Applying Vinyl Dreams
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Applying Vinyl Dreams

Follow the modernized basics of vinyl application

By SignIndustry.com Staff

Plenty of on-line "advice" is available for applying graphics. Of course, the intended audience is those who have purchased vinyl graphics from the publishing sign company and wish to save a little money by applying the graphics themselves.

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  • As a sign professional, you need to beware of these helpful competitors. Often the application advice offered is quite outdated. In fact, it may simply be the same method you are presently using and so do not solve any of your present problems. And if you are new to vinyl application, following ancient methods could make your initiation into vinyl application a nightmare.

    To improve the efficiency and quality of vinyl application, you need to follow the modernized basics of this process. Also, it wouldn't hurt to read up on and research the latest vinyl application products on the market. Updating your methods will improve productivity and lessen complaints by customers and employees who have to remove and redo unsatisfactory applications.

    Older methods of applying vinyl include cleaning the substrate with a solvent, applying a mixture of dish soap and water to the substrate, and applying the vinyl to the wet surface with a squeegee.

    Some sign makers are lucky and have lasting results using these methods. Yet, often the materials used are counter-productive.

    The suggested "solvents" sometimes include window cleaner or products designed for other industries besides sign making. A lot of these cleaners leave their own film because they are oil-based or contain residual chemicals.

    The common dish soaps and detergents that are to be mixed with water and used as an application fluid will leave a residue on the surface you worked so hard on to clear of residue. After hours of frustration, you still may not get the vinyl to stick to the slick substrate. Though adding heat with a bulb or heat gun may help bond the vinyl to the substrate, this very heat may also distort, stretch, or burn the vinyl.

    The addition of soap to the water also increases your chances of getting pesky bubbles caught under the vinyl. The old school advisers make this problem seem very simple to solve: just use a small pin to poke holes in the bubbled vinyl. Yes, this will release the air, but it also welcomes unwanted intruders such as water, dirt, and wax. Too many of these intruders will cause the vinyl's adhesion to lessen. It then may peel or crack.

    Though by far not the most difficult type of signage to deal with, vinyl graphics are not as "easy" as these outdated do-it-yourself instructions like to preach. Seasoned sign experts may successfully use old methods, or they may have developed various their special short cuts and tricks to ease the application of vinyl graphics. But the less experienced sign makers are better off sticking to the basics of vinyl application, using modern methods, and developing their own tricks as they masters these basics.

    In the sign industry, the best dream is to avoid the nightmare. You are probably familiar with the common steps you must follow to apply the graphics:

    RENOLIT Calendered Vinyl - Top performance for various applications

    1. Clean the sign surface meticulously. Be sure to remove all wax, grease, and other residues.
    2. For a wet application, wet the substrate.
    3. Then peel off the backing of the graphic and if desired, wet the adhesive side.
    4. Place and align the graphic on the surface.
    5. Firmly squeegee the graphic to remove the excess fluid. Start at the center of the graphic and work out in all directions.
    6. After 2-3 minutes, saturate the graphics cover tape (most have one) with application fluid and remove the tape.
    7. Using the application fluid, clean any leftover tape residue.
    8. Dry the surface with a paper towel.
    But before you begin applying vinyl to any substrate, you should understand the materials you are working with. And you should be aware of products that will ease the application process.

    Vinyl graphics typically come in three different levels of quality: economy grade, intermediate grade, and premium cast grade. And they are made of PVC or polyester.

    Some have an adhesive that is aggressive while others are can be re-positioned.

    The application tape comes in a several different levels of adhesion and paperweight. The tapes must be stored carefully, away from sunlight and air. If they are not stored properly, you will not be able to depend on their level of adhesion.

    The required condition of the substrate--whether it needs to be wet or dry--will vary among the different types of vinyl graphics and your skill level. Furthermore, some surface materials may not be compatible with the type of letter you have in stock. It is best to follow the manufacture's recommendations.

    Most important, the substrate must be thoroughly cleaned before applying the vinyl. Choose your cleaning materials carefully. As indicated earlier, dish soaps and many household cleaners will leave unwanted films. Also, avoid using cloth towels as they are washed with residual detergents and commercial paper towels because they are often treated with residual chemicals to make them lint free. You are best off using "the quicker picker upper" or other quality common kitchen towels.

    Mother Nature can also disrupt the application process. Typically, you want to apply vinyl graphics in moderate weather conditions with the temperature ranging from 45F to 80F. So unless you have an indoor shop, applying vinyl during the winter and summer months is not an easy task.

    Yet it can be done. The vinyl application fluid that helped you clean the substrate and lubricate the substrate for easier positioning can help you with this problem. It eases the spreading of the adhesive and stimulates the bonding of pressure sensitive vinyl by softening the skin that is formed when vinyl adhesion dries. These application fluids are heaven-sent. They keep the dream from being a nightmare.

    While the basic process of applying vinyl graphics has remained pretty much the same as in the past, the materials used to make and the products used to apply vinyl have improved over the years. Vinyl application is not some lost art that has been recently discovered. So take advantage of modern methods.

    You will produce high-quality vinyl graphic designs more efficiently. Productivity and customer satisfaction will rise. And you'll spend less time working off the clock fixing preventable errors, and more time doing other things you enjoy.

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