How to Apply Vinyl Decals
Applying vinyl decals can be done by anyone. Make sure your it is above 70 degrees and your surfaces are clean enough to eat off. I use the following tools when applying vinyl decals or lettering.
- Masking tape
- Tape Measure
- Application spray
- Pin or exacto knife (optional)
All surfaces are contaminated to some degree. To ensure good adhesion to any vehicle surface it is critical that you follow these recommended procedures in decontaminating and preparing the surface prior to any vinyl product installation.
- Wash the area with warm water,dry the surface with a clean lint-free towel or cloth.
- Finish up the cleaning process by wiping down the entire area with Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol). To avoid recontamination during the final cleaning step, wipe the surface in just one direction, using a clean, lint-free towel or cloth. Any dust or debre will result in the bubbling of vinyl decals.
Surface temperatures should be between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit before attempting the installation. Vinyl can be applied in cooler temperatures but adhesion is more difficult. We are in San Diego so decals go on like butter. As a general rule, if the surface is hot to the touch it’s over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Adhesive becomes brittle when it gets too cold and gummy when it gets too hot. Applications outside the recommended range of 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit reduce the adhesives’ ability to perform.
Making application fluid
I like to use real applicator fluid. Ask us to include a bottle in your order if you plan on a DIY installation. If none is available mix 1 drop of dish washing soap in a cup of warm water and mix. Poor the soapy mixture into a spray bottle, clean out a windex bottle if nothing else is around.
You can choose to apply vinyl in one of two ways; dry or wet. Applying vinyl dry does not allow for any mistakes, if this is your first time applying decals don’t do it this way. Once the vinyl touches the surface, there is no removal without damage.
However, applying vinyl with application spray allows you the opportunity to remove and reposition vinyl as needed for up to several minutes. For obvious reasons, this method is recommended for both beginners. The biggest advantage to dry application is time. To apply using the application spray, spray the surface thoroughly. Then lay the vinyl on a flat surface and spray the adhesive side as you remove the backing. An extra set of hands is a good idea. Then simply apply the vinyl to the surface.
Do not excessively stretch vinyl during the application. This is the main cause of end lift. Pull the vinyl only as taut as necessary to keep a straight line. Because vinyl is a pressure-sensitive product, a squeegee should be used for all installations. The purpose of using a squeegee is to remove the excess fluid and or air from behind the vinyl. You should always start the squeegee from the middle and either use a straight up or down motion. Don’t be afraid to use some pressure you need to get all the water out. Any water left under the surface will expand and contract with temperature changes and create bubbles. Allow the vinyl to set for 5 to 15 minutes.
(Pinstriping can be laid down initially using your thumb. However, after the application tape is removed, a squeegee must be used on all cut ends including door breaks as well as the ends of the stripe.)
When removing the application tape, always pull it slowly, back onto itself, at a 180-degree angle. Bubbles should be punctured using a pin. Do not slit the vinyl to release the air. If the vinyl is slit it will spread or gap. The cutting or trimming of any stripe or graphic should be done using a very sharp knife and very little pressure.