Uncategorized

Preparing for a Decal Job

There are six basic kinds of decals:

• Cut Vinyl (cut out of colored film vinyl)

• Digitally Printed Vinyl

• Hybrid Mixtures of Cut Vinyl & Digital Vinyl used together, to reduce the cost

• Silk-screened Vinyl, for larger-quantity runs

• Digitally Printed Transparent Decals, such as the ones you see on municipal bus windows

• Windshield Decals with Adhesive Faces

We never know just how much familiarity people may already have with this sort of thing, so forgive us if you’re already aware of any of this, but, so that you don’t waste time when wrangling or preparing art, here are some tips:

STEP ONE: Find out what brand, year, and specific model(s) of vehicle you’re needing to decal.
We’ll check to see if we have, or can secure, a template of the vehicle’s shape, upon which we can render your design. If it’s a semi or an RV, you’ll need a drafted image of the vehicle into which to drop your design. If you have not bought or leased your vehicles yet, having commonality among vehicles, instead of a mixture, will result in design and production savings.

If you are leasing vehicles or using Ryder rentals, for instance, the cost of removing the rental or leasing company’s own decals, or “de-IDing” the rental company’s own logo decals, then applying your decals, then de-IDing the vehicle (removing your decals at the end of the rental) and, finally, re-IDing the rental trucks again, thereby restoring-back the rental company’s logo decals, will have to be added-in, in order to determine the real, overall costs.

This mainly applies to special project vehicles used in promotional tours, etc., but you need to be aware of this as an issue. We need to know how long the decals are to be on the truck, so we can use a different adhesive if they’re only supposed to be on for a brief duration.

CUT VINYL: The best graphic program to use is often Adobe Illustrator. Where possible, we’ll want to use the “Pathfinder Unite filter” to clump same-color, same-layer components together, where appropriate, so they’re cut-out as a single block. All of your type will need to be converted to outlines, without strokes on your lettering.

COLORS: Unfortunately, since there’s a limited pallet of film vinyl colors, We’ll need to know about which colors you need to use, so we can gather up some samples of the film colors which are closest to the colors you’re contemplating, just to see what’s feasible, and what film-colors would meet your approval. If color is critical, and no suitable matches are found amongst the available film vinyls, we may have to go with a digital approach, so long as the colors in question can be reproduced in process color.

DIGITAL VINYL is for detailed, heavily stroked, gradient-filled, or photographic artwork. Again, Illustrator is good, in that it’s scalable. Text must be converted to outlines. If you’re wanting to place photos or if the whole thing is just one big TIFF, call us, and let’s discuss the resolution, before you get very far along. We may need big, serious drum scans, instead of the kind of desktop scans you can get away-with when doing brochures, etc. If you’re using a digital camera, again, we’ll need some idea of the design’s photos’ sizes, in order to make sure you have sufficient image quality. We also need to have determined what specific printing equipment will be being used, before you submit your final art or its components, because some equipment will require RGB files, even though they’re printing in CMYK, while others require CMYK files.

On any of the vehicular decals, other than the windshield decals, you need to be laying in your design on a template of the actual car, truck, or van you’re wanting to decal, even if it’s not going to be a full wrap. Even a simple box truck needs to have the outlines of all sides, with doors, hinge & lock mechanisms, door bumpers and retention clips, vents, corner guards, trim work, reflectors ans lights, etc., all accurately drafted first. Then we can design your layout to fit, not only literally, but also in pleasing proportion, and avoid having a ventilation grill or a curbside door hinge poking through your art in an awkward place.

TRANSPARENT WINDOW DECALS: Here again, you need to be using shape templates to determine how your design lays up on the vehicle. We redundantly print the design onto the “regular” vinyl and onto the transparent vinyl in an area large enough to bleed past the perimeter of the window’s shape. This is necessary to allow the installers to have some leeway as to how the decals are applied, so that the window decal’s image matches up to the regular vinyl’s image, and they visually “flow into each other.”

NOTE: Since the way the transparent vinyl works is to have tiny holes pinpricking the surface, we need to keep this portion of the image content thick and coarse, without tiny objects and detail on the areas which you know will be superposing windows, because the holes, though small, will cause fine detail to “fall out.”

WINDSHIELD DECALS tend to be diecut into shapes chosen from an existing batch of cutting dies, or you can have a die made, from an illustrator keyline, but we try to stick with existing shapes and design within them, to avoid die charges, if possible.

Windshield decals are done by silk-screening, and the usual “no tiny objects,” “no tiny gaps between objects,” “no thin rule lines” art guidelines apply to these, as with any silk-screening job. Windshield decals are printed onto clear material, so we must print a white ink “fill,” behind your other imprint colors in order to give us opacity in the design-area.

SILK-SCREENING ONTO VINYL is how we’d look at doing larger-quantity vehicular decals, though it is sometimes used on small-quantity jobs with “problem” gradients. (Some large expanses of pastel gradients do not render properly in four-color digital printing; you may even have seen some of the more ghastly examples of this, even on expensive jobs attempted by people who were not aware of this issue.)

That’s why we want to see what you’re needing to accomplish, even if we need to sign an NDA for you before we have a peek, just to make sure that you’re not about to get yourself into trouble.  This applies to quotes, as well as to actual production. Basically, we need to know what you’re trying to accomplish, in order to quote things or to produce things properly.
Again, if you’re tracking down capabilities, even if they’re not explicitly listed among this site’s contents, let me know. If we can help you directly, fine. If not, we may know of someone who can help you. We can also help out by modifying existing files to prepare their contents for use in different kinds of production. We’ve done this for agencies from here in D/FW and others in NYC, San Francisco, Denver, Reno, St. Louis, Chicago, Dubuque, Louisville, and Kansas City. They send the file, we set it up for a particular kind of production, get their approval of the subsequent proof, and we’re good-to-go.

PREPARING THE VEHICLE ITSELF: We will need to determine a convenient location for installing the decals. Installers can be tasked with application throughout the country, but being able to access several vehicles in the same location is obviously much more efficient.
Each vehicle must be clean, with chemicals, road tar, dead bugs and bird droppings removed. During cold weather, decals must be applied in a truck shed or similar large building with sufficient space, lighting, even flooring, and temperature control, to allow the installers to work with the decals.

HOW TO SMOOTHLY “DECAL” CERTAIN VEHICLES WHICH ARE DAMAGED OR HEAVILY COVERED IN RIVETS: Some trailers or boxes may still be usable for hauling cargo, but are so dented, roughly patched, or else are covered so heavily in large rivets, that they can’t present the decals smoothly.

What to do?

For those vehicles, there are frames which can be installed onto the sides, lining-up with the dimensions of the sides, into which flexible graphic panels maybe fitted, and stretched-tight. When a new message is desired, the old graphic sheet is removed and replaced with the new one; the frame remains installed. And it really looks like a small, tight frame to the image, not like some sort of contraption. Most people seeing the trailer would not distinguish this device’s appearance from a typical trailer with regular decals, as it is installed so snugly up against the side. This is also certainly worth considering in situations in which large rivets would keep the surface of the image from looking as smooth as you would prefer. This approach is a great innovation, and anybody needing to put graphics onto a “problem surface” should probably be grateful that it exists. This can also be used on buildings, where a rough wall surface might otherwise make graphic installation a problem.

There is now even a new, adhesive-backed graphic membrane applied using a heat gun, so that the material sucks-up against brick or cinder block wall surfaces, resulting in a graphic which looks for all the world as if the image had been painted directly onto the masonry surface. Amazing.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

Comments are closed.