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Vinyl Decal Installation

I know that you're anxious to get your decal installed, but please take the time to read these guidelines first! It will end up saving you much time and frustration in the long run.

Surface Preparation

This is probably one of the most important steps of the installation process. Proper cleaning and preparation of the surface prior to decal application is critical to the success of the installation. The following cleaning and surface preparation guidelines should be followed prior to installation. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can cause loss of adhesion and therefore reduce the durability and longevity of the decal.

Surfaces to which the material will be applied must be smooth, non-porous and thoroughly cleaned from dust, grease, and contamination. Freshly painted or lacquered surfaces should be allowed to stand for a least three weeks to completely cure. The compatibility of adhesion to paints and lacquers should be tested by the end-user prior to use.

General Surface Cleaning and Preparation

The surface that the decals will be applied to must be completely clean, smooth and dry prior to application. Remove all dirt, dust, and grime with a commercial detergent solution and water. Household dishwashing soap works great. If grease, oil, wax, etc., are present, the surface must be scrubbed clean with a solvent wipe. Although you can install decals after cleaning the surface with dishwashing soap, it is recommended to use Denatured Alcohol because it will completely clean the surface. It helps remove residues that could be left from the soap and water solution. Also, if you use car cleaning products such as car wax, Rain-X, or similar products, these could possibly affect the installation process of your decals. Denatured Alcohol can remove these and other residues from the surface before applying vinyl decals. It can be purchased at most of the hardware or paint stores and is relatively inexpensive. Always follow the instructions on the label. If it will be used on a painted surface, make sure the instructions say it can be used for that purpose (or fiberglass if it's a boat) and test in an inconspicuous area. Finally, wipe the surface completely dry using a clean, soft, lint-free cloth.

Temperature and Weather Conditions

The optimum temperature range for vinyl decal adhesion is 60 to 80 degrees F. The air and surfaces should always be above 40 degrees F. Very high humidity may also affect the installation process. Try to work in a covered area that will help keep dust and dirt from landing on your surface and decal. Do not install the decal in cold temperatures (below 40 degrees F) or on cold surfaces. Vinyl adhesive is less tacky and shrinks when cold and this will sometimes cause the decal to tear apart on surfaces and transfer tape when lifted. Installing the decal in an area with proper temperature control is preferred in the winter (such as in a garage or other enclosed environment).

 

Tools Needed for Installation

1. Scissors and/or Hobby Knife (X-Acto)

2. Tape Measure / Ruler (used to align your decal)

3. Plastic squeegee (credit card or driver's license works great)

4. Sewing needle, straight pin or other small needle (Chances are you'll get air bubbles in your installation job. This happens with 90% of vinyl installations. Use the pin to poke a hole in any bubbles to release trapped air under the decal.)

5. Masking tape

 

Installation Steps

No matter what size decal you are installing, first lay the decal face down on a smooth, flat surface. Using your squeegee (or credit card, etc.), firmly rub over the entire graphic area (starting at the center and working outwards in all directions) to ensure that the decal is completely attached to the transfer tape.

 

For Small Decals:

Step 1 - Position the decal exactly where you would like it to be installed. Place a strip of masking tape along the entire top edge of the decal creating a "hinge."

Step 2 - Flip the decal up along the hinge so that it is upside down. Starting at the hinge, peel the backing away from the decal HALF WAY and fold it back on itself.

Step 3 - Bring the decal back down holding onto the decal and the folded backing. Holding the decal tight and about an inch from the application surface, slowly and firmly squeegee the decal onto the surface until the exposed half of the decal is stuck to the surface. For best results, work in opposite directions from the center out (start at the top center and squeegee to the left, then the right, working your way down as you go).

Step 4 - Hold onto the application tape and peel away the remainder of the backing. Continue holding the decal at an angle away from the surface and carefully squeegee the rest of the decal onto the surface. Your decal will now be securely affixed to the surface.

Step 5 - Once the decal is fully applied, squeegee over the entire decal very firmly, again working from the center outward. The adhesive on the vinyl is pressure sensitive and this will ensure that you have good adhesion to the surface.

Step 6 - Now that your decal is fully adhered, you can remove the application tape. Do this by starting at one corner and gently lifting the tape up. Pull it straight back along itself keeping it close to the surface. This will prevent the vinyl from lifting back up off the surface. If the vinyl does begin to lift, don't panic! Just lay the tape back over the decal and squeegee it down firmly once again and remove the tape slower.

Step 7 - If any air bubbles appear in the vinyl after the application tape is removed, use the pin or needle to poke a small hole in the bubble. Massage the bubble with your finger tip to work the air out from underneath the vinyl.

Step 8 - Step back and admire your decal!

 

For Large Decals:

Step 1 - Position the decal exactly where you would like it to be installed. Place a piece of masking tape along each side of the decal. Place a third piece of masking tape completely across the center of the decal so that it extends past the decal on the top and bottom (this will become your "hinge").

Step 2 - Remove the left piece of masking tape and separate the application tape and decal from the backing. Folding the decal back along the hinge (the center piece of masking tape), use your scissors to cut the exposed half of the backing off and remove it.

Step 3 - Flip the decal back over to the left. Holding the decal tight and about an inch from the application surface, slowly and firmly squeegee the decal onto the surface until the exposed half of the decal is stuck to the surface. For best results, work in opposite directions from the center out (start at the right center along the hinge and squeegee up, then down, working your way left as you go).

Step 4 - Remove the right and center (hinge) pieces of masking tape. Carefully separate the remaining decal from the backing and completely remove the backing.

Step 5 - Holding the right side of the decal at the same angle as before, finish squeegeeing the right side of the decal down to the surface in the same fashion as the left side. The only difference is now you will be working from the center to the right.

Step 6 - Once the decal is fully applied, squeegee over the entire decal very firmly, again working from the center outward. The adhesive on the vinyl is pressure sensitive and this will ensure that you have good adhesion to the surface.

Step 7 - Now that your decal is fully adhered, you can remove the application tape. Do this by starting at one corner and gently lifting the tape up. Pull it straight back along itself keeping it close to the surface. This will prevent the vinyl from lifting back up off the surface. If the vinyl does begin to lift, don't panic! Just lay the tape back over the decal and squeegee it down firmly once again and remove the tape slower.

Step 8 - If any air bubbles appear in the vinyl after the application tape is removed, use the pin or needle to poke a small hole in the bubble. Massage the bubble with your finger tip to work the air out from underneath the vinyl.

Step 9 - Step back and admire your decal!

 

For Extra Large Decals (Such as Lettering):

Step 1 - Position the decal exactly where you would like it to be installed. Place a strip of masking tape along the entire top edge of the decal creating a "hinge."

Step 2 - Using your scissors, and being very careful not to damage the vinyl, cut the decal into several, manageable pieces (between the letters). Cut completely through the application tape and backing.

* Follow the next steps for EACH INDIVIDUAL PIECE / SECTION *

Step 3 - Flip the decal up along the hinge so that it is upside down. Starting at the hinge, peel the backing away from the decal HALF WAY and fold it back on itself.

Step 4 - Bring the decal back down holding onto the decal and the folded backing. Holding the decal tight and about an inch from the application surface, slowly and firmly squeegee the decal onto the surface until the exposed half of the decal is stuck to the surface. For best results, work in opposite directions from the center out (start at the top center and squeegee to the left, then the right, working your way down as you go).

Step 5 - Hold onto the application tape and peel away the remainder of the backing. Continue holding the decal at an angle away from the surface and carefully squeegee the rest of the decal onto the surface. Your decal will now be securely affixed to the surface.

Step 6 - Once the decal is fully applied, squeegee over the entire decal very firmly, again working from the center outward. The adhesive on the vinyl is pressure sensitive and this will ensure that you have good adhesion to the surface.

Step 7 - Now that your decal is fully adhered, you can remove the application tape. Do this by starting at one corner and gently lifting the tape up. Pull it straight back along itself keeping it close to the surface. This will prevent the vinyl from lifting back up off the surface. If the vinyl does begin to lift, don't panic! Just lay the tape back over the decal and squeegee it down firmly once again and remove the tape slower.

Step 8 - If any air bubbles appear in the vinyl after the application tape is removed, use the pin or needle to poke a small hole in the bubble. Massage the bubble with your finger tip to work the air out from underneath the vinyl.

Step 9 - Step back and admire your decal!

 

Vinyl Removal

On glass surfaces, with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, a razor blade scraper can be used effectively. Do not use a razor blade on painted surfaces, it could scrape or damage the paint. Decals can be removed from painted surfaces using following Heat Method.

Heat Method

Using a heat gun or hair dryer, heat the entire decal by holding heat source approximately 6 to 12 inches away from the surface. After heating the entire decal for approximately 30-60 seconds, loosen a corner of the decal and pull back slowly. A slow, steady pulling and lifting action at less than a 90 degree angle will usually prevent the vinyl from breaking and will remove most of the adhesive from the surface. If the decal becomes hard to pull, just stop, reheat the decal, and proceed with removal. An adhesive remover can be used to take off any adhesive left behind after the decal is removed. Be sure to check the label of the adhesive remover to make sure that it is safe to use on painted surfaced.

Once the decal is removed it is no longer reusable.

 

Maintenance

In colder climates, decals on vehicle windows can be damaged by the scraping of frost or ice from the windows. Mild window cleaner may be used to clean the windows without damage to the decal. On painted surfaces of vehicles, care must be taken when waxing. Wax will build up around the edges of the decal, and will need to be removed. Use a soft cloth, take your time, and be gentle. Do not use anything such as a brush as this will only force the wax underneath the edge of decal, and the decal will begin to peel. Vinyl decals will not be damaged by normal use of car washing products or water. Although the decals will withstand pressure washing and car washes, this can reduce the life span and appearance of decals. The vinyl decals will not last forever, but they will give you many years of enjoyment if properly taken care of.

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