Working With Specialty Films

What to do with all the cool films available today.

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Over the last several years there has been an explosion in colored wrapping films.  As time has passed we have seen an evolution in the types of films that are being produced. Everything from the first matte black films to chrome, alligator, carbon fiber and color changing/shade shift, metallic and glitters, just to name a few.

Each year there are new and amazing vinyls being produced.

Dig In

Now that we have some new and cool films to use, what do we do with them? Let’s dig in. First, make sure that you have current color charts.  If you’re not sure, call and ask your distribution representative or contact the manufacturers.  We can’t sell what we can’t show. Second, each and every vinyl type and texture has unique

installation and application criteria, so to be able to offer them we must first understand what they are. Tech data sheets and installation guides are available on each of the manufacturer’s websites. Remember, knowledge is power-or at least it’s cheaper than doing it twice.

Textured Films

Textured films like alligator, carbon fiber, leather and brushed metal are multi-layered premium cast vinyl. These films can give your customer’s vehicle a unique look and feel. Sounds simple right? Not so much.

First the installer needs to be careful because of the “multi-layered” technology.  Because the film is not smooth, it must be installed with a little more care than your average cast film. Textured films are delicate because of the peaks and valleys in the vinyl-which gives it the 3D look and feel-and this creates issues you need to be

aware of. 

When installing, preheating and/or pre-stretching needs to be done with caution. The heat will affect the thinner layers of the vinyl first, which in turn will allow the film to stretch faster, which causes an already thin piece of film to become thinner-a “weak spot” if you will. Because of this, when you post heat it, it’s more likely to split.

So when using textured films, use low heat for stretching. Post heating should be done with a heat gun as opposed to a torch. In my opinion, a heat gun provides a more even heat and is easier to control.

Color Change/Shade Shift and Glitter

Color changing vinyl and vinyl with metallic flake pigments can give any color change wrap a unique look and increase the overall appeal. This vinyl is more conventional than the textured films, but it still needs a special hand when installing. 

Each style of film has its own characteristics. This all has to do with the way the film is made and what is involved in its production. For example, the Hexis Glitter, which I like to call “Bass Boat,” has a top layer of laminate built in. This protects the film from the environment.

When using any of these films it is important to pre-heat and stretch evenly to maintain the gloss surface. Also, the use of a soft edge squeegee such as Geek Wraps Marine Squeegee, or the Wet Edge squeegee, is recommended.

This will help to ensure the finished project to be flawless.

On a side note, if you do have any scratches or uneven surfaces, it is possible to remove them 90 percent of the time by slightly heating the surface to 194°F (use a heat gun for this).

Helpful Hints

1) Clean the Surface-We recommend using a three-step process: 

  • Degrease surface.
  • Wipe down the entire vehicle with denatured alcohol.
  • Wipe down the entire vehicle with a new microfiber cloth and 70% isopropyl alcohol.

2) Pre-Heat-This is done before stretching the film. Heat the area of film that you want to stretch to 104°F – 122°F (86°F – 104°F for carbon fiber) depending on thickness of the film. You will see the vinyl become relaxed.

3) Post-Heat-After you have installed the vinyl and trimmed the excess you will need to heat the edges and any other areas that have tension to 176°F – 194°F.  This will set the adhesive in place and erase the memory of the film.

4) Ambient Temperature-Try to always install vinyl in an area with an ambient temperature around 64°F – 77°F and moderate humidity.

5) Use a Temperature Laser Gun-Do some research to find the right one for you.  The price is all over the place and there are reasons for that. These guns range from $30 to $600. I have found that $80 to $175 seems to be the best for what we do.

* All photos courtesy of Phenomenal Vinyl, 5950 Wraps, and 5150 Wraps.

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Albert Hatfield

Albert Hatfield is a certified Hexis trainer, and the owner of 5950 Wraps. He has been in the sign industry his entire life, and has been wrapping since 1998. Contact him at wrapinstaller@gmail.com.

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