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Perforated Vinyl: Opening Up The Vision of Sign Options

Perforated vinyl film is fast becoming an excellent new form of advertising signage. This unique material allows easy adhesion to windows and motor vehicles, with the perforations enabling vision through the advertisement itself.

By Dawn Nikithser

It is a similar concept to hanging mesh signage, where large mesh advertisements are hung over windows to much the same overall effect, but perforated vinyl film gives an alternate option for situations where a hanging sign is either inappropriate or just plain impossible.

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  • According to Tiffany Witham, Senior Marketing Manager for Avery Dennison Graphics Division North America, this form of signage is particularly great for advertising; its ability to adhere to a variety of surfaces while still allowing for vision means it is a great medium for business wanting to get the word out in as many ways as possible. “We see perforated window film used for vehicle wraps, bus wraps and store front advertising applications. Using the [perforated vinyl] on vehicle and bus wraps helps to complete the overall look of the graphic,” giving the advertisement the greatest overall effect.

    Stan Holt of Vision Graphics in North Carolina has also seen first hand the advantages of perforated vinyl film signage, especially when it comes to using the film to wrap cars. Buses and larger vehicles were the more traditional medium, but now companies are seeing the uses of smaller cars in advertising.

    Mr. Holt explains his observations. “I have seen growth in the smaller vehicle wrap market. Many companies, large or small, need company vehicles to deliver the services they sell…Companies are beginning to realize that advertising on their vehicles is a great deal. Unlike most forms of advertising like print, radio, TV, [or] billboards that have reoccurring cost, once a vehicle is wrapped, it represents millions of advertising impressions over three to five years in your market ­ all for a one-time cost.”

    So when it comes to perforated vinyl wraps for vehicles, you’re getting tremendous bang for your buck ­ an advertisement that incurs a one-time creation and set up fee, and is capable of literally moving all over your coverage area and beyond. That’s a huge advantage over a static medium like a billboard and it’s something that dealers in perforated vinyl should be sure to tell potential customers.

    Clear Focus Imaging, Inc. out of Santa Rosa, California, has made a business out of dealing with this signage medium; their particular product is the One Way Vision. As their website explains, the product “opens up a new world of promotional opportunities by turning glass doors and windows into premium advertising space.”

    Judy Bellah, Public Relations Manager at Clear Focus, talks about some of what they have seen in the marketplace. “[There are] ongoing advancements resulting in higher resolution, wider printing capability and faster speed-printing allowing printing companies to push the envelope and produce high-quality, durable graphics that weren’t possible even a few years ago…the creative uses are virtually endless.”

    Perforated vinyl film can be used in a wide variety of ways, including a few that might surprise people:

    • Airport and hotel skywalks
    • Monorails (The One Way Vision film is used by the Las Vegas monorail.)
    • Hearses and limousines
    • Entry doors and windows for convention centers for trade show-specific advertising or promotion
    • Retail store windows and doors

    Ms. Bellah adds two very unique uses that Clear Focus has been able to offer. “[We’ve done] graphics on windows of exhibition rooms in a culinary institute; the graphics were on the inside and the see-through side of the film faced out, so people could see into the rooms. Also in the sanctuaries or ‘prayer rooms’ of religious facilities, where privacy is important ­ in some religions, the men are not allowed to see the women during prayer, so our film is used on the windows of the rooms that separate them to block the men’s view.” So there are uses for this kind of product outside of the realm of advertising, thus opening new business pathways to manufacturers and distributors dealing in this type of product.

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    Of course, there are a number of problems specific to this kind of signage. According to Mr. Holt, sometimes the materials themselves can cause trouble. “One of the most common problems occurs when users put polyester laminate on see-through film and try to use it on curved windows. The vinyl invariably wrinkles or pulls up off the glass because the polyester laminates are design for flat windows only.”

    Ms. Bellah offers another common one that many people might not think about. “Washing the windows with Windex or other solvent-based glass cleaner prior to application ­ this is a big no-no!”

    Window cleaner contains a solvent that can break down the adhesive needed when utilizing perforated vinyl film; if that happens, the film will not adhere properly to the glass, resulting in lifting and distortion of the image. Ms. Bellah also reminds potential users of some common printing problems. “Not allowing the inks long enough time to dry before applying an overlaminate (outgassing can occur, which creates bubbles in the graphics) and prior to actual production, not conducting a test to check for compatibility of the film, inks and other components used in combination. We strongly recommend always test-printing prior to production.”

    There are those who are hesitant to use perforated vinyl film due to concerns about visibility. “Anytime you put something on a window your visibility is reduced,” Ms. Witham says. But there are ways to deal with this. “Some manufacturers offer various sizes in the perforations. The larger the perforation the better your visibility will be.” Your eyes actually do compensate somewhat for the reduced visibility, she explains. “Your eyes actually overlook the ‘matrix’ of the film and are focused on the visible image on the other side.”

    Mr. Holt agrees that there are visibility issues. “You do lose image quality ­ anyone that tells you otherwise should be in politics. When you remove as much as 50% of the picture, how can image quality not suffer? But if you design for the product, this can be minimized, and the onset of the 70/30 perforation pattern helps to eliminate this problem.”

    The 70/30 pattern improves the image though it can be a bit darker from the inside of the building or vehicle; it also allows for 20% more picture. “It is not really new,” Mr. Holt continues. “But the introduction of solvent ink jet printers has made the creation of see-through graphics far more affordable, especially for short run projects.”

    Visibility is a particular worry when it comes to vehicle wraps. Therefore, a hard and fast rule is that windshields should never be wrapped. As Ms. Bellah explains, “To our knowledge, vehicle windshields, driver-side windows and front passenger-side windows should never be covered.”

    State and even county laws might have their own guidelines and regulations with regard to this type of signage as well. “You see disclaimers on almost all see-through vinyl products stating the user must check local or state laws regarding the use of the product,” says Mr. Holt, and Ms. Witham agrees. “You must consider the local regulations that address the need to see into a vehicle. Many states are implementing guidelines that specifically attend to this situation.”

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