Vinyl is one of my favourite areas of print. The huge range of types of vinyl makes it a versatile product which can be used to decorate almost anything. People are becoming more and more aware of the many possibilities of vinyl and are using them to promote their business, wrap vehicles or even decorate their homes. Unfortunately however, it is very easy to get frustrated when people try to install their vinyls for the first time. Don’t worry! you’re not alone! But once you know how it doesn’t become such a pain and you’ll find it’s actually very easy to lay down a vinyl without all the ugly creases and bubbles as well. Therefore I hope that this “How To” blog will be of some use to all of you out there who are frantically pulling their hair out trying to find the secret behind a perfectly laid vinyl.
There are a few different ways you can lay down a vinyl and you will have to choose which method you are going to use to get the best results. But before you do anything, make sure you’ve got all the kit you need. This will include a squeegee for squeezing out the air trapped underneath your vinyl, a scalpel for finely trimming the vinyl to the right shape to install and if your vinyl hasn’t already been masked up then in most cases you will need a roll of application tape to transfer your design to the surface to be decorated. Optionally you may want a bottle of soapy water as well if you plan on laying down your vinyl wet which I’ll get to in a second.
As I mentioned before, if your design hasn’t already been masked up then in most cases you will have to do this yourself for best results. What happens is that we apply this mask to the surface of the vinyl and lay it down as neatly as we can. what this does is when you pull the backing from your vinyl, the mask should carry the cut out sections from the backing and will leave the sticky side of the vinyl facing upwards so that it is ready to be applied to any surface and nothing moves. When you do this, make sure to completely cover your vinyl. Lightly smooth it out with your hands to push out most of the air. When you are happy, use your squeegee to lay it down firmly onto the surface of the vinyl, working from the center to push all the air to the edges and out. If you have a crease forming, just follow it out with your squeegee to the edge and this should get rid of it. Don’t worry too much about bubbles and creases at this point. So long as they aren’t huge it won’t do much to the quality of how your vinyl will be laid down.
This sounds weird I know, why would you apply a vinyl to a wet surface? Is this not more likely to cause bubbles to form? The answer is no, not if you do it right and this method is actually more easy than laying a vinyl down dry. All you need is a tiny bit of washing up liquid and water to form a soapy solution and a spray bottle. Wetting the sticky side of the vinyl and the surface you’re applying it to first makes the vinyl less tacky and more heavy. This allows you to position it more easily and lay it down flat. . Once you have your vinyl in position, very gently start to push the water out from underneath it. You need to make sure it stays in place as it is likely to slip about a bit. Just make sure to keep an eye on it.
Once you have gone over the whole of the vinyl gently and it’s beginning to start tacking down a bit more, then go over the whole vinyl firmly. Always remember to work from the middle out so you don’t get a bubble of air trapped in the center. You need to keep going over it until you are convinced it is laid down flat. Once you are happy then leave it to dry. You do need to keep checking on it because as it is laid down wet it may begin to form bubbles or ripples around the edges. These should just squeeze out fine.
Once it’s completely dry, you can go ahead and remove the mask very slowly. The vinyl should be left on the surface if you’ve done it properly and you have your finished product! This is definitely the easiest method and the one I would recommend to any beginner. It takes more time but it’s more likely you will achieve the results you want.
When you are laying a vinyl down dry, it becomes a little bit more risky because you can’t just lift it back up and try again. It’s still tacky so once it touches the surface that’s it. The trick is to just be confident with it and be firm with the squeegee. This method is best used for designs that are quite small. All you do is you put your vinyl in the position you want (keep the backing on!) and once your happy with where it is, use some masking tape along one edge to hold it in place. Use a lot of tape to make sure it won’t move. You don’t want it out of alignment! Once it’s in position, flip it back over the tape so you have the backing facing upwards. You can now peel the backing off slowly to expose the sticky side of the vinyl.
Hold onto the corners of the mask and flip it over again, making sure you are pulling it tight so as not to let any creases form. Then lightly tack down the corners of the mask so the vinyl is flat. Then squeegee from the center out again. Pressing hard. It often helps to lightly have your finger just underneath the edge of the mask you are pressing the air out of allowing it to escape.
Now you can peel off the mask. Still be careful but it will be less likely to peel off with the tape than if you did it wet.
The last one I’m going to talk about today. I find this works best with large vinyls. Particularly racing stripes for all the boy racer’s cars out there…
Instead of tacking the vinyl down with masking tape at one edge, you “anchor” it in the middle (backing still on). Now what you can do is flip one side over your anchor and peel off the backing. leave the exposed side of your vinyl facing upwards but doubled back on the other half. You should be left with the excess backing that you can trim off with your scalpel.
Now squeegee it down. The best way is to hold the vinyl up while you work your way down from the strip of masking tape so there is no air trapped beneath it.
When you have one side firmly stuck down, you can peel of the masking tape in the centre and fold the other half back. Peel the masking tape off and proceed in the same way as you did before.
When you use this method, you don’t really have to mask it up before you apply it. It won’t do any harm.
Tips and Tricks
So that covers the basics! You’re now ready to go out and try to lay down your own vinyl. Obviously practice makes perfect though so here are a few pointers to make sure you don’t mess up or fix where you’ve gone wrong!
- Vinyls can mark if you aren’t careful. Especially if they’ve been printed on. To best avoid leaving scuff marks across your nice new vinyl from your squeegee, you can lay the backing over the face of your vinyl and squeegee over that. This prevents your vinyl from marking but make sure to be quite firm when you’re pressing out the air.
- When dealing with big vinyls, to fit vinyls around curved edges, one thing you could do is to gently heat it with a hairdryer. This will make it expand and easier to fit to weirder shaped surfaces. Be careful not to heat it too much however as you’ll melt the adhesive. That won’t be good as your vinyl won’t stick…
- When choosing your squeegee, I find that the gold ones work the best as they have a good amount of flex. Different squeegees will work better on different vinyl’s but i’ve always found i’ve managed to get away with using a gold squeegee.
- Always make sure the surface you apply your vinyl to is clean! As clean as it can be! I use a solution called I.P.A to fizzle away any sort of dirt and grime to make sure I have an immaculate surface to apply my vinyl to but a little fairy liquid should do the trick as well. Otherwise you will have ugly specks caught underneath your graphic that won’t go unnoticed.
- Bubbles! everyone hates bubbles when it comes to applying vinyl. But, you can cheat if you haven’t laid down your vinyl as perfectly as you had hoped. The trick is to have a scalpel with a brand new blade and lightly prick the top of the bubble. This will create a tiny hole in which the air can escape out of. You can then just press the air out with your fingers. Nobody will notice unless you have someone get right up close and examine your vinyl. Even then it’s barely noticeable.
I hope this “How To” has answered some of your questions on the application of vinyl. If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch with us over social media (links on the right). We’re always looking for new things to talk about and we would love your questions to be the focus of our blogging efforts. If you have a question for me personally, My name’s Jack Ricketts and you can find me on twitter “@Jack_ricketts1” and I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have also.
In addition to this, all you need now is a vinyl to install! Around your home, on your cars or bike, anywhere you feel could use a bit of a decorative lift, vinyl is a fantastic solution for this. We can print and cut any design or idea you may have and send it out to you. You can get in touch with us through our e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we can provide you with a quote for your personalised vinyl. We can accept your own files or help you to create your own. We look forward to hearing from you!