custom vinyl wrap - dont paint it, wrap it!

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Custom Vinyl Wrap - Don't Paint It, Wrap It!

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Post on 22-Jan-2018




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Custom Vinyl Wrap - Don't Paint It, Wrap It!

We're constantly on the hunt for new ideas in gearhead land, but with this one, we may have been a little slow on the uptake. After all, we've seen it on the Power Tour bus for like five years, not to mention on fleet vehicles, NASCAR race cars, Funny Cars, and

plenty more. But it finally hit us: why not do a vinyl wrap instead of a paint job on a regular ol' street machine? We decided to

investigate the pros and cons along with 13-year vinyl-wrap veteran Loren Traister of Canby Graphics, who executed the design and the wrap on the Hot Rod Mustang that Editor Rob Kinnan raced in the

Ford Racing Mustang Challenge series last year. Traister also wrapped our '67 Impala for this story so we could take a closer look

at the process.

FAQQ: What is a wrap, anyway?A: A wrap involves skinning an entire vehicle with a special, thin vinyl material that is adhesive-backed and can be printed with an almost limitless variety of designs. On the Impala seen here, the entire car is wrapped, not just the flamed part. However, smaller portions of a car can be spot-wrapped, or all the painted surfaces can be covered. With special perforated, see-through materials, even the windows can be wrapped.

Q: What kinds of designs are possible?A: The designs are generated in the Photoshop and Illustrator computer programs and are limited only by personal creativity. You can do all sorts of crazy things with real photos, hand-drawn or computer-generated designs, and typography, or you can keep it simple like we did with our flame job. The possibilities with graphics on vinyl wraps are much more extreme than what can practically be done with paint. See some ideas on page 86.

Q: Are there color limitations?A: There's currently no way to do metallics, candies, or fluorescents on vinyl, though Traister says that a reflective wrap is available that looks sort of metallic in daylight, but it's super expensive (like five times more than a regular wrap). Flat, no-sheen materials are also an option, and flat black is very popular on new cars (do a Google search on "murdered out" to learn more about that craze). Canby Graphics is working on a system where gloss graphics can be added over a satin base.Also, the colors will not look exactly like paint because they are printed on the vinyl with solvent-based inks in a very tight dot pattern. Colors look just a little hazier and the edges are just a little softer than what's possible with paint.

Q: Can pinstriping or other spot paints be added on top of the vinyl?A: Yes, paints such as One-Shot will adhere, though you can't add a clearcoat over them.

Q: Will wrapping hurt the existing paint job on the car?A: No, today's best materials made by 3M have a special adhesive that comes off clean. Traistersays it only takes 20 minutes to remove a complete wrap from a typical car and that there's almost no cleanup. We've seen people add wraps to brand-new cars and the vinyl can serve to protect the paint.

Q: Are there various grades of vinyl available?Traister says, "There are two different grades of vinyl you can wrap with, calendered vinyl and cast vinyl. Calendered vinyl will have a life span from six months to two years depending on where the vehicle is located. Calendered vinyl won't conform in channels or around heavy compound curves as well as cast vinyl. Cast vinyl is typically recommended for all vehicle wraps due to its conformability and dimensional stability." Also, Traister uses 3M products exclusively and says they are noticeably higher in quality than others on the market.

Q: How long will a wrap last?A: Assuming the superior cast product is used, the typical life is five years. The printed vinyl is covered by a clear laminate with UV protection. After five years, the sunnier the environment, the quicker the degradation.

Q: Are there any problems with the edges lifting up over time?A: Traister says, "Vinyl wraps are not paint. You can get a wrap to look very good for most applications, but over a short time, extreme channels and edges can lift. Any lifting that may happen will typically be in the first few weeks. If installed properly, it's typically very minimal and does not compromise the appearance." Of course, pro installation over a clean surface is also critical. For tight bends and channels, Traister uses 3M adhesion promoter to prevent lifting.

Q: Does it matter if the car's existing paint surface is not shiny?A: No, the vinyl will adhere to either polished or flat surfaces such as primer, but they must be free of dirt, wax, and grease.

Q: Will the vinyl hide colors and bodywork underneath it?A: The adhesive backing is usually gray and totally opaque; on our Impala, it completely concealed all the primer spots. However, we learned the hard way that the vinyl hides nothing in the way of scratches or dents. We were hoping that it had some ability to cloak surface imperfections, but it conforms so well that you can even see 220-grit sanding scratches through the vinyl. Body prep needs to be almost as thorough as if you were ready to spray a finish coat of paint.

Q: How do you care for the vinyl versus paint?A: Vinyl does not need to be waxed. It can be easily cleaned up with a spray-detailer product. Pressure-washing such as in commercial car washes is not recommended because it may lift the edges of the vinyl.

Q: Are there body styles that are too difficult to wrap cleanly, like a stepside pickup, for example?A: Traister says, "Yes, there are some limitations on how the vinyl can be stretched without lifting and while holding the exact color. We usually need to panel or splice those sections so they will adhere better. On very extreme curves, you may get some difference in color due to the ink thinning as the vinyl is stretched to conform to the surface."

Q: How large are the individual vinyl panels and will there be obvious seams in the final product?A: Vehicle wraps usually use vinyl that comes in widths of 54 or 48 inches. In the instance that there aren't any body panel lines to use for panels, you would then have a seam.