Wall Graphics: Fail to Prepare or Prepare to Fail
Drytac, an international manufacturer of adhesive-coated products, including graphic films, window films, self-adhesive print media, and heat-activated and pressure-sensitive laminates, has provided the following educational blog, written by Dave Newberry. He discusses possible pitfalls when applying wall graphics.
Over the past decade wall graphics have become increasingly relevant. The explosion of higher quality and more affordable large-format printers has enabled graphics companies to offer their customers more than just standard signs, vehicle graphics and posters. Offices, schools, gyms and hospitals, to name but a few, are all benefiting from using formerly blank wall space to convey a mission statement or promotional message — or simply to brighten things up.
However, wall graphics can all too often go wrong, and sometimes very badly. This is due to the minefield that is different types of paint (particularly interior paints) and their compatibility with wall graphics products. Factors such as the incorrect face film and incorrect adhesive (including the wrong coat weight of adhesive) can have a disastrous effect.
A common cause of failure is lack of a proper site survey. This should include peel testing the products that will potentially be used, checking the paint in situ, finding out if there are any air conditioning units or heaters in the vicinity and what the local ambient atmosphere is, and, if possible, discovering what is under the paint and how long ago the paint was actually applied. There's lots of detective work to do!
Printers and sign makers can easily fall into the trap of thinking any wall graphics media will work with any wall — only to then get a call the next day from their client complaining that their wall graphics have overnight become floor graphics. Explaining to the customer that they would like to visit the site to check the walls and do some testing in advance of producing the graphics can eliminate a world of pain — and embarrassment. The end user won't always grant this request but most will understand that a day's disruption is better than several extra days on site to correct any faults later. A survey will make everyone's life far simpler in the long run.
Washable or wipeable paints that have become very popular over the past few years never make for an easy install when it comes to adhesive. Put simply, if a paint wants to chemically repel dirt, ink and fingerprints it will want to do the same to adhesive. If not prepped correctly, the highest strength adhesives can still fail when applied to these types of paints. Even if the bond is a 'pass' but the face film isn't stable enough, a 'pass' can quickly become a 'fail' as the film is effectively pulling on the adhesive. And it is often the case where wall graphics need to be fitted when the wall was only painted a matter of days (sometimes hours!) ago.
Paint needs to have been applied a bare minimum of 72 hours in advance (ideally a lot longer) to give any adhesive a fighting chance of working. And if the printer has input into the type of paint to be used, a basic emulsion paint is a far better choice as this has no washable properties to it. However, if a washable or wipeable paint has been used, there are some fixes. Ideally, this type of paint needs sanding to remove the 'washable' surface. Sanding generates a whole new problem of dust — and lots of it — but this is the preferred work-around for this type of paint. If this is not possible, a good quality sealer or primer to lock in the washable properties of the paint is a viable alternative. All finishes also need to be clean; a seemingly obvious fact that can be overlooked.
Here at Drytac we have several products which offer excellent performance when these guidelines are followed. Drytac Polar Grip is an 80 micron polymeric PVC film coated with a high coat weight/high strength adhesive. The polymeric film with its lack of phthalates makes for a very stable face. This coupled with its 44gsm high peel/high sheer adhesive makes this an excellent solution for permanent wall graphics. Polar Grip is available in both matte and gloss white finishes and is even suitable for application to brickwork for exterior use.
The extensive range of Drytac ReTac products add a new dimension to wall graphics. Not only are there various finishes and thicknesses but the unique ReTac adhesive allows for wall graphics to easily be changed around if the image starts to look dated or is no longer suitable. There is even a glossy wipeable version, so dry-wipe boards can be moved around a building with the end user safe in the knowledge that there will be no adhesive residue left and no damage caused.
The world of wall graphics can be a minefield. Fail to prepare or prepare to fail — or, do your homework and get great results.