Car Wrapping:
Top 12 tips to successful vehicle wrapping

Knowing the tricks that make up the anatomy of a great car wrap are essential to ensure consistent quality on all vehicle wraps.
From graphic design to vehicle preparation and having the necessary tools on hand, there is knowledge to gain that will make every applicator even better. If we can share that knowledge we will increase the credibility of the application craft, and in turn ensure that all vehicle wraps are works of art.

Top 12 tips to successful vehicle wrapping:

1. Make sure you have images of the vehicle prior to planning the design.
2. Determine where all the joins will fall. Use the natural lines of the vehicle, whether horizontal or vertical. Use door panels/weld lines to cover overlaps.
3. Thoroughly wash the vehicle down with soap and water and allow 24 hours to dry, paying extra attention to door seals and wheel arches.
4. Degrease the vehicle. Mactac recommend isopropyl alcohol. Alternatively use a fast drying panel wipe with silicone killer paying special attention to all the recesses.
5. For solvent printed media allow a minimum of 48hrs to outgas. The rolls should be left standing vertically and loosely wound to help with airflow and should be turned regularly as the solvents are heavier than air. The more the vinyl can be allowed to de-gas, the less tacky the adhesive will feel and the easier the graphic will be to fit.
6. Laminate with cold rollers only. Do not use excessive tension on the rollers.
7. Use a hard Mactac squeegee or similar. Apply a strip of velvet to one edge and change the velvet regularly to avoid scratching.
8. Apply the vinyl to the flattest part of the panel first (create a base line) working from side to side, keeping the vinyl as level as possible. Stretch the vinyl without heat over the whole area and do not work the film into the more complicated areas such as recesses until later.
9. When stretching the vinyl, always pull outwards from the largest area of the vinyl you can to spread the tension. This also applies when you use extra heat to soften and stretch the vinyl, apply heat to a larger area than you need as this should help to avoid distorting the graphic.
10. When cutting through the vinyl on the bodywork or around handles it is best to stick electrical tape to the surface first. Use a new blade each and every time you cut through the vinyl. The weight of the blade should be enough without having to apply extra pressure.
11. Post heat to 95ºC or above and always use an infra red temperature gauge to be sure that you have reached this temperature. Anything less and the vinyl will retain its memory and cause the graphic to pop out of recesses and curves. This post heating must be carried out scrupulously on all areas where the wrap has been stretched to fit, especially in deep recesses. Do not overheat as you may damage the film.
12. If vehicle wrapping in colder weather do not let the vehicle leave the workshop until the following day. The vehicle and vinyl should be allowed to cool down at the same rate as the workshop. This will help to avoid thermal shock and reduce the risk of failure in the recesses.

For further in-depth guides select the two links below to download car wrapping PDF guides from Mactac:


Below is our 11 stage quick guide to car wrapping in simple step-by-step words and pictures:

Thoroughly clean surface with a sponge and RAPIDPREPSTEP ONE: Thoroughly clean the surface the material is to be applied to using a sponge and clean, soapy water. The surface area is clean enough when you can rub your fingers over the cleaned area and it is "squeaky" clean. Then use RAPIDPREP or Avery Dennison 3D Surface Cleaner to prepare the surface that the vinyl will be applied to. Pay particular attention to the recessed areas of the bodywork which trap dirt and grease - ensure these areas are completely free from dirt, oil and grease as any dirt left on the body work will affect the materials adhesion to the surface.


Position graphic film onto substrateSTEP TWO: Position the film to the cleaned application surface using low-tack application tape. This will serve as a 'hinge' for applying the material to the surface. Ensure the 'hinge' tape is placed on a flat part of the surface. Only remove a small section of the liner at first to prevent pre-sticking.




Squeegee the grapchic from the centre outwards STEP THREE: Keep the adhesive free from the surface until ready. Use a plastic squeegee to firmly apply the film from the centre outwards towards the film edges. Take care NOT to stretch the film while following the irregular shapes of the surface. Apply vertical sections using vertical squeegee strokes. Remove the application 'hinge' tape and re-squeegee all edges and corners.


Re=squeegee edges and corners... STEP FOUR: When re-squeegeeing the edges and corners, ensure the material is fixed on ALL edges of any irregular shapes in the surface. Work your way around the edges of all irregular shapes, dips and corrugation ensuring all the edges are fixed firmly!




Ensure all edges are fixed firmly to the surface area before shaping recessed areas STEP FIVE: Once all edges have been firmly fixed to the surface, the application of the material in the recesses and shaped surface areas can begin...


Wet your application glove in clean waterSTEP SIX: In order to conform the material to the irregular shaped surface without forming pleats or creases, you will need to wet your application glove using clean water.





Use a hot air gun to conform the deepest recessed and irregular shaped areas STEP SEVEN: Then, to conform the reccessed and irregular shaped areas, use a hot-air gun to heat these areas of material gently to about 40°-50°C. We advise you only heat small areas at a time.
Always check the correct temperatures are adhered to using a temperature sensor.



Streth the material into the deepest recessed areas STEP EIGHT: Having heated the material to 40°-50°C use the wet glove to start stretching the material into the deepest parts of the recessed areas - ensuring the area of material you are working on stays heated to at least 40°C. Continue your way around the recessed area focussing only on the deepest part.




Work your way through all of the recessed and irregular shaped areas STEP NINE: Once the deepest parts have been successfully applied, begin to work your way through all the other recessed areas, shaping the material to the contours of the substrate. Again, ensure that the material is heated to 40°-50°C.


Check for trapped air in the vinyl and remove any air bubbles etc. STEP TEN: With all the edges now properly applied you will need to turn your attention to the remaining areas of the vinyl. When doing this make sure that any air is not trapped; avoid trapping air by leaving an opening for the air to escape.
Check the application for any air-bubbles - if any small air bubbles can still be seen these are easily removed with a small puncture, then heat it a little and push the air out.



Use the hot air gun to re-heat the material to 90 degrees CelciusSTEP ELEVEN: Now for the final stage. Use the hot air gun to heat the material to approx 80°-90°C, especially in areas where the material has been stretched. Ensure the heating is done gently and the temperature then gradually increased - it is important that the film AND the substrate reach these temperatures by re-heating gently rather than with short blasts of heat.