The Art of the Partial Wrap

Although budget and design often dictates coverage, partials should still look good.

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There are different ways to categorize vehicle graphics and how much they cover the vehicle. Typically, we split them into spot graphics, partial wrap and full wrap.

Spot graphics are typically printed or solid-color cut vinyl lettering that is applied to the doors of a vehicle, the tailgate or other areas. A full wrap implies complete graphics coverage on a vehicle, often excluding the roof.

A partial wrap encompasses everything in between. I’ve seen it noted elsewhere that a partial wrap is graphics covering 25 percent to 75 percent of a vehicle.

So, what makes a customer choose a partial wrap over a full wrap? Isn’t a full wrap always better? Not necessarily. A partial wrap, when designed well, can be just as effective as a full wrap.

In my experience, I would say that most customers who choose a partial wrap do so for one of two reasons-budget or design. Within each of these reasons there are often other factors that come into play.


Obviously a job with more graphics coverage is going to command a higher price than one employing fewer graphics. I write a lot about working with your customer to meet their budget and to give them options on coverage. A full wrap, and the hefty price tag that can come with it, may scare away someone looking for advertising on their vehicle.

Clearly, offering alternative coverage options lets a customer know that they have choices that will meet any budget. A simple tailgate wrap combined with spot door graphics or a large graphic on the sides of the vehicle is a very common option.

We have full-color printed boards in our lobby that display our different services. As a sales tool, we often point out photos during the course of discussing coverage options with our customers.

Our website is also another good marketing tool. We have a computer at the front counter that we enter our invoices into and our website is kept pulled up on this computer. We angle the monitor so that the customer can see photos of our work as it scrolls across the screen. We can also quickly pull up sample vehicles to help better explain a coverage option and to also showcase our capabilities.


While considering the amount of coverage on a partial wrap you should also take into account where on the vehicle the customer will place the graphics. An installation of graphics on the front end of a vehicle typically will encounter more obstacles and compound curves that will increase the overall difficulty of the wrap install and will increase the installation costs, while reducing the effectiveness of the design at the same time.

Walk the vehicle with the customer and point out the best areas for the graphics. Look for solid areas that provide the most impact with the fewest number of obstacles; this will make for more effective design and can lower installation costs.


Another less common reason, but one we have encountered, is a customer choosing less coverage because they want to use a material that is pricier. For example, we do partial wraps with spot graphics for a couple security companies that utilize printed reflective graphics in their design. Because reflective vinyl is more expensive than premium wrap vinyl they choose a stripe design with less total square footage so that their costs are in the reflective material, not in the higher square footage.

A customer may also choose less coverage in order to afford premium wrap vinyl over a calendared film. Perforated window film also is typically higher per square foot, but window coverage gets the advertisement up higher on the vehicle, which many people prefer. Limiting the body graphics to afford full coverage on the windows is another material option.


Fleet graphics are a big part of our business, and we find that customers will often choose to do partial wraps on their fleet. The reduced total square footage keeps costs in check while still allowing the budget for advertising on multiple vehicles.

Vehicles with a large box or ones that go out on route more often than other vehicles may also be wrapped with more graphics than another vehicle. Partial wrap coverage can vary from vehicle to vehicle within a customer’s fleet.

Another reason that many people choose partial wraps over full coverage is from a design standpoint, and again we often see this with our fleet accounts. Partial wraps are versatile and a common element, color or logo can be designed to fit multiple types of vehicles while still maintaining an overall branded image.

Often our fleet customers will have a core design that we use that is then modified to fit the different types of vehicles in their fleet. The elements might be shifted around or the sizing adjusted, but overall we maintain the same design.


Some people simply like the look of a partial wrap over a full wrap. Maybe the vehicle is also their personal vehicle or they want their graphics to have a subtler or more professional feel.

A great way to keep a partial wrap from looking like a giant bumper sticker is to incorporate the body color of the vehicle into the design. By designing the wrap to blend with the rest of the vehicle, the overall design looks more cohesive.

If the customer’s logo contains a shape, curve or other design element, even if it’s part of the lettering, consider using one of these elements as a way to finish off the partial wrap or to tie in the spot graphics. A clean, simple, easy-to-read design should be the end goal no matter what the coverage is.

Another great option for blending a partial wrap is to work with the contours of the vehicle and use the curves as part of the design approach. By taking into account particularly odd contours or obstacles during the design process, you can also make these areas look more purposeful in the design while also reducing the difficulty of the installation.

Spot graphics can also help tie together a partial wrap by visually extending the coverage. Combine a large wrapped section with the logo, slogan, contact information or other lettering. Doing this provides advertising while also spacing out the graphics for a more effective design.

Personal Wraps

We also see partial wraps increasing in popularity as customers choose to change out the color on just a portion of their vehicle. Hoods and roof wraps seem to be common areas. These partial wraps are again often sought after from both a budget and a design standpoint.

Solid color wrap films like 3M‘s 1080 series films and Avery Dennison‘s Supreme Wrapping film offer a material that is ready-to-wrap and is conformable to many contours. A full wrap with these materials would be costly, while a partial wrap allows for a change to the look of the vehicle while keeping costs reasonable.

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 website at www.vhsigns.com.

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