​ Types of Trade Show Banner Stands: Retractable, Tension Fabric & Backlit

​ Types of Trade Show Banner Stands: Retractable, Tension Fabric & Backlit

Nov 27th 2023

When you need a cheap, simple way to show people what your brand is made of, a banner stand is probably the way to go. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for showing off your business’s branding at scale—with large, 10’x10’ displays or fancy LED walls for example—but that isn’t always what you need.

Sometimes what you need is something fast, versatile, simple, and affordable—for those occasions, a banner stand ticks all the boxes.

What Is a Banner Stand?

Banner stands come in many varieties, especially when it comes to their size, material, and assembly. At their core, though, they’re vertically-oriented displays that consist of a base, a frame, and a fabric display material that gets custom printed with your designs.

It sounds simple enough, but there’s still plenty of variety in this category of exhibits. Some come with tension fabric, some with vinyl, and there are a few industry-standard features that might make one product better or worse for your needs. To give you an idea of their price points, pros, and cons, here are the three types of banner stands you’ll probably encounter at your next trade show or marketing event:

Kinds of Banner Stands

  1. Retractable
  2. Tension Fabric
  3. Backlit

Retractable Banner Stands

Most retractable banner stands house a coiled fabric display in their base, which can then be pulled out and attached to an accompanying frame/support arm.

Portable & Durable

With an all-in-one, intuitive style, retractable banner stands are great for transporting and setting up quickly, so that’s a huge plus for anyone who’s going to be taking these down and setting them back up in multiple locations throughout an event, for example.

On top of that, retractable banner stands most often use printed vinyl fabric, which is thicker and more outdoor-friendly than some of the other fabric types you’ll see on this list (harder to stain, easier to clean), making it better for many outdoor events.

Lastly, some retractable banner stands have adjustable heights, making them great for tabletop displays or other unique display settings.

For some people, though, the vinyl fabric won’t convey the ‘premium’ feel that other fabric types have. On top of that, the retraction mechanism in most retractable displays doesn’t allow you to easily swap out graphics for alternative or newer graphics like you can with other banner stands, so anyone hoping to change their display’s look over time might be better off going with a different banner stand type.

Pros & Cons

Pros                                   Cons

  • Portable
  • Durable
  • Retractable (easy set-up)
  • Price
  • Variable heights
  • Non-retractable
  • Not as stainproof/outdoor-friendly as vinyl

Example Products

If you’re currently in the market for a banner stand, check out some of the retractable stands we offer:


Our Reveal and Reveal Ultralight stands are a portable way to get your brand out there on a budget—our Reveal 33” stand comes in at 11 pounds, while the Reveal Ultralight weighs under 9!

Reveal Backwall Kit

This 10’ Backwall Kit is a great alternative to a full 10’x10’ display—it includes 3 of our Reveal 33” banner stands, which can be used separately or connected together to form a 3-part wall stretching 10’ in width.


The M2 33” is our premium retractable banner stand, including a sleek black and chrome housing that includes a unique graphic cartridge system, allowing you to swap new graphics in and out with ease.

More Retractable Banner Stands

Tension Fabric Banner Stands

Tension fabric banner stands are an industry standard thanks to their simplicity, versatility, and portability—they consist of a metal frame and a tension fabric pillowcase-style graphic that slips over it in seconds.

Simple, Yet Sophisticated

Like lots of other display walls and elements you’ll find at a trade show or event, these banner stands create a tight, streamlined look through the use of tension fabric. On top of their aesthetics, these displays are incredibly easy to set up, no tools required!

For most tension fabric banner stands, you’ll have a set of interconnecting rods that you attach to a base to form the display’s frame. Once it’s assembled, all you have to do is slide the tension fabric graphic over it and set the stand up, and you’re good to go.

Since they’re so simply designed, these displays stay light and easy to assemble and can have fun features like double-sided graphics and uniquely shaped frames. On top of that, it’s easy to swap out different graphics over your frame, making this a go-to product for anyone hoping to display different designs at different events or to update the stand’s look after a while.

When compared to a retractable display, though, these banner stands still require some setup, though it really isn’t that much. In addition, their premium tension fabric is slightly pricier than the cheapest vinyl retractable stands we carry, and is a little easier to stain or stretch than vinyl might be.

Pros & Cons

Pros                                       Cons

  • Portable
  • Double-sided graphics
  • Tool-Free Set Up
  • Interchangeable graphics
  • Unique frame styles
  • Not tension fabric
  • Most have non-interchangeable graphics

Example Products

If a tension fabric banner stand sounds like a good pick for you, check out the models we have on our store:


Our Renew and Renew Ultralight lines of banner stands include several size options, all with a flat-top style frame. These banner stands come with the option of a double-sided fabric, making it easy to change your message on the fly or capture attention from all angles.

Renew XL

If you’re looking for a more unique look, our Renew XL banner stands might be the best fit—they’ve got different widths and frame shapes that make them a stand-out display in any crowd, but still have all the features of the regular Renew line, including optional double-sided graphics.


The Graffiti line of banner stands includes a seamless wrap-around style, where the tension fabric covers the front and sides of the display entirely, giving it a premium feel when viewed from more angles.

Backlit Banner Stands

Backlit banner stands are the highest-end of the bunch, as they include a specially designed internal lighting system that gives the front of your display a soft, even glow.

A Premium Look & Feel

Backlit displays use a unique tension fabric that’s designed to let light out of the display’s front, but not the back (eliminating light bleed). Still, the tension fabric conveys the same smooth and seamless feel you’d expect from a non-backlit tension fabric banner stand, making it a great choice if you like the tension fabric look.

In addition, some backlit banner stands use an aluminum box frame that’s more durable than the tube or pop-up display types. Even with that frame, our backlit banner stands still have a tool-free assembly design, so you won’t need a drill or screwdriver to get things done.

When compared to other banner stands, though, backlit stands are pricier, a bit heavier, and slightly more time-consuming to set up, so those are all things to consider if you’re on a budget or short on time. In terms of the look and aesthetic, though, nothing beats a backlit display, so if the premium look is what you’re going for, this is your best pick.

Pros & Cons

Pros                                  Cons

  • Backlit
  • Portable
  • Tool-Free Set Up
  • Interchangeable graphics 
  • Price
  • Weight & assembly time

Example Products

Want to see some backlit banner stand examples? Check out a few of our backlit products:


The Bright banner stand gives you a backlit stand for the price of a regular one—the cheapest of our backlit banner stand products, this stand includes single and double-sided graphic options that make it a versatile overall pick.


The Graffiti:Plus banner stand includes the same wrap-around graphics and flat-top frame as the regular Graffiti stands, but also includes the option for double-sided graphics, all in a backlit 2.5’ form factor.


Our Ensemble Backlit banner stand sticks out from the rest due to its sleek, curved-corner look. It also pairs well with the rest of our modular Ensemble line of backlit display products, making it a great complement if you have those walls or accessories in your collection already.


Part of our premium backlit Prism line, the Prism banner stands feature a custom-manufactured aluminum box frame that offers some of the best durability and stability you’ll find.

Banner Stand Alternatives

If you’re not sure a banner stand is the best pick for you, there are a few alternatives you can take advantage of—display products that come in similar sizes and with similar features, but with a few other perks to consider.

Display Towers

Display towers are large, rectangular displays that can stretch above other displays—the tallest of them might be more difficult to fit into smaller spaces, but their one-of-a-kind look makes them a fun addition to the trade show floor.

Trade Show Display Towers

Small Display Walls

Some of the banner stands we offer are wide enough to almost be considered a display wall—if you want something similar to a banner stand in height, but larger in width or depth, consider a 8’ or 5’ trade show back wall, or even a full-fledged 10’x10’.

Small Trade Show Wall Displays

Monitor Stands

If you want to get your message and visuals across in a small form factor, another solution might be a monitor mount display—these allow you to showcase digital media from your own monitor, with all the versatility and customization options that it provides.

Pop Up Monitor Stand Displays

Display Counters

Want to show your branding, but need some storage space too? Display counters offer counter space and often include space for additional products or print collateral inside them—check out our counters to see if they’ll get the job done for you.

Portable Trade Show Counters

Ready to Pick a Banner Stand?

If you’re interested in viewing our collection of banner stands and other displays, check out our shop! There, you can see how they compare to each other or our full-fledged display kits and other display accessories.