Gator Board, Foam Core, and Sintra: Which Is Best for You?

There are 3 types of materials widely used to mount graphics. They are foam core, Gator foam, and PVC, which is commonly referred to as Sintra. Yes – there are many other graphic substrates including polystyrene, sign blank, coroplast, fabric, and plexiglass (to name a few) but these three are the most common and widely used rigid materials.

What Is Foam Core?

Foam core is a Styrofoam center sandwiched between two semi-gloss white paper coatings. Foam core boards are popular types of signage due to their availability and ease of installation. The reason many retail sign shops use Foam core is that it is easy to work with and the least expensive way to mount graphics. It is easy to cut with basic tools like a razor knife or other table cutters that do not require power.

How Thick Are Foam Core Boards and How Much Do They Cost?

Foam core also comes in a variety of packaged sizes but is stocked by most graphics companies in 4-foot by 8-foot sheets that are either 3/16’s of an inch thick or ½” thick. Foamcore (at 3/16” thick) costs about $18.75 per sheet. If you are looking for the lowest cost and one-time (or very limited) use of a graphic then foam core could be the solution. Prices will ultimately vary depending on the markets.

Disadvantages of Using Foam Core for Trade Shows

The foam core has two deterrents that make it less desirable for use in the trade show industry.  

  • It is very susceptible to damage, especially to corner dings
  • It tends to warp.

Make sure you are putting it into a frame or velcroing it to a wall so it does not warp.

What Is Gator Board?

Gator foam boards, or Gatorboard, is a display board type that has a dense inner core. Gator foam has a very rigid coating that is resistant to moisture, unlike Foam core. Gator foam is not an acid-free material, so you should be very careful before using it for displays in museums or similar permanent archives. Gator foam has a polystyrene foam center encased between layers of a melamine and wood fiber veneer. Gator foam is better suited for rigid easel signs and graphics that need to last for longer periods of time. Gator foam is significantly more expensive than foam core at $75 per comparable sheet.

What Is Sintra?

Sintra is a lightweight yet rigid board of polyvinyl chloride (otherwise known as PVC). It is extruded into a flat sheet with a low gloss matte finish. We almost exclusively use and recommend the brand-name material called Sintra due to its durability and light weight.

Why Choose Sintra?

It can easily be formed into just about any shape imaginable using wood fabrication techniques and has a superior dent and scratch resistance. You can bend it without breaking it which means it will stand up much better for shipping and longtime use. Try bending foam core as you can with PVC – you can’t. Sintra is stocked in the same 4 by 8 sheets. Thicknesses are compared to 3/16 and ½ sizes of foam core but are measured in 3 millimeter and 6-millimeter sizes instead. Sintra costs around $43.75 per comparable sheet.

If you are looking for more information about foam core, gator board, or sintra for your trade show booth, consider contacting our team. Exhibit Edge is eager and ready to help your business successfully manage and operate your next trade show events. Our team of experts are well versed in trade show exhibit management best practices and are ready to help.