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Want to Be a Vehicle Wrapper? This Is What You Need to Know

Just remember, time is money in the wrap world.

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VEHICLE GRAPHICS HAVE been around since the wheel was invented. Virtually everyone with a signshop has lettered vehicles or made custom magnetic signs. What we are really seeing now, however, is the explosive use of vehicles wrapped in custom-printed vinyl. This trend started slowly but has sped into a major segment of the sign business. So what’s happened and what does it take to get into the vehicle wrap game?

Wraps started out as an eye-catching way to advertise on cars, delivery trucks and buses, and this remains their primary market. Now, however, we also see a large number of private car owners using wraps as a means of self expression, not unlike the days of pinstriping the old hot rod or having a flame job to stand out from the crowd. Today, wrap shops can provide not just custom graphics, but a means to transform the entire appearance of a vehicle. Preprinted vinyls can offer a carbon-fiber look, and solid colors to change a drab car, truck or SUV into something unique. You can even find color-changing wrap vinyl, from which colors shift depending upon the lighting and viewing angles. And people are buying…

Color-shifting wrap films furthered the new segment for wrapping personal, not business, vehicles.Color-shifting wrap films furthered the new segment for wrapping personal, not business, vehicles.

So, you’re thinking, wow, I have a printer and some good installers; let’s get into business! Not so fast. You need people trained in wrapping vehicles, which is very different from applying graphics to a flat surface. Wrapping can be very time consuming and requires a lot of prep. Exact vehicle measurements are needed. Luckily, you can purchase templates that provide the measurements for a wide variety of vehicles. Otherwise, a set of very detailed measurements is needed. Now, do you have a good designer on staff? Designing wraps is also different, due to accommodating doors, windows and other features. The customer may provide logos and ideas of what they want, but be prepared for a lot of back and forth to both satisfy them and design it right.

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Next you need to familiarize yourself with the various vinyls and laminates on the market. Yes, you will need to laminate the graphics to protect against scratches, abrasions and road debris that can easily damage an inkjet graphic. You also need to determine how long the customer wants to use the wrap. Graphics on buses may only last a few months, while car owners may want theirs to last for years. Product knowledge is a must.

Your team will also need to prepare the vehicle for wrapping. It’s never as simple as just a wash. In some cases, an old wrap will need to be removed. This process can take hours if the old wrap wasn’t made for easy removal unless employing special equipment. Just be sure to include this in your quote.

Finally, you will find that certain tools and techniques can make the job a lot faster. Magnets can help hold large vinyl panels in place while applying. Felt pads on squeegees help ensure that paint scratches are avoided during application. Don’t skimp on heat guns, as they are a must to make sure that vinyl conforms to complex curves. Also be aware that rivet tools are required when working with many panel trucks and vans. Other special tools also really help to apply vinyl to complex objects, such as side mirrors.

This overview only tips the iceberg when it comes to vehicle graphics, but it should help illustrate what types of materials, skills and tools are needed to make the jobs go fast and smoothly. You can expect to get from $2K to $10K (and up) depending on the vehicle, materials, etc. It’s a great business but remember, time really is money and you don’t want to waste it.

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

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