Seamless Wraps 101 - Deciding when to go seamless and when not to. - The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade.
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Seamless Wraps 101 - Deciding when to go seamless and when not to.

Discover how - and when - to do a seamless vehicle wrap.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Seamless wraps demand careful planning - and even then they can be a challenge. Find out how to approach a seamless wrap and when to consider a partial wrap instead.

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  • The seamless wrap. It's the Holy Grail of the vehicle wrapping industry.

    Some vehicle wrappers don't have the skills to do them. Others promise seamless vehicle wraps but don't truly deliver. But one thing is certain: if you can do an authentic seamless (or virtually seamless) vehicle wrap then you can set yourself apart from the competition.

    "Just about anybody can do a wrap now. So the question is what you can do to make your wrap job better than everybody else's?" says Molly Waters, a strategic sales support manager at Avery Dennison. "The next big thing is to make your wraps seamless. The best installers are getting to the point where they have very few seams."

    Planning a Monolithic Wrap
    Seamless wraps aren't for the faint at heart, but it's not rocket science either. For experienced designers, seamless wrap success comes with pre-planning and a steady hand. The more planning you do ahead of time, the smoother your seamless wrap installation will go. While that's true for any wrap, avoiding seams demands more diligence.

    "With a seamless wrap, there are many hard spots in the grand scheme of things," says Troy Downey, owner at APE Wraps, a Coronado, Calif.-based vehicle wrapping shop. "You have to understand where the front intakes are and how that impacts the wrap, for starters. If you don't understand how you are going to approach the intakes and the ducts before you wrap over them, you are going to wind up in a difficult position."

    Downey suggests asking yourself the following question: "Before I lay this vinyl down on the vehicle, am I going to get the coverage I need?" After you carefully consider the answer to that question, ask another: "What do I need to do to prepare this area of the vehicle so that it looks monolithic?"

    Notice Downey said so it "looks monolithic." Most vehicle wraps aren't really seamless. It's a matter of planning the wrap so that it looks seamless. That translates to very few seams and in very inconspicuous places. One trick of the trade: seam into the cracks of the vehicle.

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    The Beauty of Black
    Let's say you are wrapping a purple car and you plan to lay a red graphic over the top of it. If you have any purple showing after you wrap the car with red and black vinyl, it's going to look like you did a sloppy job - and you would have. In order to avoid this scenario, you need to inlay some components within some of the intake areas so the original color of the purple car is not revealed. And you have to consider these issues before you even design the wrap.

    Downey suggests asking yourself the following question: "The intakes in the front are going to be a problem. What am I going to do about them?" If all the intakes are painted black and your graphics are black and red, then you don't have much of a challenge dealing with potential cracks in your vinyl job. You don't have to worry about matching the graphic.

    "Black is probably the best color you can work with on a vehicle because black disappears. It does not draw the eye to it," Downey says. "Take the seams in your doors, for example. When you are looking at a yellow car and the doors are shut, the seams are black. The black disappears."

    In a perfect world, everybody would buy a black car and make the vinyl installer's job as easy as possible. Seamless wraps would be much easier because you can transform black into any color under the sun, Downey says. But the reality is not everybody buys black cars. Some people buy bright yellow car or green cars. That's when it gets more complicated.

    Relying on Partial Wraps
    "In some cases, the color is so far off that - depending on the design - we may elect to use the yellow of the car in conjunction of the design and do a partial wrap," Downey says. "Partials can be your best friend because in some situations the installer may not possess the skills necessary to get full coverage and execute the job correctly."

    If you lack the skills to do a seamless wrap, you may be better off doing a partial wrap by staying below the windows. For example, you could put flames on a Ferrari and come out with a dramatic presentation. It's much simpler to lay flames over a vehicle than to wrap the entire vehicle seamlessly.

    "If you were to do a Ferrari wrap as a partial, you are going to get just the same amount of pop as you would with a fully wrapped car but you've made it tremendously less complicated because you are using the color of the car in conjunction with the partial wrap you are doing," Downey says. "When you can't do a seamless wrap, sometimes partial wraps work out well."

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