Sometimes good things come from strange directions. When I was contacted by Nathan @ Banners on the Cheap, it was originally through my Moebius Adventures publishing house (which is more of a ramshackle shed falling down in my back yard these days), but I was intrigued. This company is offering amazingly low prices on some huge vinyl signs. The only question was would I be able to find a way to take advantage of it?
Well, I’m here to offer a resounding “YES!” to answer that question. The first sign I did was a huge 4 foot by 4 foot vinyl sign with the Game Knight Reviews logo on it. It turned out beautifully and I have it hanging in my basement. The colors are vibrant and it looks gorgeous.
But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to see if it would be possible to print maps and use good old wet erase markers – the same ones I’ve used on my old rolled up Chessex map for years. So I went ahead and ordered two 2′ x 2′ vinyl signs, one with a simple hex pattern and one with 1″ squares. Though my hexes turned out to be a bit out of whack from the 1″ ideal, it turned out great, and so did the 1″ squares version.
Maps are an indispensable part of any game session, but coming up with good looking maps on a regular basis can sometimes be a pricey proposition. Color copies have become damn expensive. If you have several pages to print, things add up quickly. Plus color copies don’t always hold up through more than a session and lamination adds even more money to the pile. So having a vinyl copy you can use over and over for common locations can really be handy.
Ordering was very easy, but I’d caution that you really need a good image file (JPG, PNG, etc) to make things work smoothly. The two images I used for the hexes and squares were apparently too light for the quality control folks at the site, who e-mailed and even called to verify that that was in fact what I was hoping to do. The higher the resolution, the better, but it seems to pick up colors very well in addition to simple black and white lines. And though the hex/square maps look great on a white background, I recommend using a beige or light gray background to add some texture to the mix.
When I tested the vinyl at home, I was pleased to discover that both of the maps worked very well with your standard wet erase markers and a wet paper towel. I don’t recommend using permanent markers, but they also showed up well despite being impossible to erase. (Somehow two permanent markers made it into my set of wet erase markers, which made my test a bit… entertaining initially.)
One other tidbit would be to make sure you have some time to wait. The first banner I ordered came very quickly (about a week), but with the image quality questions for the other two it ran a bit more than two weeks. So if you’re looking for a super-fast turnaround, you might want to make sure your images are really ready to go or you might get waylaid a bit.
So if you’re looking for a great way to show off a world map on the wall or a good way to make a reusable city map or even a whole bunch of maps for various repeated locations, Banners on the Cheap is a great way to achieve those goals. (They recently even added a new page just for RPG-related products.) Price-wise they just can’t be beat.
For other examples of what gamers are doing with these banners, check out Tim Brannan’s article @ The Other Side where he shows a picture of the map he had done, plus some links to other folks experiences with the service.
(As a disclosure, I did receive some free products to test these out with, but plan on using the service again for future maps. It’s extremely inexpensive and both the products and service were great.)