All you need to know about quality vehicle graphics.

Smart and durable signage on company vehicles is a fantastic and economical means of generating publicity. Instead of hiring a billboard or a space in the newspaper, car vinyl signs use space that you already own and that remains on display whenever the car is out and about on the road. Poorly applied vinyl, in contrast, might give the same impression as a shopfront on which the name has letters missing – it’s off-putting and discouraging, not creating a very good impression at all.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to exploit the full potential of your car signage and get that professional finish every time. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

The foundations

There’s a lot more to applying self-adhesive vinyl to your car than simply sticking it on! Whether you print your own signs or order them from a signmaker, one potential stumbling block is storage. Vinyl must be stored in a dry, cool location protected from direct sunlight. If you have whole rolls of vinyl for printing onto or cutting letters from, they should be rested on roll blocks or suspended to avoid damage. It’s generally advisable not to store vinyl film for more than a couple of years, especially if you want a professional finish.

It’s also key to avoid any contamination of the vinyl. Most people are aware that the substrate, in this case the car’s surface, must be spotless, but there are a couple of other considerations. Avoid dust and dirt contaminating the material by making sure that you do not apply the premask on the same workspace that the vinyl is cut on. Dust, in particular, is a primary cause of bubbles under the vinyl post-application.

Types of vinyl

There are two main types of vinyl used for vehicle signs and lettering: cast and calendered vinyl. Calendered vinyl is produced by squeezing a mixture consisting of PVC, resin and plasticisers through a series of ‘calendars’ – essentially rollers – until the sheet reaches the desired thickness. The calendered vinyl film constantly changes shape throughout the manufacturing process, resulting in a slightly unstable molecular memory. This leads to less dimensional stability, meaning cracking, shrinkage and peeling of the vinyl over time.

Cast vinyl is generally more costly, but with good reason. Cast vinyl is manufactured by pouring a mixture of solvents, plasticisers, resins and other chemicals onto a moving tray that moves through an oven. The heat causes the solvents to evaporate, leaving behind a thin vinyl film.

Adding colour is much easier with cast vinyl, so there tends to be a broader array of colours available. The constant thickness and shape maintained throughout the manufacturing process gives cast vinyl a far greater level of dimensional stability and conformability. This makes it an excellent choice for sticking around complex curves and forms with relative ease. Which type will produce better results for you depends on the nature of the substrate, but generally, modern, high quality calendered vinyl can provide the best of both worlds.


So you’ve chosen your vinyl, but what is going to keep it in place? The choice here is between acrylic and solvent.

Acrylic adhesives are generally water-based, making them vulnerable to solvents and moisture. This can affect the application process if used with application fluids. These fluids are used to lubricate the substrate, and the vinyl is placed on top and can be positioned perfectly before the application fluid is squeezed out by smoothing the vinyl down. This process directly exposes the acrylic adhesive to the application fluid, weakening the adhesive and resulting in extended curing time. Likewise, the lifespan of acrylic adhesives can be shortened by exposure to the elements.

Solvent adhesive, on the other hand, is a lot more resistant to moisture. This allows for a wet application using the fluid mentioned above without a significant extension of curing times. Rain and humidity are also nothing to worry about. Solvent adhesives are more expensive, but, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” For car vinyl signs, which will have to tolerate moisture and general wear, solvent adhesive is the best bet.


Now the show can actually get on the road! The tool used to smooth out the vinyl is called a squeegee blade. After checking for exposed sharp edges, run the squeegee with firm, smooth and overlapping strokes over the vinyl, holding it at a 45 degree angle. If you’re using an application fluid, it’s wise to have a cloth or paper towel on hand to dab around the edges of the vinyl as you push the fluid out from underneath.


Whether you intend to keep your vehicle vinyl for a couple of weeks or a couple of years, the time will eventually arrive when it needs to be removed. Simply peeling off is the easiest way, and there are a selection of tools, such as plastic razor blades, to help you lift up the corners of the vinyl to get a grip on it to peel it off. The younger the vinyl, the greater your chances of it coming off in large pieces. If the vinyl has been in place for several years, it is likely to be brittle and will peel off in little segments. This is due to UV exposure over an extended period of time removing all of the plasticisers.

If this happens, try leaving the vehicle parked in the hot sun to heat up the face film. The heat will also soften the adhesive under-layer, resulting in less residue. There are a variety of chemicals available that dissolve any adhesive residue, allowing it to simply be wiped away.

Here at Vehicle Sign Writing, we have the knowledge and experience to be able to guide you through the maze of choices and technologies involved with car vinyl signs. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any queries. Call us on 01273 417059

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