By Jason Yard
The wide-format graphic installation field is heavily influenced by new trends and products, making it important for installers to seek ongoing training. While new products are constantly introduced to the marketplace, new uses are being discovered for existing materials and shared throughout the professional community. And to determine the best possibilities for sign industry growth moving forward, it is also important to analyze changes in customer preferences.
So, while graphic application may seem intuitive to a degree, unless one makes a conscious effort to stay up-to-date and well-informed concerning trends and best practices, it can be easy to fall behind.
Lessons from the field
Annual printing trade shows, such as the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) Expo, offer compelling opportunities not only to preview the latest products, but also to learn tips and tricks from industry peers and other professionals who best understand various graphic materials’ properties.
At the 2012 SGIA Expo, for example, visitors attended live demonstrations by the Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA)—a community of graphic installers within SGIA—that showed in detail how the latest trends are affecting the industry, from window films to vehicle wraps to environmental graphic design (EGD). Experts distributed information about best practices for graphic application, showed firsthand how various processes work and answered audience questions.
The wrapping of vehicles is by now one of the longest-standing and most easily recognized types of wide-format graphic application. Yet, it remains a popular topic of discussion within the industry and at trade shows.
This is because, even though vehicle wraps have been highly visible in the marketplace for quite some time, advances continue in the field. Newly released materials and repurposed ‘legacy’ products alike merited attention at PDAA’s application zone at the SGIA Expo.
One of the recent shifts in the vehicle graphics market has been toward the use of tuning films. These are vehicle-wrapping vinyls designed not to display multi-colour branding graphics, but instead to serve as an alternative to automotive paint, allowing a vehicle’s exterior colour to be completely changed without the hassle of repainting.
Today, tuning films are available in a wide array of colours and finishes. They can be used to simulate the appearance of many traditional glossy vehicle paints—and can be installed very similarly to a printed glossy wrap—but they can also yield less typical esthetics, including matte, iridescent (i.e. gleaming and rainbow-like) and brushed-metal finishes.
These films are highly conformable, featuring a repositionable air-egress adhesive. They can be used for partial or full vehicle wraps.
Some types of tuning films are ideal for full vehicle wraps, but textured films are designed only for partial wraps, i.e. of hoods, roofs, spoilers and so forth. So, it is important to choose the appropriate material for a given application.
Application requirements specific to tuning films should be kept in mind. In the case of a full wrap job, for instance, customers will usually want every square inch of their vehicle covered, which may require the removal of parts that would not otherwise be removed for a graphic wrap of a similar scale.