Additional benefits include heat and glare reduction, as well as clear visibility through the window for staff and customers. “Clients will be more likely to work with shops that understand their needs and help them satisfy their marketing objectives,” she adds.
All these upsides don’t negate the fact that window graphics represent a very different kind of graphic, and one with different issues. One of the most important concerns of those who produce window graphics is installation.
“Windows are obviously made of glass, which is a high-energy surface,” Yard says. “That requires a low-tack adhesive. So if an installer or a store employee doesn’t have the experience to install these kinds of graphics, he or she will find them more challenging than a floor or wall graphic.”
Many shops keep in-house installers on staff, while others contract out the installation, he adds. Often, they will ship their graphics to the end user, including instructions so the manager or counter person can handle installation.
“In many cases, when we talk about end users doing the application, it’s generally a poster-sized, not a full window [graphic],” Yard says. “The smaller window usually is a temporary graphic, so if they get a bubble or a wrinkle, it’s not a problem. It’s likely going to be down in a month anyway.”
In general, higher-end, longer term graphics are installed by professional installers, he adds. Some graphics can be sustained outdoors for three months to three years. If it’s an indoor application, it can last five to seven years. “But much depends on the media you choose,” Yard adds.
For his part, Roba feels embracing window graphics has very little downside. As long as PSPs acquire and use the proper products, convert them properly and install them properly, there are lots of accompanying positives.
“The only downside is if you get into large window opportunities,” he says. “It’s difficult to install, because you need special equipment and permits. It’s a great challenge for a small shop. But they can definitely sub out installation.”
If installing graphics yourself, keep in mind most are applied wet, Roba says. Wet applications offer the opportunity to correctly position the graphics, as well as ensure excellent “wet-out” of the adhesives to avoid leaving squeegee marks after the installation is complete. Solutions like soap and water, isopropyl alcohol and water, and/or commercially sold solutions are appropriate.
“But never use window cleaners like Windex,” he says. “The ammonia in those products will result in premature failure of the pieces. And your final cleaning on the window should be with isopropyl alcohol, which eliminates any ammonia, and any residues that could negatively impact the installation.”
In material selection, he adds, it’s essential the converter verifies that the adhesive on the material chosen will work with the wet application.
Secrets of Success
Bellah believes there are only upsides to entering the window graphics niche. But the right equipment, media, and expertise can enhance the chances of long-term success.
“PSPs that have cut their teeth on wrapping curvaceous vehicles should be able to transfer their experience and skills with relative ease to flat-glass applications, such as retail store windows,” she asserts. “Those specializing in banners and other types of traditional signage that don’t wish to take on vehicle wraps may decide to partner with a local company experienced in vehicle graphic production and installation. The combined expertise can be a win-win.”
Although window perf films cost more than some other print substrates, they represent only a small portion of overall job costs, and any extra expense tends to be offset by the films’ significant advantages, Bellah reports.
While the majority of window graphics films are exterior mounting, interior window films are an option for preventing graffiti, or for situations in which local ordinances prohibit use of exterior-mounted signage. Clear Focus offers several products for second-surface applications, Bellah says.
The most successful PSPs focus on the end task, know who will install the graphics, and understand the substrate on which they will print, Holloran says. In other words, they correctly match the substrate to the application.