Tension Banners vs. Retractable – Which is better?

There’s an underdog in every situation, and in the world of banner stands, that unfortunate title tends to fall on the tension banner, which is often – in our opinion mistakenly – considered inferior to its retractable banner cousin.

People are commonly attracted to the convenience of a retractable banner – after all, what could be easier than a display that rolls itself up? But in doing so they often overlook the design features that can make a tension system their secret marketing weapon. So what exactly is a tension banner – how do they work, and why do we love them? Read on to find out…


What is a tension banner?

Tension banners are simple frame systems that rely on the tension in the fabric or vinyl panel to give them rigidity and strength. The graphics panel is normally attached using a simple grommet and hook mechanism, or clamp bars top and bottom, with a telescopic pole. Both systems are simple and quick to assemble, and both are highly portable.

Why choose a tension banner system?

Tension banners have a number of key advantages over other banner stands, and the first of these is undoubtedly their compactness. Entry-level tension banners are normally based on the classic x-frame design which is made up of lightweight poles that collapse fully into a carry bag no bigger than the average briefcase. The graphics panel is made of lightweight fabric with grommets in the corners to attach it to the frame, so when you need to dismantle the banner, you simply detach this and fold it up. For this reason, tension banners are an ideal choice for travelling salespeople – they’re so light and compact that they can travel tucked under your arm, in the trunk of your car, or on public transportation with ease.

When comparing tension banners with retractable options, you’ll often read that the latter ‘looks more professional’ – and while this may be true when comparing the most basic models, as you move into premium grade banners it’s simply a myth. Clamp style tension banners look virtually identical to retractable banners once assembled, and what they may lack in robustness for high traffic areas, they more than make up for with their compactness and portability for busy exhibitors on the go. Because tension banners take a fabric substrate, they’re also more environmentally friendly – the fabric is usually recyclable, and compatible with eco print processes without compromising on vibrancy.

Lastly, tension banners are versatile. For exhibitors that like to change their messaging regularly – perhaps tailoring their campaigns to different customers at different times, or changing promotions frequently – you can’t beat the simplicity of a tension system. While interchangeable roll-up banners do exist, swapping out the cassette can be a fiddly job, and carrying spares can seriously bulk up your exhibition kit. Replacement graphics for your tension banner fold up small and light, and can be changed in seconds if you’re using a grommet and hook system, or minutes for a clamp bar stand. Tension stands can even be used outdoors – our Venice model has a weighted base that can be filled with sand or water, allowing the user to avail of all the benefits of a tension system in the great outdoors.

So next time you’re advising a customer on the best banner stand for their needs, make sure to ask the right questions. For agile businesses and hardworking salespeople in fast-moving industries, a tension banner could be just the ticket!