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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

Must the graphic be removable at the end of its life? If you are wrapping a vehicle, semi, or box truck, the answer is almost always yes. Typically, the premium cast films designed for wrapping also use a special adhesive that allows the graphics to remove cleanly, with very little adhesive left behind, after five years. Consult your media manufacturer before wrapping to make sure the product you plan on using has this feature. Permanent and removable adhesives are available for other types of applications.

Producing the job
Before getting started, make certain you are following the manufacturer’s recommendations. For screen printing, you will need to select an ink that is compatible with the media you have chosen. One step that seems to be missed frequently is checking ink adhesion. This is typically a scratch test performed using a crosshatch tool and tape. The ink is abraded and tape is applied then snapped off to evaluate adhesion.

Another set of guidelines applies to digital printing. If you are printing digital UV, start with a scratch test to make absolutely sure the ink is sticking to your substrate. If you encounter ink-adhesion issues, you may need to adjust your printer’s settings or use a different substrate.



You should know right away whether inks will adhere when printing with solvent—including mild and eco-solvent—or latex formulations. Most vinyl films are inherently printable; however, media manufacturers often optimize their media for digital printing to ensure consistency. Contact your media supplier or printer manufacturer to obtain the proper ICC profiles for the film, ink, and RIP combination you want to use. This step creates the foundation to creating a quality print based on recommended settings.

The ink must have enough time to dry when printing solvents before you apply the overlaminate or do any contour cutting. If the solvents are not allowed to escape the printed graphic and you apply a laminate, the solvent will become trapped. This can cause issues for the installer because the film will be very soft and difficult to handle and apply. Trapped solvent can also cause removal or overall performance issues later.


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