Applying your vinyl is simple if you follow some basic guidelines. The graphic generally comes in one piece and is sandwiched between a paper layer of transfer tape and a wax layer of backing. Start by removing the graphic from the packaging.
Flatten it out in a warm room where pets and children can't find it. That transfer tape is a low tack sheet that will lift your graphic in one piece. The transfer tape is no match for the vinyl's pressure sensitive adhesive which will bond to the surface very tightly.
You will need only a few things to accomplish this feat.
If you're installing outside, wait for a nice day. The worst weather is windy weather. Rain is OK, but not while you're applying. Tarp it off if you have to. Vinyl should never be applied in temperatures less than 40 degrees farenheit or 4 degrees celsius. The lettering surface should be free of dirt and wax for best results. Done properly, this job will last for over seven years.
- Mildly soapy water in a spray bottle or mister. Just enough dish detergent to break the surface tension and suds up a little. (About three or four drops per quart)
- A 'squeegee,' the piece of hard plastic in your package
- A roll of masking tape
- An exacto blade
- A tape measure
- To get the graphic on straight, start with a piece of tape on one corner. With the backing still on the graphic slap it up there where you think it should go. You can always move it if you don't like the position.
- "Hinge" the graphic along one of the straight edges with a long piece of tape. Half the tape should be on the transfer paper and half on the surface. Make sure it's got a good grip.
- Now when you flip the graphic back to remove the wax paper, everything stays in place. Test it. Make sure it's not getting loose. If you can't flip it back because you're on a curved surface, cut between the letters to make several smaller pieces which will be easier to work with.
- Peel back the wax paper and expose the sticky side of the vinyl. Long graphics sometimes call for a helper at this point, but if you have a graphic that can be divided into smaller sections, cut between the letters so that you're dealing with a more manageable piece of vinyl. Separating the letters after hinging is also very helpful when lettering on curved surfaces...each letter needs to fall differently and cutting between them will assure that you steer clear from leveling problems.
- Many times it's easier to smooth out the graphic if you mist the adhesive backing with a little soapy water. Wetting it also prevents it from sticking immediately and the soap makes the water "wetter." Usually a wet application is good; however, if it's too soapy and doesn't stick at all, you have to rinse some of that soap off with fresh water. Generally, use the wet application as it's easier to squeegee out water bubbles than it is to squeeze out air bubbles. When all the water evaporates from under the graphic in a few days, the vinyl will adhere as if it were installed dry. If you're one of those daring pros, you'll start with a dry application because you know it's going to stick better right away.
- Lay the vinyl close to the surface. It won't stick if you've wet it down, especially if you don't press it too hard. It's called "pressure sensitive" vinyl which means that the harder it is pressed, the harder it sticks. Holding the free edge tautly, just off the surface , pull the squeegee across the center of the graphic to get a good center line of adhesion.
- Now you can lift one of the sides up and squeegee from the center line toward the edges. ALWAYS work from the center toward the edges. This avoids trapping air or water bubbles.
- Finish off the other half the same way (from the center to the edges, then from the middle to the top and bottom). If you started with a good centerline, the rest of the vinyl will fall into place naturally.
- Finish by spraying down the transfer tape with that spray bottle. Squeegee a little more for good measure and let the water soak into the paper. The water not only helps you apply the vinyl smoothly, it also loosens the paper and helps to remove it without pulling the vinyl back off the boat. Pop any bubbles with a pin and press out the air or water. Any water bubbles will evaporate.
© 1999 Image Effects