is a little thicker than other types of poster board.

The foam core contributes to virtually no difference in its weight. The lightweight attribute of a foam board makes it easier to move around, display on the wall and for easy storage. 

Because it is lightweight, foam boards are also easy to print and cut. Pictures and designs can be printed directly onto the foam core, and the boards can be easily trimmed to just about any shape.

You can laminate or frame your foam board for a waterproof finish. And also choose from a variety of finishes such as glossy, textured, or matte. 

Disadvantages of using foam board 

Foam boards are inexpensive, this means that you can switch it out easily without breaking the bank. That said, foam boards are not the best option for outdoor use. It is susceptible to the elements- sun and water, and can easily become warped, discolored and disintegrated if exposed to prolonged UV light. 

You won’t be able to hang a foam board in your bathroom or kitchen or anywhere that easily gets damp. Unlike other signages like Sintra, foam board is vulnerable to wear and tear and will need to be treated with the utmost care. 

Thickness and size of foam board

There are four standard sizes for foam board prints: 8”x 10”, 16”x 20”, 18” x 24”, and 24”x 36”. Foam boards come in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and sizes. And the thicker the foam board, the more body and stiffness it will have. Whichever thickness you choose, foam board is sturdy, strong and can be customized to any shape or size.

Thickness of foam board

stack of white and black foam board

1mm and 2mm thick foam boards are the easiest to cut and can be easily hung with a stapler or with holes. This thickness is used for exhibitors or professional photographers to hang picture collage on the wall. 

3mm thick foam board is the best option for presentations, lectures or for a mood board. Mood boards used by interior stylists or designers can be created with foam boards. Most retailers use this type of foam board to create attractive displays.

3mm thick foam boards are also a budget option as they can be used for the same applications as a 5mm thick foam board. Because the panels are cheaper, they are also less rigid and easy to cut. 

5mm thick foam board is the most common variety. The backbone of this variety is the A3-size, which is 42 by 29.7 cm white foam board. This can be used for presentations, infographics, map, printing special pictures or as a decoration for a room. If the 42 by 29.7 5mm foam board doesn’t cut it for you, 5mm thick foam boards can go as big as 100 by 140 cm. 

10mm thick foam board is used to cover larger surface areas. Sizes of 100 by 140 cm upwards would need a 10 mm thick foam board, for a maximum surface area of 140 by 300 cm. The 10mm thick foam board has more body and is more rigid. This thickness is less likely to bend and is the best option for exhibition stands, theatre performance or photoshoots. 

Size of foam board

8 x 10 foam board size is typically used to print photos and for foam board thickness 3/16”. 

16 x 20 foam board size is the standard medium poster size. Most stores use it to display sales, it is an affordable option for printing several sale signs. 

18 x 24 foam board size is also commonly used for advertising and in stores information. 

24 x 36 foam board size is the standard large poster size. Shopping malls usually have this size on metal stands, as well as movie posters. 

Foam board printing options 

it is far better to give your foam core posters to professionals than to paste a paper cut-out onto it. This makes the finished product smoother and prevents separation and bubbles that can happen when you DIY-paste paper to the board. There are three types of foam core printing;

  • Double-sided foam core printing: You can either choose between single-sided printing or double-sided foam core printing at a higher cost. This type of print can be seen from both sides, especially when hanging from a ceiling. 

  • Laminated foam board prints:  Extending the life span of your foam board print can be done by laminating it. Although there’s an extra cost, it gives your print a polish finish and makes it last longer. 
  • Heavy duty poster board: To make the board more durable and rigid, you can upgrade from the standard 3/16” core board to ½”foam core board. 

Foam board finishing options 

boy on 1/2" foam board

Foam board prints usually either have a matte or glossy finish. Matte finish is resistant to fingerprints and glare-free. Although matte has a soft, subdued appearance, it can make high-contrast photographs look grainy. 

Glossy finishes are more prone to fingerprints and glare but can repel moisture easily. The glossy finish is typically used for high contrast- high-saturation photos. It is more eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing, ideal for movie posters, and magazine covers. 

Foam board mounting 

Foam board mounting is the method of attaching a photographic image to a foam board for display. This can be achieved with glue, adhesive spray or double-sided adhesive sheets, however, many foam boards come with self-adhesive coatings. 

Difference Between “Mounting on Foam Board” and “Printing on Foam Core”

Foam core mounting is when a preprinted image adheres to a foam board. Foam core printing evades the affixing process and prints the image directly onto a foam board with the use of high-quality printing machines. You can also mount on other similar boards.

With foam core printing, you get vibrant images, extend the lifespan and it allows you to cut the artwork into four sections for display. Directly printing on foam board provides a moisture barrier when the print is laminated. By laminating the print, the chances of warping are reduced, which means it can be displayed outdoors for longer. If the image is mounted, it can become more susceptible to the outdoor elements.  

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