Wrapping it Up: Tools that Help Create Effective Vehicle Ads

The increase in the number of the vehicle wraps is, not surprisingly, leading to an increase in the number of shops looking to offer some aspect of the project. While some are looking to take on all phases of production—design, printing, and installation—other shops are limiting their hands-on involvement to design and printing, and outsourcing the installation to another shop. Or, they are relying on the cottage industry of independent finishers who move from shop to shop, staying only as long as the job lasts.

“We are finding that more and more shops are looking to do it themselves,” says Dean Derhak, product director for SA International. SAi sells Bad Wrap, design software created specifically for vehicle wraps.

Each job is a process that involves four key elements:

  • Quoting the job
  • Designing the vehicle
  • Printing
  • Installing

When first quoting the job, says Derhak, ask a lot of questions, so you know what the client is looking to accomplish. “Vehicle wraps are high-ticket items, so it’s important that the customer knows what they are getting” explains Derhak. “For a full-sized car vehicle wrap, it can cost between $3,000 to $5,000; a truck is even more. You have to make sure that the customer completely understands what the vehicle will look like when the wrap is installed.”

The design needs to be clean while effectively delivering the brand’s message. Vehicle wraps only have between four and eight seconds to deliver their message—it’s critical that the message isn’t lost in too much type or wild graphic imagery.

“Essentially, a wide-format graphic—which in effect is what a vehicle wrap is—resembles a billboard in that it needs to deliver one quick, impactful message,” says Dan Wilson, associate creative director, Roland DGA Corp.

As a general rule, he advises, key is to stick to a design that is simple and bold. That initial conversation with the customer needs to define whom their target audience is, and what the message will be. “Advise your customer to stay focused on one primary message as they only have a moment to make an impression,” says Wilson.

Don’t’ go overboard on graphics. Keep it simple, so your audience gets the impact. Also avoid a lot of text. “Just have the name of the company and your URL or tag line and that’s about it--don’t’ try and tell the whole story on the vehicle wrap,” says Derhak. “If you want more text, think in terms of having a door magnet instead of a vehicle wrap.”

Branding should be the main impression that people get from the vehicle wrap.

“Vehicle wraps are most effective when they are branding rather than trying to initiate a call to action,” says Derhak. “They are best for developing brand recognition. If you have a new store in a little town, wrap the vehicle with a recognizable logo or brand image that lets everyone seeing the vehicle know who they are. It’s not a place to say ‘here’s a promotion running for a month.’”

Make sure the design takes into account the car model and how it will work on that specific model, says Derhak. The customer doesn’t want something that will distort the most important information on the flat areas. Create a design with the car in the mind; where the graphic sits on the back of the vehicle, where the logo sits, etc.

Along with designing with the shape in mind, you also have to take into account the material being used—vinyl, which stretches.

SAi’s The Bad Wrap template software collection offers templates for more than 300 vehicles, spanning more than 1,500 model years. Templates are built from a high-resolution photograph of the car, for accurate measurements within a quarter inch. Bad Wraps, says Derhak, is extremely easy to use.  Each file in The Bad Wrap collection is a layered TIFF file that can be manipulated in Photoshop or FlexiSIGN-PRO 10. 

“Bad Wrap provides the correct outlines of the vehicle to make sure that the design will work with the car and the lines of the car,” says Derhak.

The easiest way to create a design for a vehicle wrap is to use a template, such as Bad Wrap, he adds.  Otherwise you have to manually measure the vehicle. “Bad Wrap also lets you create a mock up that you can show the customer, so he/she can see what the design will look like on the car.“

Design with production in mind, says Wilson.  “Consider the substrate or medium for your design, as well as how it will be installed.  For example, with a vehicle wrap, you need to factor in the shape of the car, including its many contours and the locations of doors and windows, and lay out your design accordingly.  You also need to determine the viewing distance for the graphic to make sure your typography is readable and that your visuals are clearly displayed to the viewer. “

Roland DGA’s printers are bundled with Roland VersaWorks RIP software, which works with many popular design packages on the market, such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. RIPs such as VersaWorks help in the design process by making it easy to keep colors consistent.  Color management tools such as Pantone spot libraries and the Roland Color System included in VersaWorks help designers reproduce spot colors to exacting specifications across a wide variety of media. Advanced features in VersaWorks such as support for contour cutting and specialty inks allow you to produce premium graphics, including special effects, in virtually any shape. 

Powerful Plug-Ins

Plug-ins also provide powerful enhancements to many common solutions. SmartApps by Onyx Graphics, Inc. are wide format-specific plug-ins for Adobe Creative Suite. All SmartApps products are RIP independent, work on Macintosh or Windows platforms, and are compatible with multiple versions of specific Adobe Creative Suite products such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Acrobat.

With plug-ins like SmartApps, print service providers are able to drive manual intervention and file preparation upstream and get to a print-ready PDF early in the production process. “We refer to this as the $5, $50, $500 rule—it costs $5 to create the files properly from the start; $50 to handle file problems or edit jobs a second time at the RIP workstation, and $500 to fix problems after they have reached print. We help customers work wisely by enabling the files to be created properly from the start,” says Bryan Manwaring, director of product management, Onyx Graphics, Inc.

Automatic Benefits

Plug-ins also provide automated benefits. SmartApps plug-ins, for instance, reduce costs by simplifying and automating file preparation. “Approximately 65 percent of the total costs of a print job are overhead costs related to file preparation and other non-value-added steps,” explains Manwaring “Often times, these overhead costs are absorbed by the PSP as an accepted cost of doing business. SmartApps reduces these overhead costs by automating routine tasks to eliminate guesswork, increase accuracy, and decrease turnaround times.”

SmartApps VehicleWraps Plug-in is an Adobe Illustrator plug-in designed to simplify and accelerate setup of vehicle wraps. It offers print service providers a tool that reduces the job preparation of vehicle wraps by up to 50%, allowing PSPs to combine design and paneling of vehicle wraps within one application to streamline print production and finishing.