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Tips and Tricks – Five Simple Rules for Selecting the Right Pressure-Sensitive Media

Choosing the right vinyl media for a project can get a little sticky, which leads to “time-consuming” and ultimately “expensive” mistakes. Two scenarios printers and installers want to avoid. To help with the selection process, here are “Five Simple Rules” to help you make the right choice.

1. Thoroughly understand the application. When it comes to large-format projects, your clients may ask for just about anything – from vehicle wraps and fleet marketing to laying down floor graphics. Whether it’s an application in which you are experienced or something new, learning as much as you can about the application is of utmost importance. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Here are a few questions that should be answered prior to contacting your media supplier: 
• What is the surface the media must adhere to? And is it treated in any way? (painted, sealed, rough textured, etc.) 
• Will there be curves, rivets or other complexities? 
• How long is the media expected to last? 
• How and when will the media be removed and what is the expectation upon removal? 
• Will the media be exposed to wind, rain, UV light, high humidity, heat or   other environmental elements? 
• How will the graphic be printed? Digital? Screen Print? Other? 
• What type of ink will be used? Solvent? UV? Other?

2. Understand your installer’s skill level. Whether you are installing the media yourself or hiring a subcontractor, knowing the installer’s capabilities can make a difference in what media you choose. Some pressure-sensitive media can feature similar characteristics and adhesive properties, while producing extremely different results if not installed correctly by the right installer. 

Beginner or intermediate installers should stick to a bubble-free vinyl with about a 2.1-mil thickness, which is typically used in vehicle wraps or other projects that require a smooth, paint-like finish, even over complex curves and rivets. This material/adhesive combination is usually the most forgiving, allowing a longer “open time” for repositionability. This vinyl should be paired with a thin 1.5- or 2.0-mil cast laminate for additional substance, making the think film easier to handle during installation.

Experienced installers can opt for a high-tack adhesive that quickly develops a high bond. This aggressive set-up feature is ideal for high-volume installers who need a fast turnaround time on projects. Repositionability is reduced to around five minutes, versus the standard 30 minutes to one hour. This allows for faster completion of the project, which can translate to improved customer value and higher profit margins.

3. Protect your work. Overlaminates are designed to protect the finished product for its full life. Overlaminates should be used in most applications, but are particularly important when the final graphic will be exposed to the elements or if the graphic is installed in a high-traffic area. Learn more about overlaminate selection. (link to first blog on overlaminates)

4. Expect more from your supplier. Your media supplier should serve as your personal application expert. If you’ve done your homework and know everything there is to know about the application and installer, they will be able to help you find the ideal combination of adhesive, facestock and overlaminate – and help you stay on budget. Many suppliers also offer training and on-site application assistance.

5. Don’t be shy – ask questions like the reputation of your business depends on it. Whether working with your customer or your media supplier, get all the facts. This will save you a lot of time, energy and resources in the long run. And the reputation of your business depends on it!