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Successful & Stunning Vehicle Wraps: What You Need to Know, Part 2

In Part II of this article, we cover the correct ways of printing and laminating, installation, and delivery of the final vehicle wrap.

By David King, Commander of Results, MarketKING

In this part 2 of 2, we'll review all the correct ways to print, laminate, install, and deliver of the final properly wrapped vehicle.

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  • Printing and Laminating the Wrap
    You can print the wrap on any machine and on any vinyl you want. Before you make any decisions, consider these points first:

    1. First, are you printing on a cast vinyl? Cast vinyl will conform better to compound curves and rivets much better than a calendared vinyl.
    2. Are you going to stretch the vinyl? If so, make sure you are printing with ink that can stretch. Some UV-curable inks do not stretch well and will cause issues.
    3. Are you printing with ink that will go the distance of the warranty? Some ink manufacturers make claims that may not be true. You must either customize your warranty offer based on the inks you use, or choose a printer that will last the five years. The industry standard is five years, and more than 90 percent of the big players in the market use hot solvent inks for their five-year vehicle wrap graphics.
    4. Are you using a liquid laminate or a hard film laminate to coat the wrap vinyl? A liquid laminate will save you more than $400 per roll of vinyl (typical cost is 15 cents per square foot), while a two-mil cast vinyl laminate typically costs 80 cents per square foot. Or, are you using a UV-curable coating for your UV-curable print? No matter what you use, you should be aware that all warranty programs are matched to a specific ink, vinyl and laminate combination. Perhaps you are not coating the vinyl at all, which is often the case with window perf. For a window perf, I only use hot solvent and have never had a window perf fail, peel off a window or fall off. After three years, the window graphics on back windows (angled up more than the side windows) tend to fade about 20 percent, and by the end of five years, they are faded by 50 percent.

      Some people put laminate on window graphics, and most tell me they start to curl up after about a year and a half. The only problem with not laminating window perf is that when it rains, the holes in window perf fill with water, making it very difficult to see out of the windows. But given the choice between failure before five years or blurry vision from the laminate, I will take the water issue. I tell my clients this up front.

    5. Are you going to pre-mask the vinyl wrap? If you are liquid laminating the wrap or clear coating (typically done in a screen print shop with a clam shell press), then your installer might require you to pre-mask your vinyl. We have installed thousands of vehicles with liquid lam and we do not pre-mask the vinyl, but my installers are trained on this film and I have more than ten years experience. Personally, I like Digimask products, since the pre-mask is clear, making it easier to line up the panels and remove it very easily without stretching the vinyl.

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    If you have never installed a wrap before, heed this warning: wrapping is much more difficult than you imagine. I went to school to learn about vinyl, and I hired a professional installer so I could watch and learn how they do it exactly. I wrapped all three of my own vehicles before I took on a client's vehicle. The first client vehicle I took on was a VW Bug and I sure made a mess of it. I took more than 14 hours to wrap it once, and it looked so bad, I had to reprint and start the entire process again. Needless to say, I did not make money on this one, but I learned a lot and the final job looked okay (just okay). I have turned to SGIA's Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA) to find installers for many of my wraps. These companies set the industry standard for wrapping vehicles and most of the major companies that manufacture vinyl for vehicle wraps certify them. They have gone through intense training and have been taught by the best in the business, so I am guaranteed a professional job when they install my graphics. You can learn more about PDAA at

    You will need to following tools to install a wrap:

    1. A squeegee with one edge coated with loop Velcro. This allows you to squeegee directly on the film without scratching it.
    2. A propane torch. You have many choices, but the $40 quick start units are the minimum you should have.
    3. Fine Air Release Tool, or FART, as we refer to it in the industry. This is basically a stick with a pin on the end that you can use to release air under the vinyl.
    4. Terrycloth towels used with 70 percent isopropanol alcohol.
    5. MBX zapper tool to remove all adhesive from the emblems and any existing vinyl on the vehicle.
    6. Small snap blade that you can purchase at a box store. I would only use the small blade on vehicles, since it is easier to use and does not cut too deeply.
    7. Masking tape to attach the panels onto the vehicle.
    8. A tape measure.
    9. A clean, climate-controlled building.
    10. Color comp of the wrap from all sides. You must follow the comp, as the client has approved the wrap based on this comp.

    The most important piece of the "wrap puzzle" is time and patience. It takes a significant amount of time to do a nice wrap, so don't rush, as it will show in your work. If you hire a professional installer, make sure you and the installer have an understanding as to what is expected of them before they begin. Nothing is worse than an installer showing up and the vehicle is missing, the film is not done, the conditions are not right, etc. If your client was told they can pick up their vehicle the next day, and you paid for a one day install (typically all vehicles are done in one day, from a VW Bug to a full tractor trailer), you do not want to deal with the ramifications of the vehicle not being finished.

    Delivery of the Finished Wrap
    Once the wrap is completed, take the vehicle to a location where the background is not a distraction to the graphics and take pictures of your hard work! You will need this for your portfolio and your Web site. In the beginning, I only had a few vehicles on my Web site, but as I did more and more, I kept putting them up. Today, I have more than 300 vehicles on my site, and it strongly sells my clients on my ability to deliver. Next, you should have a "care and maintenance" document for your clients to take with them. They need to know what they can and cannot do with their vehicle and how to properly care for the wrap.

    My document covers everything from peeling to waxing and it works for us. Place the vehicle in a good location so your client gets the best view of it when they drive up. Take them out to the vehicle and, as before, walk them around the vehicle and point out all the things you said you would do to the vehicle. Give them all of their documents, and if they paid for the wrap design, give them a DVD labeled with their car on it. Clients love this! Make sure they pay you before they leave, unless you have a very good relationship with them or they have terms with your company. I have seen many happy clients leave and call back a week later telling me they see a wrinkle and want to know if we can fix it. Again, this all goes back to setting realistic goals and making sure you communicate with your client through every step of the process.

    There are great resources available for those who want to get into wrapping vehicles or to learn to become more successful at wrapping:

    1. for training and excellent installers.
    2. for the Wrap & Roll DVD.
    3. - Pro Vehicle Outlines for templates.
    4. Come to the Installation Demonstration Areas at the annual SGIA Expo.

    I have been successfully wrapping thousands of vehicles for a long time now. My clients get the return on their investment, and as their business grows, they come back for more wraps! Clients that use me for their wraps also use me for all their other graphics, because as they say: "If he can wrap our vehicles, the rest is easy!"

    David King is "Commander of Results" at MarketKING. "The Master of Printing and Graphics" offers the Print Shop Makeover, the program is designed to teach business owners how to be successful with large-format digital graphics.

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, 3rd Quarter 2009 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2009 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association ( All Rights Reserved.

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