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"Wrap" Sessions With Three Vehicle-Graphic Providers

(January 2016) posted on Wed Jan 06, 2016

Tips, tricks and trends they've observed

By Steve Aust

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Wicked Wraps, Mukilteo, WA
What have been the biggest changes since you opened your shop?

Back in the day, we printed on an eco-solvent machine that took forever to outgas and dry. Now, we use a latex printer, and never have to wait before we laminate. We began with calendered film for flat surfaces, but have switched to cast films and laminates for everything because of its superior performance.
The biggest change has been knifeless tape. The filament-cutting system lets us trim in hard-to-reach areas and crevices without the risk of cutting the paint.

How do you incorporate templates and software into your design?
We use The Bad Wrap templates on everything we do. They help us visualize how the design translates to a vehicle, and how we work around such obstacles as door handles, body lines, etc. The templates save so much time in having to create the initial channels yourself, and make creating presentations for customers easy and very professional-looking.
However, they’re not foolproof. Although they’re sufficient for the simple surface of a box truck or trailer, it’s impossible to perfectly replicate the curves on a vehicle’s surface – they have curves. Neither can flat Photoshop files account for them. You can get into trouble if you go straight to print without checking, and double-checking, measurements with a soft tape measure and adjust 1/8 in. either way to provide an optimal fit.
We use Photoshop software for wraps, and Illustrator for die-cut graphics. Photoshop has so many features, but you need to understand them, and educate yourself about how they function. Great artists proudly admit the learning never stops.

How do you prep vehicles for wrap installation?
First we wash and clay-bar the vehicles (a system that incorporates a putty compound and spray cleaner to more effectively remove contaminants than soap and water). Then, our body shop comes to our shop and removes all auto-body parts that would impede wrapping. Then, we use 3M’s prep solution for a final cleaning, and remove wheels and tires. This process adds a few hours, and having the parts pulled raises our cost, but it improves the overall quality.


What materials and printer do you use? RIP?
We primarily use Avery Dennison films – we’ve found they perform well in our damp climate – and matte laminates are becoming more popular. We don’t use calendered vinyl for anything. Latex-ink prints are a boost for print resolution and installation time; we always print high-quality, low-speed with the highest resolution.
Color profiling with Caldera’s RIP is incredible. It has a steep learning curve, stringent technology requirements, and doesn’t allow designing within the program. But we couldn’t be happier; the color control makes it superior.
Special-effect and carbon-fiber, non-printed wraps now represent about 10% of our business. It’s a growing market, but still small compared to business wraps.

What tools are most essential?
Geek Wraps felt squeegees are far and away the best, and its PowerSlam neodymium magnets help installation. YelloTools’ gold Titan blades provide superior cutting. But our favorite tool is a 360° laser level. This type shoots a plumb line that you can set to be level or follow a body contour.
Ours was the first U.S. shop to purchase a Kala Mistral laminator. It provides even heat and controlled, precise pressure. With no impeding metal plates, the rollers are easily accessible for loading and cleaning. You can laminate 150 ft. of roll media with very little “walking”, which means the laminate roll is moving towards one side or another and applying unevenly.

What are the most common wrap mistakes you see?
Many mistakes can result from a third party getting involved with design, fabrication or installation. Constant communication between everyone involved is important. Whether it’s where to seam if necessary, whether to bleed a color, whether a graphic should be an overlay or imprinted, or countless other decisions, they’re best made when everyone is working in-house as a team from start to finish.


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