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Applying your Graphics

** Basic Tools **

  • Spray bottle with Soapy Water mixture (3 drops liquid soap to 1 pint water)
  • Squeegee - for applying the graphic and removing air bubbles
  • Tape measure - for positioning
  • Masking tape - for positioning
  • Heat gun (optional) - for heating the vinyl on complicated contours/applications

** Tools and Techniques for a Seamless Application **

Vinyl manufacturers typically recommend application in temperatures of 50º to 90º F, with 70° to 80°F being the optimum range. Whenever possible, apply graphics indoors in a controlled environment, which will help control temperatures as well as reduce the amount of wind and dust you have to deal with. The room and surface temperature can greatly impact your application. A high temperature will make the film softer and more pliable. The higher temperatures will also make the adhesive more aggressive, which can lead to pre-tack and increased stretching if you try to reposition the film. Lower temperatures will make the film more rigid and reduce the tack of the adhesive. Applying in either of these extremes can make your application more difficult.

** Proper Cleaning **

A clean surface is essential for a quality vinyl application. Consider the surface your foundation: If it is not prepared properly, you cannot be sure that anything that is placed on top of it will be secure. If you are applying film to a dirty vehicle, the adhesive from the graphic will adhere to the dirt and not the vehicle itself, which will result in failure down the road.

Begin cleaning by removing all dirt and grime with a commercial detergent solution and water. (Note: If you take the vehicle to the car wash for this portion of the cleaning, it is important to make sure the vehicle is completely dry before applying the graphics; this may mean allowing the vehicle to sit indoors overnight.) If grease, oil, wax or other contaminates are present, wipe the surface with a solvent like Prep-Sol or Xylol. Do a final cleaning with isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to make sure that no oily residue from the other solvents is being left behind. A word of caution though: Before using any solvent on a vehicle, test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure the solvent won't harm the vehicle's paint.

As you clean the vehicle with IPA, I recommend using two lint-free towels. One towel should be soaked with the IPA and used to clean off the contaminates (dust, dirt, wax, etc). The second towel should be dry and used to wipe away the excess IPA before it has a chance to evaporate. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean in all the cracks and crevices of the vehicle. I recommend wrapping an IPA- soaked towel around a squeegee to get down into the crevices.

** Applying the Graphic – Wet Method **

Tape the graphic onto the side of vehicle to determine exactly where you want the graphic installed. Apply a strip of tape vertically through the center of each component and lightly tape each end of the graphic panel to the vehicle.

Stand back and visually check for alignment and centering, use the tape measure for more accurate placement of the graphic. Pay close attention to body molding and body lines for proper alignment.

Remove the tape from one end of the graphic and peel the liner paper away from this portion of the graphic and cut the backing paper off near the center hinge using a sharp blade or scissors.

Wet the vehicle surface with your mixture of soap and water, more than just a misting, but you do not need to drench the surface. Lay the graphic onto the wet surface and firmly squeegee the graphic using short, overlapping strokes.

Remove the tape hinge from the center of the graphic. Remove the remaining backing paper and spray the water and soap solution on the vehicle surface. Squeegee the remaining half of the panel onto the vehicle using the same method as with the first half of the graphic.

If the graphic has transfer tape covering it, thoroughly wet the surface of the masking with the application solution and wait a minute or two. The liquid will help break down the masking’s adhesive.

Remove the masking/application tape by pulling it back on itself at a 180º angle. Using this method to remove the application tape will reduce the chances of pulling the graphic back up and possibly causing air bubbles or edge lifting.

Squeegee out any remaining water bubbles using the piece of left over liner. Lay the piece of left over liner over the graphic, with shiny side of liner facing you. Proceed to apply hard pressure to squeegee out any remaining water or air bubbles.

Lightly dry off any remaining application fluid, careful not to move/damage the newly applied graphics as the adhesion needs time to setup and dry.

Last step….. stand back and admire your work.