The angst and joy of “Wrapping”
No, I’m not going to brag about my bling, my ride or my…….whatever. Just want to tell you about
vehicle wraps. A thing of beauty and pride, and backbreaking work. Bending, twisting, pressing,
squeezing fingers into places no sane person would ever consider.
Make no mistake, they cost a lot of money, about $15.00 a square foot installed. When you
consider they are approximately 3x as much work as a complete paint job (and I’m not talking
about a Maaco job, but high-quality priming, painting, and clear coat – I’ve done both) it makes
First are the artwork and layout. Large corporations usually have their own in-house graphic
designer who provides ready artwork (we love you). But the average small business owner is not
so fortunate. Best case scenario is that they at least have an idea of what they want and are able
to articulate it in a way that we can design what they see in their mind’s eye in a relatively short
period of time, at a reasonable cost (heads up, design is at $75.00 and hour). Not a worst case
scenario but difficult is the customer who has no idea where to start but wants to be impressed.
Most of the time we have been successful but not always. In the unsuccessful cases, we will refer
you to a full-time graphic designer/mind reader.
We’ve all seen the crazy, colorful wraps done with photographs. They are cool but the truth is
unless you are driving a tractor trailer or cube van, the desired impact can be lost at 40 mph.
The best impact is still simplicity, blocks of color ( a blue collie with blue stripe and blocks of
black on a dog trainer’s transport van – oops, am I advertising for one of my favorite customers?
Well, yeah, sorry. Not!), recognized shapes and words. Photos can be used but sparingly. A
single flower on a florist’s van, a wrench on a plumber’s truck, a baby on a diaper delivery
service vehicle, or a beautiful yard on a landscaper’s truck.
Verbiage needs to be minimal as well. Unless the vehicle is parked, your target audience has less
than 4 seconds to figure out what you are trying to sell. Listing 10 things you sell or services you
provide is wasted money. Today the biggest impact is your website. People don’t have much
time to memorize or write down the phone number but knowing you have a website, the area
you service and what you do makes it very easy to use a search engine to find you quickly from
home or on a web-enabled phone.
So now that we know what’s going on the vehicle, the printing begins. Meticulous
measurements and scores of photographs are taken from every possible angle. Then the sheets
of printable, self-adhesive vinyl are run through our 52″ printer. After being allowed to “gas
out” for half a day the sheets are run through the laminator to protect the print from scuffs,
chemicals, and UV (it’s very hard to “key” a wrapped vehicle!).
Believe it or not, in many cases the longest part of actually applying the vinyl is prepping the
vehicle. Because the vinyl has to wrap around every edge (under wheel wells, around the edges
of doors and bumpers) of the vehicle, those areas have to be extremely clean and free of road
grime and debris – or it won’t stick. So we wash it down with xylene to remove all oil based
contaminants. Then we wash it down with rubbing alcohol to remove the xylene and other dirt.
Describing the smoothing, stretching, heating and repositioning of the actual wrap process will
take more writing than I’m willing to do. So check out our YouTube video of our shop truck being
wrapped to get an idea of the work and patience involved. Even better, the next time you go to
get into your car or SUV have a look at all the curves and seams and imagine trying to wallpaper
it. That’s the closest I can give you for a visualization without actually showing you.
So although wraps are a lot of work we never groan when someone wants one. Actually, we get
pretty excited. Each one is a new challenge, and our pride in the finished product brings tears to
On a slightly different note, you’ve probably seen wrapped muscle and sports cars. Beautiful.
This work requires the soul of an artist that is also a “car guy”. Although we have done
these it is something we do try to avoid and refer elsewhere. There are masters out there who
specialize in this area. We are not. Nor do we want to be. It’s a very personal and specialized
niche. Mr. Lombardo, we bow to you on this one (he does commercial stuff too but in this area,
his talent is exceeded only by his vision – we are great admirers…..can you tell?)
There are a lot of other things involved, different media, laminates, inks, suppliers,
manufacturers, technique etc. Maybe we can use it in another blog (if we want to bore you to
death). So before you faint when quoted a price on a vehicle wrap, keep in mind how much
work is involved and know why I have to schedule a deep tissue massage every time we finish
PS “Triple D” stands for “Durk Daddy” Keith, Dawn and Dani – THE Team.