There are four main steps to creating vehicle wraps: Designing, Proofing , Printing, and installing.
The design work is the longest part of the vehicle wrap process. It can take anywhere from 5 to 40 hours, depending on the complexity of the design and style of vehicle. Certain graphics may have to be specially cut and contoured to fit parts of the vehicle, which can take longer.
Once the design is ready, the vendor creates an electronic or printed proof of the wrap. It’s important to carefully examine the proof for any mistakes you find and immediately note any changes you want made to the final wrap before printing. Any changes you have after the wrap goes into final production can delay turnaround and add significantly to your costs.
Vendors print the finished design on 48 to 60 inch wide vinyl sheets using a large-format, latex or solvent-based printer.
These printers produce vehicle wraps and other signage at a very high resolution. Complete vehicle wraps are typically printed in multiple panels and carefully pieced together during installation.
After printing the wrap, the vendor sets it aside for a few hours to “gas out” if a solvent printer is used. This prevents the vinyl from bubbling or wrinkling during application. Latex printers do not need to “gas out” which is a big advantage over solvent prints.
Before the vendor can begin installing your wrap, you vehicle needs to be thoroughly cleaned so that the wrap will adhere properly. Taking it through a high-pressure car wash that uses powerful detergents should clean off most grime and debris. We find a good handwash with a grease cutting dish soap like Dawn works very well.
Once cleaned, the installer carefully aligns the vinyl panels to ensure proper fit and applies them to the vehicle. The installer uses a small tool like a heat gun or torch to stretch and resposition the vinyl, and a squeegee to eliminate imperfections. When finished, he may apply a UV –coated laminate to the surface to protect the wrap and provide a glossier finish. This process also makes the wrap easier to remove when you no longer need it.
It’s important to not that every installer rely on sharp reasons to manipulate the vinyl and remove excess material around door handles and crevices. Even with expert installers, there’s some potential for minor nicks and scratches to the surface.
Caring for your wrapped vehicle
To keep the wrap clean, hand wash the vehicle regularly with soap, water, and a clean rag. Avoid high-pressure or bristle-based care washes that could lift up or tear the wrap, as well as waxes that could remove the laminate or minimize the wrap’s adhesion.
Wrap alterations and removal
One of the benefits of a vehicle wrap is that you can replace or repair part of the design without replacing the entire wrap. This is helpful if your wrap becomes damaged, or if you want to update or add messaging to the design.
Contact your vendor and describe the changes you want. The technician will access a computer-generated version of the wrap and pinpoint which panel needs to be reproduced. The vendor then prints an overlay piece that inconspicuously cover the old piece and becomes part of the overall design.
Your vehicle wrap should last you 3 to 5 years, depending on how will you maintain it. When it’s time to remove it, you can do the job yourself or take the vehicle back to your wrap vendor.
Remove the wrap by heating one of the corners with a heat gun until it starts to separate from the vehicle, If you don’t want to work with a heat gun, you can buy a special solution to loosen the wrap, but removal can take longer and may leave more residue behind.
Slowly pull the wrap off the vehicle while continuing to heat the vinyl. This will help the vinyl come off in large, easily removable sheets. Repeat the process until you’ve removed all the panels. If the wrap leaves residue behind, use a citrus-based cleaner or paint thinner to wipe it away.
is a premium material that stretches easily to best conform to the vehicle’s surface. When brushed over with a clear laminate, cast vinyl provides a paint-like finish on cars, buses, and even boats.
In addition to increased flexibility, vendors prefer cast vinyl because the sheets don’t shrink much during manufacturing, and also because they maintain colors better during printing. However, cast vinyl wraps are considerably more expensive then calendered material and isn’t recommended if you need a vehicle wrap for less then a year.
Calendered vinyl has strong “memory” – it snaps back to its original form after being stretched. This means it doesn’t conform as well to vehicles. It’s also difficult to match color. But calendered vinyl is much cheaper then cast material, and it can be produced in greater quantities. This makes it an acceptable solution for vinyl wraps lasting only a few months – especially if used on flat surfaces such as the side of a box truck – but not for long-term advertising.
Vinyl wrap methods
Vendors offer different methods for wrapping your vehicle, depending on how much surface area you wish to cover.
Complete wrap – Covers the entire surface of the vehicle. Includes perforated window film (known as “ window perfs”) that cover glass surfaces without impacting the driver’s visibility.
Half wrap – Covers half the sides of the vehicle and extends around the back. Half wraps may include a logo for the hood.
Window graphics only – Graphics printed on window perfs.
Vinyl lettering/spot graphics only – A simple inexpensive solution that may include 1 to 2 colors, a company logo, and /or a call to action on the side of the vehicle.
If you’re unsure which wrap method works best for your vehicle, an experienced vendor can help.
Starting a vehicle wrap project
Your vehicle wrap provider needs as much information as possible about your vehicle before work can begin on the design.
Start by providing the year, make, and model of your vehicle. Wrap providers use special software that grabs precise measurements of most vehicles and pulls them into a design template. Make sure to not specifics about the vehicle, such as whether it’s a convertible or whether you’ve made aftermarket modifications that won’t appear in most databases. If your wrapping a leased vehicle, you may need to provide documentation that the wrap won’t violate your leasing agreement.
Next, determine the look and feel of the design. Start with a general idea of what you want the wrap to display: sales messages, photographs, splashy designs, or calls to action. Experienced vendors will have suggestions for what works best for businesses like yours, but you input is necessary to create a finished product you’ll be happy with.
Most vendors will create a designs for you from scratch. If you supply some of your own artwork, makes sure It’s high-resolution – at least 300 dots per inch (DPI) – and send in a file format that the dealer can work with. Never send logos or images taken from your web site- they offer poor resolution and quality.
If you don’t know how to create artwork in the appropriate file formats, contact the company that prints your business cards or letterhead. They may be able to provide you with electronic files to send to a vehicle wrap vendor.
Wrapping vehicles windows
If you design covers the vehicle’s windows, the vendor will print the design on window perfs, which allow you to see through the covered windows while driving. You’ll have to decide if you want the window perf laminated or not.
Laminate protects the materials from blemishes, harsh weather, and chemical damage, but the added thickness can make visibility hazy unless a optically clear laminate is used. Non-laminated window perfs provide a clearer view most of the time, but can greatly impair visibility during inclement weather and fade faster without lamination.
If you live in areas with frequent snow or ice, it’s best to avoid window perfs altogether. Using a ice scraper to remove ice from window perf could scretch, stretch, and even possibly tear the material.