By Lisa Guerriero
The popularity of vehicle wraps increased dramatically over the past ten years. Marketers request vehicle and fleet wraps for branding and advertising, while individual customers request color changes or graphics to customize transportation.
The prevalence of wraps presents opportunity for print service providers (PSPs). Growing awareness means more customers, fleet jobs, and repeat business. However, there are also new challenges.
Print providers must avoid relying on the novelty effect now that wrapped vehicles are frequently in the public eye. To distinguish a customer’s brand and messaging from other wraps on the road, print providers need to consider design.
Vehicle nuances and the client help determine the most effective graphics layout. To optimize the design, PSPs evaluate whether the artwork is seen at close range or in motion, if windows and windshields are wrapped, and whether the installation is for short or long term. The shape of the vehicle also plays a role. For example, a trailer’s square configuration benefits from different graphics than the sloping frame of a minivan.
Capturing LA Culture
The Inhouse Graphics says it was one of the first shops to offer vehicle wrapping in the Marietta, GA area. After founding the company in 2002 from his basement, Rob Winchester, owner, The Inhouse Graphics, established a retail storefront, where the business was based until earlier this year.
In August 2015, Winchester purchased a new 5,000 square foot building in Marietta. With five employees, the company serves metropolitan Atlanta and surrounding areas. 40 to 50 percent of the business is vehicle wraps.
The PSP recently completed a concession trailer wrap for BCB Entertainment. The client relocated its Move Your Tails food trailer—which specializes in Cajun-style crawfish and seafood—to the Atlanta area and looked to attract the attention of locals at food truck gatherings and special events.
While the food trailer introduces the taste of New Orleans, LA to Atlanta, the print provider strived to bring the same flavor to the wrap. “They needed the design to really pop, and show some LA culture,” explains Ryan Bennett, production manager, The Inhouse Graphics.
Winchester created a base graphic to resemble a wooden crab shack faded by sun and sea. The company’s name and crawfish-inspired logo appear in several places around the trailer, along with informational details like the website and phone number. The graphics cover the exterior of the trailer, the generator, and an inner wall and door that face customers at the counter. The propane tank is also integrated into the design, wrapped to look like a pot full of boiling crawfish.
“At first, BCB Entertainment was interested in just a partial wrap, but when we showed them what the trailer would look like with a full wrap, they were beyond excited,” says Bennett.
The Inhouse Graphics created the wrap with a Roland DGA Corporation SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 and Eco-SOL MAX 2 ink. “The print/cut feature is a big asset to our company. Its print speed and dry time is essential for printing full wraps, and we love how the inks print,” notes Bennett.
ORAFOL Americas media is used for wraps because it offers quality at a profit-friendly price point, explains Bennett. For the Move Your Tails job, the PSP used ORAJET 3751RA Wrapping Cast Film with RapidAir Technology, laminated with ORAGUARD 290 Premium Cast PVC Laminating Film. “The 3751RA is aggressive, yet installs easily, and the print quality is amazing. Images and graphics are crisp, clear, and sharp,” he shares.
The installers, who trained at an ORAFOL class, used Geek Wraps’ squeegees with OLFA’s blade handles to apply the final graphic to the trailer. BCB Entertainment is pleased with the Cajun-inspired wrap and has since ordered business cards, stickers, and t-shirts.
A Fresh Look
Established in 1985, Industry Graphics is based in Auburn, WA. With a staff of 24, it works with clients throughout the state as well as other North American locations including AK and Canada. Based in a 20,000 square foot facility, the company offers a variety of sign and graphic services and products. Wraps comprise about 30 percent of its business and it employs two SGIA-certified master installers.
Industry Graphics used its wrap experience to help a former employee, Paul Daugherty, launch his new construction business. Daugherty’s work truck is a 1997 model and wrapping modernized the vehicle’s appearance while promoting Know How Construction NW, explains Sal Orso, VP, Industry Graphics.
“Paul needed an alternative way of advertising. Since most of his work comes from word of mouth, what better way to advertise than when it’s parked, doing work?” notes Orso.
Daugherty gave Industry Graphics carte blanche to design the truck graphics. The team developed several logos that were suitable for a wrap and could be utilized later for business cards and shirts. The logo features the letters KH in orange and white, with Know How Construction NW underneath in smaller, black and orange lettering. “Clean and simple was the goal,” explains Orso. “The wrap was an extension of the logo, with nice, bright colors.”
For media, the shop chose Arlon Graphics, LLC’s DPF 6000XRP. “Price point was key. Also, it prints so well with latex printers,” says Orso. The staff laminated with Arlon Series 3220 in gloss using its Seal 62 Pro from GBC, part of ACCO Brands. The firm wrapped the back of the truck white, with the logo and a few other informational details in black and orange. It wrapped the cab in solid orange to accentuate the messaging on the back.
Industry Graphics printed the wrap with its Hewlett-Packard (HP) Latex 360 using HP ink. “We love the HP Latex 360 for the ability to laminate right away. This is a ‘need it yesterday’ industry, and Paul needed it as soon as he could,” notes Orso.
GTA Wrapz Inc. is based in Concord, ON, Canada. It serves customers throughout the greater Toronto area, which is the origin of the GTA name. Faheem Ahmad and Adeel Ahmad, co-owners/operators, GTA Wrapz, started the business five years ago. Along with two employees, they work out of a 2,000 square foot location. Vehicle wraps comprise about 80 percent of the business.
The firm recently put a fresh wrap on Adeel Ahmad’s vehicle to promote the business. GTA Wrapz tried out Mactac Distributor Products’ MACmark Tuning Films, specifically TF3102-Textured Black Leather. The repositionable black substrate offers a matte, leathery appearance as well as a textured feel. “We wanted to try a unique product that hadn’t been used in the Toronto area,” explains Faheem Ahmad.
Promoting the shop gave the owners a chance to work with the Mactac brand and also gain experience with TF3102 before offering it to customers. “We had some expectations, but they were blown away,” observes Faheem Ahmad.
Only a decal on the back window advertises GTA Wrapz by name. The unusual appearance and feel of Mactac’s TF3102 promotes the firm, but in an understated way. “The vehicle is subtle in its looks, but you notice the difference once you come up close and feel the material. That’s exactly what we wanted,” explains Faheem Ahmad.
The owners plan to keep the wrap installed for at least a few months and then try another eye-catching product.
Midtown Signs began as a basement-based sign business in 2003 and gradually expanded to a multi-service firm. When he purchased a new 9,500 square foot building last year, Dennis Baughman, owner, Midtown Signs, finally had space for wide format printing. Bringing this service in house allowed him to “control quality and timelines. I felt like I was leaving out a lot of revenue by subcontracting,” he explains.
Baughman chose the HP Latex 360 for ease of use and because of past experience with HP Designjet 5000 printers. Wrapping represents about eight percent of Midtown Signs’ work, but he views it as an up-and-coming aspect of the business. The 14-member firm, based in Kansas City, KS, serves the greater metropolitan area.
Donna Foulk, proprietor, Donna’s Dress Shop, is a repeat customer. She turned to Baughman and his team to add some vintage flair to her van, which is used to promote her clothing store. Looking to incorporate her personal style—think beehive and cat’s eye glasses, Foulk did not want the vehicle splashed with the clothing store’s name.
She asked Midtown Signs to cover the van in a pink gingham pattern derived from a dress she owns. The team made a platen from PVC and scanned the dress to capture the fibers and give the wrap a textured, realistic look. The final design includes two white poodles on the back of the van, mirroring the dogs on the pockets of Foulk’s dress.
The PSP printed the graphics using its HP Latex 360 printer with HP latex ink and 3M Commercial Solutions’ 3M Controltac Graphic Film with Comply v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3. Baughman’s team chose this for durability, as Foulk may keep the wrap in place for up to five years. Using a Royal Sovereign RSC-1651LSH laminator, Midtown Signs laminated the graphics with 3M Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8518 to protect and enhance longevity.
The full wrap covers nearly every inch of the vehicle, down to the pink media that wraps over the vehicle maker’s logo on the front fender—tying it all together from front to back.
“When you see Donna with her iconic beehive hair and vintage dress, you realize that this car is as much of a personal vehicle as it is a commercial vehicle,” observes Baughman.
Wrapping Derby Style
USA Image focuses on wide and grand format printing. Founded in 1994, it serves clients throughout the Midwest from a 26,000 square foot shop in Louisville, KY. With a staff of 20, it offers billboards, banners, surface wraps, and trade show graphics. Vehicle wraps comprise 21 percent of the company’s total business.
The firm’s wraps appear in high-profile venues, including Churchill Downs, which hosts the Kentucky Derby. Four years ago, Churchill Downs referred Vineyard Vines to USA Image. A high-end clothing retailer, Vineyard Vines sponsors the Kentucky Derby and its sister race, the Kentucky Oaks. The company requested wraps from USA Image for multiple vehicles that would appear at both of the races.
“Vineyard Vines designed the graphics based on its clothing line and patchwork branding. The designs are dynamic and don’t blend in with the crowd,” explains John Lawson, installation manager, USA Image. One challenge for this particular job was adapting the designs to a fleet of John Deere tractors, local taxis, and a pickup truck.
The PSP printed with its EFI VUTEk 5330, using Fujifilm NA Corp., Graphic Systems Division Sericol solvent inks. “The price point is spot on and the color and consistency is always there,” notes Lawson. For media, USA Image used Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions’ MPI 1005 Easy Apply RS. The material is designed to conform to irregular curves without creating wrinkles or bubbles and is repositionable, making it ideal for a variety of vehicles.
Although the wraps only needed to last a few weeks, USA Image used its GBC Falcon 3064WF-1 laminator to cover the graphics with Avery Dennison’s DOL 1060 Gloss. The overlaminate is designed to provide a glossy, paint-like finish and minimize glare. Despite the short-term duration, observes Lawson, durability was a factor because “the tractors are used in a dirty, rough environment.”
The first job was a success, and USA Image continues to wrap Vineyard Vines’ sponsorship vehicles for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
Color and Creativity
Vehicle wrapping is a specialty of FlipSide Graphics, representing about 80 percent of the company’s business. Its other services include wall graphics, displays and signage, and screenprinting. Flip Merwin founded the company in 1997 in Wausau, WI. While customers are found throughout the U.S., it targets Midwestern states like IL, MI, MN, and WI.
Russell Voigt purchased the company in 2003 after working at the shop for about two years. Today FlipSide’s headquarters are in a 2,800 square foot facility and installations are at a second, 2,500 square foot location. Three full-time employees are on staff and Voigt plans to expand the team soon.
Voigt used two Ritrama materials—both repositionable cast vinyl designed to last up to five years—for an in-house job to promote FlipSide. “This was for our own company car, to show what can be done with color change materials,” he explains.
The shop chose Ritrama’s RI WRAP 500 Series product line’s Kandy Red Wrap, a metallic red to highlight the contrast of the car’s original silver paint. With its cutting plotter, a Mimaki USA, Inc. CG-160FX, the shop created its logo on TFR White Wrap, a pearlescent white also part of the RI WRAP 500 Series. “Just adding our logo to the hood gave it a little design and creativity,” notes Voigt.
The wrap provided an additional benefit. The company car previously sustained front-end damage and a few body panels were replaced with a different color. FlipSide concealed the discrepancies and unified the car’s color without having to repaint first. As it is a promotional vehicle, Voigt plans to keep the wrap in place for about two years.
FlipSide utilized 3M media for another wrap for Central Beer Distributor, a repeat customer. A tap trailer for Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company required graphics consistent with the beer brand’s outdoorsy, rural branding.
The PSP designed the wrap to look like a cabin. “We wanted it to look real and have all the features that a cabin has, so designing played a major role in this wrap,” explains Voigt. Patrons view the trailer close up at events, so highly detailed graphics were the goal. The shop created a faux wood pattern, lighting effects, a screen door, and a welcome mat by the back door.
FlipSide printed the graphics with its Mimaki JV33-160 and Mimaki’s SS21 solvent inks. From past experience, the team knew the JV33-160 would deliver a high-quality wrap.
The shop used 3M Controltac Graphic Film with Comply v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3 and applied 3M Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8518 with its Seal 62 Ultra C Plus laminator. The combination of media and overlaminate ensures durability, to help Central Beer Distributor keep the wrap in place for what it plans to be about five years.
Voigt says the customer was thrilled with the 3D effect of the cabin and how it makes the wrap stand out from all the other tap trailers. “People look closely at the details, and the more you look at it, the more you find different art,” he says.
Sharper Images Tint and Wraps opened in 1993, offering wholesale automotive restyling for car dealers. Over time, the family-run business grew as it responded to demand for vinyl cutting and printing. It now has three websites for graphic products and services, focusing on vehicle customization and DIY kits.
Five people staff the 1,500 square foot headquarters in Erie, PA. The company serves customers in Northwestern PA and Northeastern OH. Additionally, some clients from around North America travel to receive on-site service. Vehicle wraps represent about 35 percent of the business.
The local branch of Home Instead Senior Care is an ongoing customer. The owners came to Sharper Images after seeing wraps on Home Instead vehicles in other locations. “They expressed how much they liked the idea of their caregivers driving the cars to various appointments, both from an identification standpoint and for advertising,” says Pete Ameno, owner, Sharper Images.
The wrap had to comply with Home Instead standards—including color and logo—but the design wasn’t submitted at the corporate level. The local branch requested a customized wrap.
Sharper Images experimented with the company’s logo, a selection of corporate artwork, and text elements. The challenge was fitting multiple images without overburdening the design or making the text illegible. After seeing several options, Home Instead selected a final layout.
Another challenge was ensuring color matching for Home Instead’s particular shade of the color purple. “We did quite a bit of color testing since the complete car had to be wrapped in that color. This was one of the biggest challenges for us,” observes Ameno.
The shop printed with its Mutoh America, Inc. ValueJet 1624 using Mutoh eco-solvent Eco-Ultra ink. It wrapped the body of the car with ORAFOL’s ORAJET 3951RA Professional Wrapping Film with RapidAir Technology. It used an EnduraLAM 65-inch cold laminator, from SignWarehouse, Inc., to apply ORAFOL’s ORAGUARD 290 Premium Cast PVC Laminating Film.
Sharper Images used a perforated media on the car’s glass, ORAFOL’s ORAJET 3675 Window Graphics Film, so the windows and windshield could be included in the design. ORAFOL’s ORAGUARD 290F Optically Clear Premium Cast PVC Laminating Film was used as well. “We like working with the ORAFOL material because of its conformability,” says Ameno.
Communicating with the Home Instead branch owners was essential to developing a successful design. “The more information we get from the customer up front, the quicker we get a proof that is close to what they want,” notes Ameno.
Public awareness of vehicle wraps creates opportunity for profit. It also means print providers need to go the extra mile to ensure customers don’t blend in with the crowd.
Thoughtful designs that revolve around a shared vision—and customized for the vehicle as well as the client—allow print providers to deliver compelling and memorable wraps.
Nov2015, Digital Output