Extending vehicle graphics over windows allows your design to extend further on a vehicle, but it must be done without hampering driver visibility. When a customer has a window that is already blocked from the inside we simply apply solid vinyl right over the window, but when visibility is required, using a good perforated window film makes a big difference.
Throughout the design, printing and installation process there are little tips and tricks that will make your life easier. Look for videos and additional information on window film application on https://wraps-mag.com/ as well.
The obvious benefit of using perforated window films is that you can go larger with your graphics on a vehicle with windows. When cut vinyl was the primary media used we would contour cut and apply the graphics keeping the customer’s visibility and line of sight in mind. Sometimes we would have to relocate or eliminate window graphics if it created blind spots. Of course we still do cut-vinyl graphics and solid vinyl on windows for some applications, but perforated window film allows the coverage and the visibility that most people are looking for.
While benefits outweigh any negatives, be sure that you do mention to the customer that perforated window films have a shorter life span than regular graphics and may need to be changed out at least once during the life of the wrap. You will also want to mention that the window areas will appear slightly different than the other graphics because of the film perforations. The graphics will appear somewhat darker, especially on images with a white background.
When it comes to designing a vehicle wrap that extends over the windows there are a few tips to keep in mind. These tips will make your overall design more effective and visually pleasing.
If possible, keep small text off of the windows. Although the holes are fairly small they will distort the look of small text. Choosing larger images and text or logos with larger elements will look better across a window.
For rear windows that have a distinct curve from top to bottom, try to avoid long lines of text. The curve of the window will give the text a “rainbow arc effect”-the center of the graphic will look straight but the outer edges will tend to arc downward.
If you must include a line of text on a curved window try to keep it to the center of the window for less distortion. Larger logos or images that are still effective when distorted work better, while small or excessive text should either be eliminated or clustered in a couple lines-shoot for more of a box of information, rather than a long line.
Another tip: Consider angling a short line of text or box of text to make the distortion or angling of the graphic look more intentional.
Perforated window films are available in a variety of options. The perforation pattern is one of the most obvious. This is the percentage of holes to solid material in the media, and varies by the size and spacing of the holes. On vehicles we use a 50/50 perforation pattern, which is 50 percent holes and 50 percent solid media.
We’ve tried a few different manufacturers over the years and currently use ClassicVue media from Clear Focus Imaging. We use this on all of our vehicle and bus wraps.
Be sure to check out the other films they offer for other applications. One option is ReflectVue, which is great for retail and commercial window applications that need both a daytime and retro-reflected light at night. There are also short-term media options and double-sided DuoVue material for use on double-sided displays.
We’ve had good results with perforated window film from ContraVision. Look for their ContraVision Performance vinyl with corresponding Performance overlaminate.
I’ve run across local sign shops that don’t use an overlaminate on their perforated window film applications, but I think this is a mistake. Big Tip: Always use a good optically clear overlaminate on all your vehicle window wraps. To correspond with the ClearFocus ClassicVue material we use CurvaLam.
The benefits of adding a protective overlaminate far outweigh the minimal cost that a laminate adds. Not only does the laminate protect the graphics against UV-damage and abrasion, but it also keeps dirt and rain from building up in the small holes, which greatly reduces a driver’s visibility. Neglecting to laminate perforated window film defeats the purpose of using a film that provides the extra visibility for the driver.
From a personal standpoint I also find it’s easier to install perforated film that has been laminated. You do not have the risk of scratching the ink during installation and the laminate gives the graphic extra body, preventing the areas between holes from ripping.
If you feel confident that during the proofing process you’ve been able to properly scale the graphics then you can go ahead and print your window-perf graphics prior to the vehicle being brought in for installation. Be sure to overprint the graphics that will cover the windows. Allow yourself a couple inches minimum all the way around.
The extra material will help with alignment to the surrounding artwork and will give you something to grip during installation. Overprinting the graphics is always helpful in all aspects of wrapping.
If it’s a tight alignment, a window with an odd curve, or you simply want to double check the accuracy of your layout then you should wait until the solid graphics have been applied before printing the windows. Perforated window films must be fully dry/outgassed prior to laminating so you would need to have the vehicle for more than one day to be able to print after application of the other graphics.
On the other hand, waiting to print is helpful for ensuring that your graphics will line up. Using my original print files I simply crop the print file in our RIP software to the area that goes across the window(s) and re-RIP it using a perforated film profile. The window areas can also be cropped in your design software and then exported for printing.
Laminated perforated film is fairly easy to work with. We’ve even contour cut perforated films, masked them and applied them for both a contour cut graphic with the extra visibility of a perforated film. If it’s a simple shape you can also apply the graphic and hand contour cut on the glass using light pressure.
Masked perforated film is a little harder to apply. The mask helps to hold separated areas of the graphics, like text, and maintains proper spacing while getting the graphics in place, but makes the graphic stiffer to work with. If you do experience any issues with the graphics conforming around a curve because of the mask simply squeegee lighter in these areas to place the graphics, peel the mask off and go back to smooth out any problem areas.
Sudden big changes in temperature on windows can cause them to crack or break so be sure to use a heat gun instead of a propane torch if you do need to use heat to apply the graphic. We try to avoid heat on windows altogether. If you do need to lightly heat a wrinkle try to pull the graphic away from the window and apply the heat, allow the graphic to cool and then re-apply.
A few days or weeks in the sun, depending on the time of year, will help smooth out any of the cloudy look that you often see with applied window films. We simply tell our customer to wait a few days and they should notice the graphics smooth out completely. If not they can bring it back for us to look at. We’ve never had someone come back because it hasn’t smoothed out.
After the graphics are installed be sure to angle your blade inward as you trim around the window to get a clean cut and avoid any overhanging graphics. Take your time and move slowly, especially around the curves, to avoid having your blade jump and cut into the face of the graphic. Over time this slice will split and look terrible.
For warranty coverage you’ll need to check the finishing that the manufacturer you use requires. Some manufacturers will require that the edge be trimmed in and finished with an extra strip of clear laminate or 3M Edge Sealer.