Let’s Talk Shop: Advertising and Design Uses for Window Films

A great primer on the wide variety of window films available and details on how you can use them to increase revenue.

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Graphics on windows are a huge opportunity to expand advertising as well as the products you offer. From small spot graphics to full coverage, there are many options on the market to meet your customer’s needs.

For vehicle advertising, we often think about the body of the vehicle but the windows on the vehicles are a blank canvas that shouldn’t be overlooked. Extending graphics onto windows provides an excellent opportunity for expanding advertising.

Advertising may also be added to storefronts by incorporating large vinyl graphics and specialty window films. For interior design applications there are a large number of decorative finishes available as well.

Window Films for Vehicles

For most of our vehicle wraps, we use a perforated window film to extend the advertising area of the wrap while still allowing the driver and passengers to see out from the inside. Again, we’ll extend the design elements right onto the window. For our perforated films we use a 50/50 film, which means that 50 percent of the film is printable vinyl while 50 percent is made up of perforations (tiny holes). Our preference for vehicles is Clear Focus ClassicVue Exterior Mount film with Clear Focus CurvaLam overlaminate. We’ve used this material for years without failure.

When designing graphics for a perforated film that is intended for vehicles, keep in mind small text and details can be lost in the holes of the material. Use a larger font size and bright colors for best results.

Because of the perforations the colors of graphics may appear to be darker than those printed adjacent on regular wrap vinyl. ClearFocus recommends increasing “the image contrast by 10 percent to 20 percent to compensate” for lost reflection of light due to the perforated process.

On a few of our wraps we’ll use our regular wrap film right over a window if the customer needs to block out the window (i.e., for security reasons or if the window can’t or doesn’t need to be seen through). In these cases the printed wrap vinyl is just applied right over the window as if it isn’t there.

Storefront Perf

Another effective use for perforated window films is on storefronts. This is a great opportunity to expand advertising across doors and/or windows without reducing visibility from the inside.

Depending on your customer’s needs there are many different options in perforated films. ClearFocus’ EconoVue is available in a number of different perf options, allowing more or less printable area ratio to holes.

ClearFocus also offers an ImageVue 65/35 film with tighter holes that is ideal for smaller detail and text. For large building wraps, bus shelters and other retail applications with larger images, ClearFocus’ SuperVue is a 50/50 film perfect for these uses. The list of available films goes on, so be sure to check out ClearFocus’ website for a full list of products and applications.

3M also offers three different perforated window films. The 8170-P50 film is a 50/50 film that can be used on vehicles, while their 8170-P40 film is a 40/60 cast film that is ideal for retail applications. For an intermediate option, also ideal for retail advertising, check out 3M IJ67 perforated film.

As with all films, be sure to research the corresponding overlaminate that is recommended. Choose a laminate that meets the cast or intermediate properties of the film.

Retail Advertising

Besides perforated films there are many other film options for storefront glass, interior spaces and P.O.P. displays. Some of these films can move into a decorative category, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but they’re also great for creative advertising.

Retail storefronts with large glass doors and windows are a virtual blank slate for creating the image of the store within. Effective branding of the business extends beyond the logo, business cards and vehicles and can be easily reflected on the front of the building itself.

The same calendared and cast films that are used on vehicles and signs can also be used on glass windows depending on the desired longevity and visual effect. You don’t have to purchase or stock a special film to achieve printed, exterior graphics applied to glass.

But, you can. You can purchase special films that can be printed on and/or cut to create different effects, which is pretty cool.

ClearFocus’ CrystalVue is an exterior or interior film that creates a frosted effect on glass. Their EtchVue film creates an etched effect on glass. Either one can be printed or contour cut to create a custom design, and both are non-perforated films.

3M also offers a wide range of products for use on glass. Some of these products like their 3M Changeable Window Graphic Film IJ61 features a changeable adhesive for a shorter term advertisement. 3M IJ63 is a similar translucent film, also with a changeable adhesive.

For a cool effect on glass, check out 3M Scotchcal Clear View film IJ8150. This printable, optically clear, cast film also offers a changeable adhesive. The effect is similar to a perforated film, but without the holes.

Arlon Graphics also offers a decorative etched-glass window film, DPF 5200. The film comes in etched glass, silver etched glass and sparkle etched glass finishes. Cut to a logo shape or applied in sheets these films create a custom effect. All of the options can be further customized by printing.

Easy Install

A couple films that I’ve recently come across both boast an easy application. This can be a handy sales tool if you have a customer that either needs or wants to install the graphics themselves. Perhaps the graphics need to be shipped out to multiple locations for installation by on-site employees or the customer is on a tight budget and wants to save on installation costs.

One film called SpotOn, available from Drytac, is available in both a clear frosted finish and a white finish. These printable vinyls are intended for short term, indoor applications. The film has a removable adhesive, with a unique dot pattern, that touts an “easy, bubble-free application.”

Another film that one of our sales reps showed us is called Glass Adhere. It also can be easily removed and reused, multiple times. It’s a printable film that should not be laminated. Even without laminate it is still outdoor durable and comes in either a black out or clear version.


A cool application for window films is interior design effects. Some films may be used purely decoratively while others are primarily used for security or light control.

ClearFocus’ SunSecure is a 35/65 perforated film. This film is not intended for printing, rather its uses are primarily for privacy, glare reduction and heat/light control and is applied to the interior of the window.

3M’s Crystal Glass Finish film is another great film choice to create privacy with a decorative effect. A sandblasted or etched look is achieved with the Dusted or Frosted designs. The film is also printable and has a translucent look to it.

The 3M Fasara line of films also offers a large selection of decorative effects on glass. Dot patterns, varying lines, milky white finishes, rice paper and linen textures and geometric shapes are just a few of the many finish options within the Fasara line.

Most of the films are translucent, but there are also a couple opaque options. The films can be used on their own, die cut or even layered to create custom effects.


Charity Jackson

Charity Jackson is owner of Visual Horizons Custom signs, a full-service commercial sign company based in Modesto, Calif.  She has been in business since 1995 and specializes in vehicle wraps, design and project management and workflow. You can visit her Web site at www.vhsigns.com.

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