“You don’t want to put up a graphic as it’s supposed to be, and have them freak out because they thought it would be something else,” says Carthey, whose clients including Exxon, Shell, Texaco, Gulf Oil, and Chevron.
“We lay out every step, from set-up to blocking out an area to installation and cleanup. We also want to make sure they understand the correct graphics for their applications. Many times, we get in there after the graphic has been ordered. But we try to get in before, to ensure they order the correct graphics.”
When wrapping a vehicle, it is essential that the surface be spotless. “If you don’t have a clean surface, it’s only going to stick so long,” Record says. “And it will look terrible after only about a week’s time.”
Proper cleaning of the vehicle is critical to ensure that edges and corners don’t lift, Gutentag reports. His company asks that owners wash their cars 24 to 48 hours prior to the wrap, to ensure every surface is absolutely dry. Trying to wrap a vehicle too soon after a washing can be hamstrung by residual wetness around moldings and in crevices. Even attempting to blow dry the vehicle won’t always guarantee all the water is removed. “And right before installation, we clean it with alcohol, to make sure all grease and grime is off,” he says.
If the vehicle graphics to be wrapped have been produced in multiple pieces, installation must begin at the back of the vehicle. Why? It’s because vehicles mostly travel forward, not in reverse. As the car is driven, “the wind will go over the seams, as opposed to lifting the seams,” Gutentag says. “Plus, dirt will not collect as readily, because it doesn’t have an edge to catch on.”
When it comes to cutting the vinyl, a sharp knife is a must, Record says.
“If you have a dull knife, that’s going to leave you with a jagged edge,” he adds. “You could sit there and wrap a vehicle perfectly. But if you make one bad cut, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
Even in warm and sunny Florida, where Record and Gutentag are based, it’s important whenever possible to perform the installation in a climate-controlled environment. Ideally, vehicle wraps should be undertaken in temperatures of about 70 degrees, Record says. Installers can work in temperatures above and below 70, but that variability can be detrimental. If it’s too cold, the vinyl will not adhere properly. And if it’s too hot, the adhesive on the vinyl may become “too aggressive,” he says. “If I have to wrap a vehicle outdoors, I’ll look for a shady area out of direct sunlight. It could be 80 degrees outside, and if I’m in direct sunlight, the surface temperature of the vehicle could reach 130 degrees.”
Tips for Building Wraps
Wrapping buildings is very different from wrapping vehicles, because the surfaces tend to be flat, Interligi says. “I look at the vehicle wrap as the top shelf of installation,” he remarks. “For the most part buildings have flat surfaces. It’s a matter of setting the job in motion, and everything falls into place after that.”
At Real Hit Media, the installers do their own site inspections of buildings to be wrapped, arriving at the dimensions and schematic for the designer to follow. “We help create the template, which the graphic designer is going to use in positioning a face, a logo or a tagline, to make sure it’s easy to read,” he says.
“On a building, you don’t have the luxury you would with a billboard, where you can do anything you want. You may have a window or a door on the surface to be wrapped, or a bus shelter in the way. There are a number of obstacles that need to be taken into consideration, so the designers know where they can put their art elements and where they can’t. A proper site survey and template yields a much better ad, because it gives that designer the ability to work with a proper canvas. HBO doesn’t want its ‘B’ chopped in half by windows.”
Keep in mind, too, that the sides of buildings are not composed of one material. Most feature three types of surfaces, brick, glass (for windows), and metal (for frames around windows). That could result in three kinds of materials making up the wrap. Few looking at an advertisement covering a building from the street will notice that three different materials comprise the wrap. But Interligi and colleagues have to ensure the right materials are covering the right surfaces.