Wet Applying Vinyl Graphics

Published: 27th July 2009
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How to apply self-adhesive vinyl using the wet method of application. When and how to do it.

Surfaces that are particularly difficult are those which are very smooth - for instance: glass, acrylic and vehicle paintwork.

You can, of course, decide to accept the problem and simply pop the bubbles afterwards using a scalpel blade, however it would make sense to avoid the problem in the first place, if this were easy to achieve.

Below you will find and explanation of when and how to use it.

What you are trying to achieve in the following method is to retard the adhesion of the adhesive in order to be able to easily squeeze the air out.

The basic method we will use is the hinge method of application but we will spray the surface of the substrate and/or the adhesive back of the vinyl with a mix of water with a few drops of washing up liquid.

I generally use a plasic spray bottle to create a fine mist but, at a push, you can just mix it in a cup and slosh it onto the surfaces, but this obviously looks far less professional - available from any DIY store or garden centre; fill it with luke warm water and 2-3 drops of the washing up liquid.

Put the 2 ends of the graphic together and press a small crease at the centre point. Use a small piece of masking tape on the ends of the graphic to position it on the surface. Using a tape measure lift and replace the graphic until the fold mark is at the left to right centre mark.

Using the tape measure or ruler release one end of the graphic and re-position until the baseline is where you want it. Do the same to the other end and then re-check the first end as it will probly have moved.

When you are sure the graphic is in the correct position put a strip across the whole graphic somewhere near the middle and preferably with at least one edge lying in a gap between letters. This is known as the hinge.

Next line up a piece of masking tape with the application tape at one end of the graphic. Remove the piece of tape, at that end, securing the graphic to the substrate and fold back the grahpic 180 degrees and press a sharp fold into it. Peel back the release paper and tear it off at the fold line.

At this point you should spray the substrate with the water/washing up liquid solution. you can use as much of the solution as you want, trial and error will teach you the optimum amount but as a general rule use a bit more than you think you will need.

Line up the edge of the application tape with the piece of masking tape used to mark its position. Next, using a vinyl applicator and starting from the centre of the graphic, press outward from the centre, up and down, working your way towards one end. Repeat the process working towards the other end.

Spray the application tape with the solution until it is soaked. This will attack the adhesive on the application tape and allow it to be removed more easily without pulling the vinyl off with it: You need to remember that the vinyl will not reach full adhesion until the residual liquid under the vinyl has evaporated and the adhesive has cured.

It can take quite a while for the adhesive to reach full adhesion and you will have to periodically test the application tape to see if it can be removed without lifting the vinyl. It should, however, be possible to remove the application tape within 10 - 30 minutes but be careful.

Peel back the application tape working from one corner and keeping the tape at an acute angle; this helps to prevent the vinyl pulling away from the surface. This method has the advantage of not needing any lines to mark the position and is therefore useful for applications to sensitive surfaces.

Where the graphic does not allow for a centre hinge, because of the lack of a suitable gap in which to create the fold, the hinge can be created at one end of the graphic or along the top or bottom.


Matt Theobald has been working in the exhibition and display industry for over 20 years. Having been involved in the design and build of exhibition stands throughout Europe and having specialised for a number of years in large-format digital print he has a wealth of experience in this arena. http://www.exdisplay.co.uk

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