5 Steps for Perfect Wall and Window Graphics Installations
Here at Gamut Media, window and wall graphics are our most requested service. The popularity of these graphics for branding and decor isn’t hard to understand: window and wall graphics can instantly give your organization a dramatic — and affordable — facelift.
A well-designed interior wall or window graphic can breathe new life into your building and add a distinctive quality to your organization. It can leave a lasting impression that will help your customers remember you the next time they require a service you offer.
When done correctly, vinyl application itself is both an artform and a science. While some people think it’s as easy as putting up a giant sticker, there are several parts of the process that, if not done properly, can cause your entire project to fail.
Taking the five steps listed below will help ensure flawless window and wall graphics installations.
1. Survey Your Surface
One of the most important factors for a successful installation is understanding the specifics of the surface on which you will be applying your graphics. As much as possible, we like to survey the site in person before the actual installation date.
In most cases, preparing windows for the application of graphics is a simple process. We use an ammonia-free glass cleaner and wipe the glass with a lint-free cloth. A clean surface will allow the adhesive on your graphic to have full contact with the glass, thereby increasing the longevity of your application.
Wall preparation is a bit more complex. For example, if an area has been painted recently, the paint may still be outgassing, which could cause your graphic installation to fail. Be sure the paint has had at least a week to dry before applying graphics. If a surface is very uneven or rough, such as orange peel on drywall, you might need to bring along different tools, such as a heat gun and a roller, to assist you with the installation.
In your survey of the installation site, you should also check for any obstructions (i.e., vents and pipes), as well as for hardwired electrical devices, such as security cameras. You might need to remove these before the graphics installation, or you may be able to adjust your graphics with different cuts to work around the obstructions, making sure the seams will not be visible. After you assess these possible issues, you will need to make sure the entire surface of the wall is cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
2. Come Prepared
It’s important to start out with a well-produced graphic, printed on appropriate media. We use Roland DG’s digital printer/cutters to ensure top-quality prints that last over time. Print your vinyl graphic with an overlap seam since vinyl has the tendency to shrink over time. This will allow for proper positioning.
It is much easier to install your graphics correctly if you have the proper tools at hand. Our list includes a good quality squeegee with clean edges, a knife with a 30-degree angled blade, and a snitty vinyl cutting knife for cutting the backing paper. Depending on the size of the graphic, we also bring laser levels, chalk line reels and templates printed on craft paper for positioning. In addition, you will need a heat-resistant vinyl application roller, masking tape, a tape measure, and possibly a torch or heat gun.
3. Pre-Tape for Perfect Positioning
Once you have ascertained the positioning of the graphics using a tape measure, laser levels, chalk line reels, and/or templates, you can simply use masking tape to adhere the graphics to the surface of the wall or window. If you are using vinyl media, you can carefully remove the top corners of the backing paper in a “moon rip” and allow some of the adhesive to be exposed. This will help you quickly tack the graphic to the surface and, from there, perform any additional positioning adjustments.
After pre-taping the graphics to the wall or window, be sure to take a step back and see how they look. Sometimes, while your graphics may be perfectly level, the walls or windows you are applying them to are not. Finish adjusting accordingly so the graphics are perfectly positioned for optimal viewing.
4. Use ‘Middle Out’ Squeegee Strokes
The process we use to ensure a smooth and bubble-free graphic installation is a “middle out” squeegee stroke. We start squeegeeing from the center of the graphic and move out to the edges. This process allows us to make adjustments easily.
If, instead, you started squeegeeing from the top down on a large graphic, your vinyl might drift, requiring removal of the entire piece to correct it. By starting from the middle, you cut your problems in half — you only have to lift up one side of the graphic to adjust its positioning.
5. Seal the Deal
We always say you need to “seal the deal” at the end of an application. By saying this, we are emphasizing the importance of going over any important anchor points of the graphic with a squeegee to seal the graphic completely to the surface. Also, check to see if it might be possible for rain (or any other liquid) to get behind the top edge of a graphic. Liquids can deposit dirt, which will slowly weaken the graphic’s adhesive and cause it to peel off over time. If we suspect a liquid may come into contact with our application, we use an edge sealer or clear silicone caulking to seal the edges of the graphic and prevent damage.
It takes patience, knowledge, proper tools, and practice to install a beautiful, well-registered, and bubble-free graphic that will last. By following these five steps, you’ll be able to install colorful and impactful window and wall graphics with confidence.
Tony Nguyen is the owner of Gamut Media in Fullerton, Calif. He has more than 10 years of experience printing and installing graphics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.