By Melissa Donovan
Vinyl striping is an underrated tool in a print service provider (PSP’s) or wrap installer’s arsenal. There is cost effectiveness in a single strip of vinyl—or two—decorating a vehicle or some other surface. Installation is similar to other graphic applications, so the ability to complete a quality install is inherently learned. Finally, a stripe is a timeless design. Whether it is a car or a boat, even a retail storefront, a solid color strip of vinyl communicates a clean, sleek message. Conversely, a metallic finish conveys a flashy, yet subtle tone. Simple striping, yet endless possibilities.
Above: Solid color stripes—like those from FDC—are what is most often used on vehicles.
Demand in Striping
There is a recent jump in interest in vinyl striping, also known as pin striping or cut vinyl embellishment.
Molly Waters, senior technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, believes striping is in demand now because of trends in the automotive industry. “There is a shift to electric vehicles and automotive dealers are keeping fewer stocked vehicles on the lots. End users are also increasing the demand because they are trying to replicate the factory striping kits for personalizing their vehicles. It’s becoming a challenge for installers.” Albeit, a good challenge.
Vinyl striping is also prevalent due to funding from the federal government and various infrastructure bills, according to Michael Aldrich, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc. “Orange cones and barrels are everywhere with reflective striping. New construction vehicles and equipment are being purchased for these infrastructure jobs that need a stripe to match the other vehicles and equipment in the company. Summer is a popular time for stripes in general as many RVs and campers are striped also.”
“Pin striping, embellishments, and other cut vinyl decals are sometimes overlooked for the flashier, large-scale vehicle wraps that we see on the street, but these legacy graphics represent a constant in an ever-growing market,” adds Jay Kroll, product manager of cut, transit, and wall solutions, General Formulations.
Demand for vinyl striping remains steady due to durability, ease of application, variety of colors and designs, affordability, and the opportunity for customization, lists Nate Goodman, technical product manager, Mactac.
“We do large format stripes; a lot of which are used for fleet, service station canopies, gas station pumps, and really anywhere someone needs a long field of color that is consistent in size and color. The use of striping promotes continuity and sameness within a design,” shares Chris Bowen, CEO, Trim USA.
Vinyl striping isn’t limited to vehicles, other applications benefit.
“Vinyl striping is popular for businesses and individuals who want to add personality, style, or branding to their space,” explains Goodman. This means virtually any surface is poised to benefit.
Boats, RVs, horse trailers, and even railroads are adopting striping, notes Waters.
“Striping is used in multiple applications. Vehicle stripes are most recognized, but striping is used on dumpsters for different companies, school buses, garbage trucks, tankers, semi-trucks, trailers, snowmobiles, and jet skis. There are many applications beyond that as well,” notes Aldrich.
Beyond vehicles—other objects also benefit from vinyl striping. “It’s something you might also see used in shop windows, on bikes and boats, or even as floor marking tape in a workshop or warehouse setting. These often mimic a painted line, but do so with significantly less setup and skill required as compared to paint. The versatility of vinyl also allows to expand beyond a typical pin stripe or broad line to include fine filagree details and embellishments with the use of a plotter cutter,” explains Kroll.
Solid and Specialty
Vinyl striping is commonly associated with solid colors, but specialty films with effects are used too.
Kroll admits that “there is always going to be a contingent of specialty color or decorative finishes, but as with sign vinyl you will see a predominance of black and white with maybe some silver or red thrown in for good measure.”
“Two-tone graphics using two different colors of film are most common, for example, a matte black hood stripe outlined with carmine red pinstripe,” explains Waters.
Solid color stripes are most popular, admits Aldrich, because otherwise fading is a challenge. For example, some colors fade from red to white. Special media like holographic “are not typically seen because the outdoor life expectancy is very short causing the exposed holographic to turn black or brown.”
For specialty films, Waters points to carbon fiber as a textured film used for striping. Also, printed carbon fiber is often utilized.
“Reasons why specialty films might be used in striping include adding a touch of style or personality and adding a unique and eye-catching look to a vehicle, image, or project,” suggests Goodman. He says specialty films with effects like metallic and gemstones are sometimes seen here.
Stripes are made, according to Bowen, based on the dynamics of the film in question. “We make stripes from cast and reflective films due to limitations on how dyes can be made. Other materials are suspect as to whether or not they can be converted.”
Installation for Unfamiliar
Application tip/tricks for those unfamiliar with vinyl striping go along the same lines as any other adhesive-backed application.
Kroll preaches practice and patience. “The surface needs to be clean and dry, preferably wiped down with an isopropyl alcohol to remove any dirt or wax. Peel back the release liner on one end and apply the striping to the application surface, then gently remove the rest of the liner while keeping the tape away from the surface. Without putting too much tension on the vinyl, eyeball the alignment as you adhere the striping to the surface, matching the desired contour.”
Mask strips are helpful when installing cast vinyl, especially when the application is as long as the length of the car or even longer. “This keeps it from stretching the vinyl too much during application and helps keep the stripe as straight as possible. The mask also makes the strip a little more rigid for ease of handling,” suggests Aldrich.
“The thicker the film, the easier the application process. A pre-masked striping for cast and high-gloss products where scratching and stretching may be an issue is recommended. Work slowly and be patient, and with a little practice, you can apply vinyl striping like a professional,” advises Goodman.
For a twist on design, knifeless tape is sometimes used “to hold down the sides of cars or hoods of vehicles by lying the knifeless tape out in a shape, stripe, or design. They then apply their wrap or vinyl over the top of this and pull the knifeless tape creating a cool stripe or graphic on the fly,” says Aldrich.
Vinyl striping is a great complement to digitally printed graphics, whether it is a full vehicle wrap or a decal.
“Vinyl striping can be used on a wrap for stripe accents, and a unique look can be achieved with a print on the stripe or fading from one color to another,” shares Aldrich.
Waters agrees. “Vinyl striping allows shops to do two-tone stripe graphics as well as get into the market of recreating OEM decals. The boating market is another area they could get into easily using the same printing methods and films.”
“Vinyl striping is especially effective in supplementing a printed design that includes bands of consistent color and size. Using the striping in this situation offers benefits over printing as the pigmented cast material will hold its color for longer,” adds Bowen.
Part of the allure, the cost of vinyl striping materials is significantly lower when compared to digital print material. “Vinyl striping can essentially turn a printed partial wrap graphic into something that incorporates the whole vehicle, creating more of a full wrap aesthetic. The use of lines or shapes in that cut vinyl material can still be impactful in the overall design when done well,” says Kroll.
“By offering vinyl striping to complement current services, businesses offer enhanced services for signage, motorsports, and architecture installations. If the customer wants to avoid a full wrap or graphics, sometimes putting a large decal with a stripe pattern can make for an effective layout at a lower cost,” advises Goodman.
Vinyl striping is a great way to enhance PSPs’ and wrap installers’ current service offerings. For more information on this topic, visit digitaloutput.net/webinars to watch a replay of a recent webinar.
Sep2023, Digital Output