When training to make vehicle wraps, an important ingredient is getting used to using scale dimensions for the work you create. If you come from a sign graphics background this may not be a new skill to master, but if you’re entering the business of vehicle wraps from a designer point of view – using and understanding scale is absolutely necessary to get you wrap prints sized correctly. Working in scale keeps your dots per inch at a reasonable frequency, keeps your overall file size manageable, and of course makes the vehicle wrap print eventually fit the vehicle to be done.
Why does the vehicle wrap business use scale?
Vehicles of all types, whether it is a truck, trailer, car, or van – are simply large. As an example, a small passenger car can easily be 14-15 feet in length. Most professional sign and graphics design software will not allow such prints to be made or in the case they do support such sizes – they present problems when trying to integrate within a work flow with software or staff.
Common Scale Ratios in Vehicle Wraps
For many years vector vehicle outlines were produced in 1/20th scale. Within your vehicle wrap design software you would in this case create all of your graphics at 1/20th scale and at final output increase the overall size by 2000%. In recent years, vehicle wrap designers have adopted a new standard which attempts to simplify the scale concept in vehicle wraps.
The Importance of 1/10th Scale in Vehicle Wraps
In the first example, the designer would increase the overall dimensions by 2000% to reach the actual size and during the design stage, placements of logos and such things are displayed by an arbitrary number. In 1/10th scale these numbers begin to make a world of more sense and easily be communicated while designing the vehicle wrap. The total vehicle graphic would need to be increased in size at output by 1000% as opposed to 2000%.
Using 1/10th scale for your vehicle wrap project would require the designer simple math to view and modify work by moving the decimal point 1 digit to the left. For example, if the customer request their logo on the side of the vehicle to be at least 4 feet in length or 48 inches, the vehicle wrap designer would display 4.8 inches in his or her design software. In another example, if you were supplied with a 16 foot by 8 foot van or 192 inches by 96 inches, your working dimensions would be 19.2 inches by 9.6.
As you can see using 1/10th scale in your vehicle wrap work can be extremely simple and powerful. In the last example, it is far easier to design an image 19.2 by 9.6 inches plus bleeds than dealing with an artboard in the hundreds of inches.
Learning to install vehicle wraps can be a difficult and time-consuming process. In order to create and provide your customer with a sound vehicle wrap it’s a good idea to seal the areas with will be most prone to failure. These areas are typically the points at which the most stress will be exerted such as over compound forms, edges of vehicle wrap panels, and window sections that will move. There are several materials in the sign supply marketplace that provides exactly this function.
Primer 94 isn’t a sealing material exactly, but it is used to add extra adhesion underneath areas of high stress. You simply apply a liberal amount of this compound before you install the vehicle wrap to the areas you think that could use more grip. Primer 94 works with you as you perform the installation as it’s activated by heat and begins to strengthen as you heat and apply.
Edge sealer is a clear compound you can apply over the edge and onto the vehicle to permanently close these edges. This is the perfect material for sealing in vehicle wrap window elements at the edges to prevent areas from lifting in the future.
In recent years, edge sealer has been available in pen form or more accurately marker form. The chemical compound is the same as traditional edge sealer, however far more convenient and cleaner to use than the original version.
Laminating stripes are thinly cut pieces of standard vinyl laminate. Vehicle wrap installers use these over areas where extra cuts are made or sometimes to seal two or more overlapping vehicle wrap panels. Using these stripes are an easy way to seal edges which doesn’t require you to get any supplies you wouldn’t already have on hand.
Once you have the basics covered in learning vehicle wrap installation, properly sealing will make your wraps better. Sealing edges and adding Primer 94 to give you an extra grip where it may be needed, will prevent problems from occurring down the road. Better vehicle wrap installations will keep business coming back and when they do come back it won’t be for vehicle wrap repairs.
When you look at a well done completed vehicle, it’s easy to think it was all one big piece graphic vinyl. After all, the job of a good vehicle wrap installer is to make the image appear without seams and akin to a custom paint job. The fact of the matter is a vehicle wrap before it’s installed, comes in a series of different sections or panels. In training to wrap vehicles you’ll be faced with a kit with all sorts of parts and it’s up to you to fit them together in the best possible way.
The first step one should take is to get the computer mockup of the design to get a visual on what it’s supposed to look like and attempt to paste them up in the closest possible way to the computer graphic version. Be aware that the scale design supplied to you may not exactly represent what is directly in front of you in three dimensions.
Generally in vehicle wrap graphics these are the parts you’ll be supplied with or asked to make with your sign printer: bumpers, driver’s side, passenger’s side, hood/bonnet, roof, trunk or rear and the windows. Many of these panels for your vehicle wrap can be create as a single piece which fits largely over the body panels of the vehicle wrap, while in other instances a certain section is created from tiles.
Tiled vehicle graphics can be described as several overlapping sheets of vehicle wrap graphics that are placed one on top of another to achieve a larger finished image. This is done for different reasons depending on the circumstances of the actual vehicle wrap installation. It may be tiled in order to conserve media by fitting the most panels into a roll vehicle wrap vinyl to avoid waste or it may simply be the driver’s side panel (as an example) is too large to be printed as one solid panel.
When fitting these various vehicle wrap panels together it’s good to consider the overlapping areas and spend your timing getting all the separate parts in the right place to get your installation looking great and as though it were one giant piece. This same time for consideration can be carried over to the design and printing of the vehicle wrap, as it is a series of connecting panels on a three dimensional curved surface – the designer/printer should try to avoid closely connecting graphics between one section to another.