Boat Wrapping Secrets You Need to Know
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Boat Wrapping Secrets You Need to Know

In case you haven't noticed, boats are curvier than most cars. That can spell trouble if you don't approach a boat wrap the right way. Discover the boat wrapping secrets you need to know.

By Jennifer LeClaire

Ready for some step-by-step instructions on how to wrap a boat? Get the insider's techniques that will help you find success at high sea.

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  • What's the difference between a boat wrap and a vehicle wrap? Plenty.

    In our last article, we discussed how to get ready for a boat wrapping job. We talked about the materials, tools and cleaning processes that you need to ensure a lasting wrap-and a few quirks you'll meet with along the way. In this installment of our series, we'll get down to the nitty gritty details of the actual wrap.

    Designing a boat wrap
    When it comes to designing the boat wrap, the challenges are real. Beyond the absence of industry standard templates for the various makes and models of boats, boats are curvier than most cars. They curve to the front and the curve down at the same time. It's sort of like wrapping a Volkswagen Beetle at some level, but with more angels.

    "When you layout a design, you are laying it down on a two-dimensional flat surface. So everything is basically two-dimensional," says Andy Gutentag, a vinyl installer for Sirlin Enterprises, the parent company of boat wrapping company System, Inc. "If you try to apply the vinyl two-dimensionally, you'll get binds in everything. You have to flow with the curvature of the boat."

    Gutentag says if you tape up the design in the back and pull it up the front, it puts tension on the front of the graphic. So if there are important elements of your design at the top of the graphic (the front of the boat) you will lose the true perspective of the imagery. It might be stretched or skewed and appear awkward. This is something you can avoid in the design stage. Anything critical to the overall imagery, such as words or logos, needs to be incorporated into the lower part of the design.

    Flowing with the curves
    The first step of wrapping a boat is taping up the vinyl to make sure the design fits appropriately. As we discussed in the previous article, there are few pre-made templates for boats, which makes designing for them more challenging. By taping up the design, you can ensure a general fit before you peel off the backing.

    "On boats, we use 3M Tape Primer 94, which is a special adhesive for concave and convexed areas. We put that across and inside the ridges so the vinyl sticks better and there's less chance of it pulling up," Gutentag says. "After we put the Primer down, then we pull off the backing paper and get the wrap started, keeping it tight all the way down and flat to the boat."

    Starting at the back
    It's important to start the wrap at the right point on the boat so you end up with a design that has as few seams as possible. Gutentag recommends always starting at the back of the boat because you want your seams or your overlaps to be flowing with the wind and the water instead of against it.


    RENOLIT Calendered Vinyl - Top performance for various applications

    "If you started with the sides first and then did the back last, the seams would overlap. The water would continue hitting the edge of that seam and it would increase the chances of catching or pulling," Gutentag says. "The back of the boat is also the most challenging part."

    The most challenging because it usually has the deepest indentations. What's more, many boats have curvatures toward the back of the boat and on the sides toward the back. Gutentag says that could be a real bear-and that's where the possibility of bridging comes in because it's difficult to work the vinyl into those indentations.

    "There are other obstacles in the back," Gutentag says. "There are some concaved indentations that you have to work into and that are pretty deep and it's a matter of being able to work it in and maneuver the vinyl. That just takes practice."

    Laminating and removing boat vinyl
    Once you've applied the vinyl-if you've avoided air-egress vinyl and applied it properly-it should last at least through one boating season. Some boat wraps may last longer. Like anything, it depends on the wear and tear on the boat. You can potentially extend the life of the wrap by laminating it.

    Craig Campbell, marketing coordinator for digital products at Oracal, a vinyl media manufacturer based in Georgia, says vinyl installers should laminate a boat wrap with laminate manufactured by the same company that manufactured the vinyl. In other words, don't mix Oracal vinyl with 3M laminate if you want the best possible results.

    "You want to make sure the components match per the manufacturer. Those boats are taking a beating out there with sunlight, bouncing off the water, rubbing up against docks and other boats," Campbell says. "So a liquid laminate just won't stand up to it. Make sure that you always put laminate on top."

    With the great possibility of wear and tear on the vinyl, you could have a pretty shaggy-looking wrap at the end of the boating season. What about removing the vinyl from the boat so you can rewrap it for the next season?

    "The vinyl is pretty easy to get off a boat," Gutentag says. "If you are in real cold weather, it might be a little bit more difficult. But in warm weather states like Florida, you can peal it off. You may need a heat gun to help you, but removing it is much easier than putting it on."

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