Whether they’re vehicle graphics, building wraps or anything in between, installation of wraps takes a great deal of skill, patience, and experience.
Sure, materials have grown a lot more sophisticated over the past two decades. But all the technological advancement in the world won’t compensate for bad technique. If you want to master the ability to install wraps with great proficiency, it pays to heed the words of those who have spent years learning the art and science of wraps. We provide that sage advice in the coming pages.
These days, there is virtually no limit to what can be wrapped, says Scott Record, national installation manager with Jacksonville, FL-based Graphic Application Systems Company, Inc., in business since the early 1980s.
“You’d be amazed at what can be wrapped in vinyl,” Record says. “We have wrapped railroad cars to power boats to motorcycle helmets. And although I haven’t done it myself, I know some are wrapping wheels on high-performance cars, changing a chrome wheel to a matte black finish.”
When vinyl wraps were first introduced, they were used strictly for the advertising and commercial applications, he says. Today, they’re penetrating the private sector for use by those who want to alter the look of their vehicles.
Two reasons to seek out skilled installers are to ensure wraps achieve the appearance and longevity for which they are intended. “Any Joe Blow can slap vinyl on a car, but it’s the people who are trained in this, and have a passion for it who can do anything with a wrap,” Record says. Novices can make a wrap look good from 50 feet away. “But how does it look at five feet?” he adds.
A skilled and experienced installer can also compensate for mistakes made in production, adds Andy Gutentag, president of Lakeland, FL-based Graphic Systems Installers, which was founded in 1990 and produced some of the first bus wraps used anywhere in the very early 1990s. If there are errors in the production or design, a talented installer has the ability to compensate for those problems in the way he positions the wrap on the vehicle, he says.
According to Shad Interligi, owner of White Plains, NY-based Real Hit Media, which installs many of the high-profile advertising wraps on New York City buildings and also produces vehicle wraps, great installers aren’t made, they’re born. That is particularly true in the installation of vehicle wraps, which requires the right touch on curved surfaces.
“There needs to be a certain talent level,” he says.
“Many things can be taught. But you either got it or you don’t. You need to be artistic, but you also must have some dexterity with your hands, because you’re working with a knife, a squeegee, a heat gun, and a measure. That’s why it’s become a profession calling for talent. There are not that many tricks to the trade other than practice and developing muscle memory.”
If an installer has that dexterity, there are a couple of techniques that can be used through the entire process, which involve applying pressure repetitively on compound curves. “Once you get that down, it makes the next installation easier, and the one after even easier. Eventually, you don’t even think about it.”
Newer generations of products have made good installers even better at their craft, Record adds. 3M, Avery, Oracal, and other manufacturers have spent a great deal of money, time, and effort on the research and development of the latest films. “Those products are a pleasure to work with,” he says.
“For example, 3M’s 180 CV3 vinyl is repositionable, so you can tack it on the side of a vehicle, and move it before it is permanently fixed to the car.”
Start by Educating Customers
According to John Carthey, president and owner of Tomball, TX-based Corporate Installations Inc., a 21-year-old business that serves NASA and the southeast Texas oil giants with installations that range from building to gas pump wraps, one of the most important steps for any installer is to take time to educate customers, so they know what they will be getting.