Not all vehicle graphics providers are created equal. Not every large format printer is a complete full-service provider. Some only print, others print and do some design work, but don’t install. Many aren’t equipped to come to you, and still more aren’t prepared to remove existing graphics or de-identify fleet vehicles. They leave it up to the fleet’s owner to prep the fleet for vehicle graphics application. A true full-service fleet graphics provider does all the above and more.
Proper preparation of fleet vehicles to receive adhesive vinyl graphics is critical. Adhesive vinyl graphics will not adhere to improperly prepped vehicles. They will bubble, rip, and split. That’s not a good look for your fleet.
Removal of Old Graphics
There are several factors to consider when removing old adhesive vinyl graphics from a fleet vehicle. First, how long have the graphics been on the vehicle? If the adhesive vinyl has been on longer than manufacturer recommendations, special care will be needed during de-identification as not to damage the surface of the vehicle, which can lead to further expense and time spent in repair.
The material used can make a huge difference during removal. Less expensive products meant for short term applications can become almost impossible to remove when left on a vehicle for longer than recommended. Sometimes they have to be scraped off the vehicle leaving marks, scratches, and abrasions. Covering the damage with new adhesive vinyl graphics can help. However, at the end of a lease the lessee will be held responsible for any damage.
Another factor is condition. For example, vinyl graphics on trucks that have experienced driving under low hanging tree branches are often cracked and split at the top of the truck. This adds time and expense to the removal.
Improper installation can lead to removal issues as well as adhesives that are too harsh for the application.
“Preparing a vehicle for graphics installation isn’t complicated, but if you leave a step out, the outcome can be disastrous.
It’s as Easy as 1-2-3
- 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.
- When removing adhesive graphics from a vehicle some residual adhesive may remain on the surface. Use a citrus based cleaner to remove the adhesive, then follow up with alcohol. Before applying the decal, inspect the surface for debris, lint, or moisture.
Pro Tip— For your final pre-installation step, coat the surface with 3M 94 Vehicle Graphics Primer.” — Prepping a Vehicle for Graphics Installation.
Good design begins with understanding the needs of the customer. A pretty design that doesn’t share the message a client wants to deliver or one that doesn’t reach the prospects target audience isn’t good design regardless of how pretty it is.
Delivering the Message
“Have you seen interesting vehicle graphics, billboards, or some other form of advertisement, and although it was eye-catching, wondered who the company was? I see this all the time. It’s an example of design getting in the way of the message. With the advent of digital printers and modern printable adhesive vinyl’s it’s easy to get lost in design creation. However, the priority of vehicle graphic isn’t to deliver an esoteric piece of art — it’s to deliver the message. Don’t misunderstand me; there’s nothing wrong with delivering the message through a vehicle graphic design that’s a work of art. That’s a win-win.” — 2 Keys to Great Vehicle Graphic Design
Is it a Long bed or a Short Cab?
Something often overlooked that is paramount to good design is accurate measurements of the fleet vehicles to be wrapped. And not only physical measurements by models, options, and add-on equipment. For example, according to The Daily Drive, there are more than 2 billion ways to order a Ford F-150 truck. 2 Billion.
4 Sides to the Story
Fleet graphics are three-dimensional, vehicles have four sides, curves, glass, and more. A design that looks great on a two-dimensional computer screen might not work on the actual car or truck. Time and time again we’ve been sent design work that won’t work on the vehicle. One of my favorites was a very large company that sold condiments. They wanted a bottle of one of their products on the fleet vehicles. However, the design they’d sent didn’t look like a bottle on the three-dimensional vehicle.
Another key ingredient to great fleet graphic design is to picture the vehicle on the road. What will it look like cruising at 65 MPH as well as sitting at a customer’s place of business?
Large format printing is complicated. It’s not like hitting print on your office copier. To begin with, proper color calibration of digital printers can make the difference between printing a graphic that matched the branded colors of a customer or missing it by a mile. At TKO we take the time to calibrate our printers.
“Our production manager at TKO Graphix, Tom McClelland, shared a story with me about a customer who was unable to match the existing rear panel of his vehicle wrap on his monster truck. The panel of the truck had been damaged in an accident (what a surprise) and needed replacing.
However, when the truck’s owner went back to the graphics company, who had manufactured the original decal, they couldn’t match the color even though the decal was less than a year old, wasn’t significantly faded, and was a standard color.” — Digital Print Color Calibration, or “Man, do the flames on my truck look pink in the daylight?”
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of adhesive vinyl material to choose from. For example, “Vinyl begins as Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), then additives create the vinyl film used to wrap vehicles. Plasticizers are added for flexibility, pigments for color, and then UV absorbers and heat stabilizers to create a vinyl that will conform to a vehicle’s shape and withstand the elements.
Cast, or “premium vinyl,” is a process like 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. 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.” — Are their Different Vinyl Graphic Materials?
And it’s not only the material it’s also the ink. 3M’S warranty on its popular 180 adhesive series require specific inks, which if not used can nullify the warranty. 3M 180 series adhesive vinyl warranty.
Screen or Digital
You don’t hear much about large format screen print today, but only a few years ago it was the predominant form of print for fleet graphics. Although digital offers the ability to print multiple images and colors there’s still a place for screen. A larger run of one or two colors may be more cost effective on screen. Digital uses set PMS colors. When a brand needs a particular color that isn’t on the PMS chart, screen print is an option. Screen inks are mixed similar to paint and can be “matched” to the clients branded color.
“What is finishing? Finishing is the process of preparing adhesive vinyl graphics for shipping and installation. Here’s the process.
Weeding – Weeding is the act of removing unwanted areas of the print. For example, the vinyl around letters is removed leaving only the letters. It’s a tedious and painstaking operation. It’s also tremendously important. Weeding must be exact with nothing damaged or removed unintentionally. Removing even one letter ruins a decal.
Pre-masking – Premask is a wide material similar to masking tape used to cover and protect adhesive vinyl graphics. There are many different types of premask used for different vinyl materials and inks. For example, there’s one premask used with a liner (backing), another for prints with no liner, and still another for thermal pressed screen prints. Using the incorrect premask may cause it to adhere too tightly to the graphic and damage the print or conversely not adhere leaving the print exposed to damage. Applying premask is a skill. When tension isn’t evenly applied, creases may form which can ruin the print.
Cutting – Precisely following layouts can reduce installation challenges. Occasionally, sections of a graphic may need replaced due to a change or damage. It’s extremely important to place all letters and images in the exact location intended.
Is it finished?
Without the TKO Graphix Finishing Department, our wraps and decals wouldn’t be … finished. The Finishing Departments attention to detail helps TKO Graphix met customer expectations. It ain’t finished ‘till it’s finished.” — The Importance of a Finishing Department in Graphics
At TKO Graphix our shipping department does a lot more than ship graphics. The team does a final quality check, checks counts so that the end user gets what they want and need, and manages fulfillment programs for some of our top customers. So, it’s a lot more than mailing packages. However, the team is on top of everything shipping. They build boxes and crates to meet the customers’ needs and then make sure the graphics are well protected. The team researches and finds the fastest transit times at the best rates. Another key ingredient for customers as well as installation teams is that the shipping department takes the time to list the contents of each box and crate on the exterior of the box. Easily identifying what you have can make a huge difference when it comes time to install the product.
Vehicle graphics installation is more than checklists and processes. As important as procedures are it takes a creative mind to be a great vehicle graphic installer. The best adhesive vinyl applicators are artists. A landscape painter has to know how to hold the brush and mix the paint. And installers need to know the differences in surfaces and material before they can create their art.
If you want to find the best installers look for customer testimonials and examples of their work. Time in business, installer experience, and certification are all keys to finding the best installation teams as well.
“There are two primary vehicle graphics installation certification programs. PDAA (Professional Decal Application Alliance), which is administered by SGIA (Specialty Graphics Imaging Association), and UASG (United Application Standards Group), through 3M. Both require extensive training and testing, and there are different levels of certification. For example, PDAA offers both basic and master certification. According to PDAA, ‘Basic certification accommodates companies that have absolutely no interest in doing vehicle wraps with complex curves.’ So be sure you have an application team certified for the type of installation required.” — How to Find the Best Vehicle Graphics Installers.
The TKO Graphix CSR team is outstanding. They act as liaison between every department and the customer and do an outstanding job of it. But don’t take my word for it, 10 Client’s Rate TKO Graphix Customer Service.
So, what does a full-service fleet graphic provider do? They prep vehicles by removing old graphics and thoroughly cleaning fleet cars and trucks prior to installation. They offer design services from experienced fleet graphics designers, and share print options. A full-service team finishes the product, ships it the best possible way, and uses experienced teams of installers. And then, to follow all of that up they have outstanding customer service.
Our Mission is Customer Satisfaction
I could have saved a lot of time and words if I’d only shared TKO Graphix mission statement because it says it all.
“Customer service and quality products come first, success for all involved will naturally follow as we try to produce superior commercial graphics.”
If we can be of any service let us know, Contact Us.