Wide-format Graphics: Vehicle wraps from design to installation


Photo courtesy Roland DGA

By Peter Saunders
Richard Childress Racing (RCR) recently kicked off the 2015 National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) season with new race car wraps at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. The team built significant momentum last year, with its star driver Ryan Newman finishing in second place—by less than one second—at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. Its sponsors remain the same this year, including Cheerios, Dow, Caterpillar and Quicken Loans; but their brands are featured in newly designed wraps, produced with eight Roland DGA wide-format digital inkjet printers.

“When it comes to new wrap concepts, we may need to create 20 different variations of a design for a sponsor to choose from,” explains Nick Woodward, RCR’s graphics manager, who oversees the process in a 232-m2 (2,500-sf) facility in Welcome, N.C. “We print and install a new wrap for every one of our cars prior to each race. During the course of an average season, we’ll complete approximately 325 full vehicle wraps, using more than 9,197 m2 (99,000 sf) of media.”

The current season started in mid-February, but Woodward’s crew started focusing on graphic design work last August and continued throughout the fall, to get a head start. During the racing season, wrap production and installation keep the technicians equally busy. And in addition to wrapping RCR race cars, they also wrap various support and transport vehicles and equipment used in the pit.

“Our wraps play a major role in RCR’s overall promotional plan, so each one needs to be perfect,” says Woodward. “The printers we use are fast, reliable and precise, allowing us to complete all of our jobs on time and get everything from the corporate colours to the smallest details of logos just right.”

RCR and Roland began working together in 2010. With a recent renewal of their partnership, their collaboration will continue through at least 2019, yielding hundreds more car wraps that will be seen by fans in the stands and viewers around the world. Such visibility only makes it all the more important to perfect the art of each wrap, from design through production to installation.


Wrapping instructor Justin Pate decorate this car with patterned graphics for his mother. Photo courtesy Justin Pate

Most vehicle wraps never race down a track or are seen by international viewers, but some of the fundamentals of successful design remain the same. According to Rob Ivers—a vinyl installation trainer and one of the directors of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s (SGIA’s) Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA)—the first step of a successful wrap lies with the designer, long before the more obvious challenges of installation.

JMR Graphics, a 3M-certified manufacturer of commercial vehicle wraps, emphasizes the following three characteristics, explaining they can help turn passersby into customers of an advertised business.

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