How Long Do Vehicle Graphics Take?

By |2021-02-16T12:13:49-05:00October 22, 2010|Vehicle Wraps & Graphics|

So, how long do vehicle graphics take? Good question because a lot of customers want the answer. I recently asked our staff what’s on our customers’ minds? I learned that customer questions included “How much do vehicle graphics cost? ”, “Do I need to wrap the entire truck?”, and “Can you use my logo?” However, according to our staff, the number one question our customers ask is, “How long do vehicle graphics take?” That’s a good question but shouldn’t customers be asking, “How long do vehicle graphics take to do it right?”

How Long Do Vehicle Graphics Take?

Typically, it takes two or three weeks to design, produce, and install custom vehicle graphics; however, it depends on several factors. Here are some of the things that will affect the time of completion.

  • Is it a full wrap, partial wrap, or decals?
  • Are there old adhesive vinyl vehicle graphics to be removed?
  • Do require repair work?
  • Do you have print ready artwork or will we be working with your team on a design?
  • Where are the vehicles?
  • When will the cars and trucks be available to us?
  • How many vehicles are there?

All of these factors affect the process. One job we did last year took three months to complete. However, it was more than 17,000 pieces of equipment that needed old graphics removed, new vinyl applied, and the vehicles were scattered across North America.

The Rush Job 

Sometimes customers will come to us with a rush job. And I have to say overall, we’re really good at accommodating customer’s needs, but we never rush so fast as to affect the quality of our product. Yes, time is money, but poor quality can cause losses. A “rush” is not always the best procedure. Have you noticed graphics on the road such as vehicle wraps, signs, and billboards, that looked rushed? And think about this, is a rushed, poorly executed, fleet graphic how you want your organization represented and remembered?

On my way home from work, there’s a bench by a bus stop with advertising. The call to action lists the phone number, but it’s one digit short — it looks rushed.

I remember seeing a yard sign in my neighborhood for a home remodeling company with about a one-inch high font. It couldn’t be read from ten feet away, let alone while driving past it. Was it rushed? As I look out my window onto the busy four lanes of Stafford road, I see far too many vehicles that have no clear message. Should you rush something consumers will be looking at for several years? How long does it take to do it right?

What Variables Affect the Time Needed?

Raw Materials

Material procurement can slow the process; however, if a specific material or ink will do a better job, or is more cost effective, is it worth the wait? Yes, because there are different vinyl graphics materials used for specific purposes. Below is one example of the differences in materials.

Vinyl begins as Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), then additives create the vinyl film used to wrap vehicles. Plasticizers are added for flexibility, pigment is added for color, then UV absorbers and heat stabilizers are added to create a vinyl that will conform to a vehicle’s shape and withstand the elements. Cast, or “premium vinyl,” is a process similar to making a cake. Ingredients are mixed and solvents are added, then poured into a casting sheet, which is baked, allowing the solvents to evaporate. This process makes a very flexible, thin, shrink-resistant material, which adheres well to curves and complex corners. Another manufacturing option is the calendar or economy process. In this method, ingredients are mixed, but solvents aren’t added. Like pizza dough, the vinyl is rolled and stretched into the desired shape. This material is thicker and having been stretched, it tends to shrink and should only be used on flat surfaces, never on curves or corners.

Here’s an example of some of the many Adhesive Vinyl Graphics Products available from leading adhesive vinyl manufacturer 3M.


Who will create the design? Are there brand guidelines to be followed? Who is your target audience, what is your USP (Unique Sales Position) and do you want to share a CTA (Call to Action) are just a few of the questions to answer before the design process begins.

I’m privileged to work on a team with several talented designers. I’m not a designer. I’m the copy person, but I’ve been exposed to them enough to know what they do is special. Designing a three-dimensional graphic takes forethought, precision, and attention to detail. I remember a potential sponsor for an Indy car whose product came packaged in a bottle. Their creative team sent us a beautiful design for the race car with the bottle on the nose of the race car. Their design shared every view of the car. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work. The manager of our design team showed me by using a 3D template how the design would appear on the car. You couldn’t tell it was a bottle. A total redesign was called for; it needed our team’s touch. With vehicle graphic design—there’s more than meets the eye.

Vehicle Preparation

Vehicle prep includes thoroughly cleaning the vehicles so that no debris, dirt, solvents, or contaminants remain. Prepping a vehicle for graphics installation is a critical step in proper vehicle graphics installation and should never be rushed or short cut. Here’s a short explanation of the process.

Clean the vehicle using a 50/50 mixture of water and Isopropyl alcohol and be sure to use lint-free rags. Use one rag to apply the alcohol, and another to dry. If the vehicle is really dirty, you might consider washing the car first with soap and water, then cleaning with the 50/50 mix. If graphics were removed from the vehicle, some residual adhesive will remain on the surface. Use a citrus based cleaner to remove the adhesive, then follow up with alcohol to eliminate the citrus. Before applying the decal, inspect the surface for debris, lint, or moisture.

What Else Can Slow Down the Process?

  • Missing information, such as measurements, logos, and installation requirements, can delay the project. Another problem is not sharing complete details on the vehicle such as model, year, and equipment.
  • Order changes can slow the process.
  • Unsuitable artwork —  cleaning up inferior artwork can take time.

What Can Customers Do to Shorten the Time Needed?

  • Do your homework and have a design or message in mind before the process begins. Multiple design changes, while acceptable, may add cost and time to the job.
  • Make your expectations clear.
  • Share complete and accurate information about your vehicle(s).

 We Take the Time to Do It Right for You

“We process 600-800 orders per month, and all of them are custom (produced), and none of them can be used for another. Our salespeople try to communicate what is realistic, and not what they think the customer wants to hear. Telling someone what they want to hear, and not the truth, only leads to empty promises and damaged relationships every time.” — Denny Smith, TKO Graphics COO

“Unrealistic expectations diminish TKO’s reputation. We should always give (the most accurate) estimate for the time required to do it right, not what the customer wants to hear.” —Chris Hurley, TKO Graphix VP of Administration

Do You Need Some of Our Time?

If you’d like to learn more, we’d be happy to talk with you about it. If we can answer any questions, let us know, and if you need help with design, print, or installation, Contact Us, or you can request a quote today!

TKO Graphix is a national fleet and vehicle graphics company helping customers since 1985. We provide full-service graphics solutions such as design, digital printing, screen printing, installation and removal of fleet graphics, vehicle graphics, and commercial graphics.




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