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A Guide to Graphics Installation

(August 2011) posted on Tue Aug 23, 2011

You can make it fast or make it right. Continue reading to find out how to optimize your graphics for appeal and application.

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By Paul Roba

In addition to the location information being supplied on each panel, it is a good idea to provide the installer with a schematic so he can see what the finished graphics are supposed to look like (Figure 4). The installer will use this schematic to figure out where key parts of the graphic go on the vehicle so that information is not lost in wheel wells, windows, or protruding parts of the vehicle. If the graphics must be transported to a remote location for installation, the schematic should be included on the outer wrap of the graphics package. Some installers will also request that you e-mail them a copy in advance so they are sure to have this schematic available at the time of the installation. When packaging the graphics for transport, wind the prints face out with a minimum inner diameter of 3 in. Winding the prints around an empty core is a good way to ensure they are not wound too tight.

Installing the graphics
The last step is the installation. Good preparation and following the manufacturer’s instructions can make or break the job at this point. I have seen many great graphics ruined by a poor installation. Take the time to properly prepare and clean the application surface. Do not use any cleaners with ammonia in them as these will affect the adhesive. You will find that most manufacturers recommend using isopropyl alcohol, which is readily available at local hardware or drug stores. I highly recommend that you do a final wipe with isopropyl alcohol to further ensure that all contaminants are removed before installing the graphic.

Before actually starting your install, it is always a good idea to lay out your prints to be sure that all of the panels were shipped and that graphics will to fit properly. It is always possible that somewhere along the way someone measured incorrectly or that the vehicle isn’t the same as originally planned. If anything like this happens, you will know up front and be able to make the necessary adjustments—or get new graphics if necessary—before you apply the first panel.

Take your time during the install. You could be the best installer in the world, but if you begin to rush, you can—and likely will—make mistakes. If you are applying graphics with application tape, go back and re-squeegee all of those graphics once the tape is removed. Post-heat any areas where you might have stretched the vinyl during installation. Most manufacturers require this step, but few installers actually follow it. I suggest going to your local tool-supply store and investing in a $20 infrared thermometer to ensure you are actually heating the media to the recommended minimum temperature. Also, go over all of the edges of the graphic by squeegeeing and then sealing them with heat. This will aid in edge sealing and preventing unwanted edge lifting.

The happy customer
If you take your time by doing your homework up front, choosing the best material for the job, and then producing and installing the graphics according to the manufacturer’s directions, you will save yourself lots of time and money in the long run by only doing the job once. Make it right and you will also have a very happy client who will likely turn into a repeat customer.


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