The average Jane can add bling to her car with personalized license plate frames, the email ad said. (Ladies, blingblingplates.com has pink rhinestone frames starting at $29.99. Stainless steel versions from lazerframes.com start at $16.95.) However, most cars out on the street don’t get too customized beyond that and maybe some rims and wheels—unless, of course, you’re decking out a vehicle for promotional business purposes.
More businesses are seeing the value of this form of vibrant mobilized marketing, as evidenced by the growing number of wrapped cars and vans seen in highly populated, metropolitan areas these days—I see several daily cruising the streets of Chicago. As this large-format demand continues to grow, more print firms are branching out to fulfill the supply.
For this how-to piece, WFI asked a trio of wrap gurus to share their top tips for ensuring that vehicle graphics get applied correctly, every time. What follows is the benefit of their collective, real-world design and print experience.
Several sound pieces of advice came from Shad Interligi, owner of Real Hit Media, White Plains, NY. “All edges of the material must have very neat cut lines,” Interligi said. “This means that if a piece of material is at the edge of a door handle, or one piece of film overlaps onto another, you must be sure to make the edge of the material a smooth line. Clients do not like jagged cuts, and they should be avoided—always.”
Malcolm Hilcove, CEO of SmartWrap LLC in Phoenix, AZ, and Boise, ID, also chimed in: “Use expert installers. Hiring inexpensive and inexperienced installers can be false economy,” he warned. “Expert installers are the backbone of your business, so if you’re going to use less-experienced people, make sure they train under the watchful eye of an expert installer,” Hilcove added. “The mark of an expert installation is when you cannot tell if it has been painted or if it’s a wrap!” (Shops looking for more details on how to break into the wrap print and design biz can read My Print Resource’s “Your Vehicle to More Profits” article from last October.)
“Thorough cleaning and preparation of the vehicle” is paramount, according to Aaron Witt, operations manager at large-format print firm Graphic Application Systems, Jacksonville, FL. “If there is a contaminated area, the wrap will fail.” SmartWrap’s Hilcove agreed with Witt’s wisdom: “Install in the right environment. Is it clean, dust-free, and temperature controlled? Dust particles are easily noticeable under a wrap and can even cause a wrap to fail, while temperatures that are too high can cause the vinyl to stretch,” he added from the dry heat of the Arizona desert.
GAS’s Witt also encouraged to “lay out the wrap on the vehicle before application using masking tape or magnets. This will allow you to reposition the graphic to achieve the best look for your customer.” Also, post heating the wrap after installation ensures that the adhesive has flowed properly to gain maximum adhesion, he said.
Tools and Templates
Some tips are tool-related, such as using super-sharp knives and squeegees with smooth edges. “Lining the squeegee with nylon or glass tape provides a scratch-free installation,” Witt shared. And use a knife with a snap off blade. “Anytime you make a cut, snap the blade. This will ensure a smooth, jagged free cut.”
Hilcove’s next piece of advice may seem like a hardware no-brainer, but his point is to consider all options: “Use a high-quality printer and laminator. Do your homework and find a printer that fits your customer’s needs,” he suggested. “A large-format printer allows you to do ‘seamless’ installations, resulting in a more professional looking wrap. Latex ink printers save time by allowing you to laminate immediately, without having to wait 24 hours for ‘out-gassing.’” (See also “Latex Printing: Hope or Hype?”)