Vinyl Lettering Installation
What follows is a description of techniques we use. There is no implied guarantee intended of any sort, if you should choose to use any of these techniques for your own purposes.
The vinyl lettering that you have received is “setup” to be installed as a unit. It consists of a front tape “carrying or transfer sheet” and a backer “release sheet” with the vinyl letters already correctly positioned and sandwiched in between. Do not peel it apart or attempt to do anything with it until you read and understand the vinyl letter installation instructions to follow. Unpack it from shipping and allow it to flatten out in a protected area away from excessive heat, sun, mosture, dust or activity. Installing vinyl lettering is quite simple but you have to follow instructions precisely with no innovations or short cuts. If you make a mistake the vinyl lettering will be ruined. Seriously. If you have doubts about your abilities get a friend or co-worker to help you.
To install vinyl lettering you will need the following. Cleaning products to prepare your surface to be free from grime, grease, tar or dust on vehicles. Next you will need a roll of masking tape, a roll of paper towels and something to measure with. Lastly you will need a good moderately supple squeegee of the type used for vinyl letter installation. Although you can try to use something like a credit card instead, it is really not smart to scrimp on this, especially considering the price of a professional grade tool. They are usually available at auto body supply shops.
Your vinyl lettering job is only as good as the surface you put it on. Raw wood, plywood or sheetrock should be primed and painted with a good quality paint. Existing surfaces should be washed and degreased even if they do not appear to need it. On fragile surfaces like painted sheetrock, gentle soap and water used cautiously is best. If the surface is metal and degraded with rust or pits or damage, it really should be resurfaced and repainted. Paint must cure for approximately a week in a well ventilated space prior to vinyl letter installation. If you are starting with a baked enamel blank or glass, cleaning with window cleaner is usually sufficient. Once the surface is clean and dry you are ready to proceed.
Take your vinyl lettering unit and attach a couple of pieces of short masking tape to the top edge, an inch or two in from each corner. Adhere the unit to the surface approximately where you would like it be. We do not use a level preferring rather to reference to whatever strong visual lines are available on the vehicle or building. The vinyl should be attached as you would normally read the text except for inside glass installations which will be read from the outside. These should read reversed during the install. The “carrying sheet” always goes towards you. Next use you measuring tool to correct your former approximate location to the exact spot your letters will go. On rectangular formats as sign blanks or glass doors this is simply measuring to references and shifting the lettering by detaching the tape and moving the unit around. We usually focus on one axis at a time, horizontal then vertical. Now recheck your work. Once you start the installation there will not be any ability to shift things. So this is the point where you have to position them to be exactly right. Locating vinyl on vehicle doors can be especially challenging since it becomes a balancing act of satisfying various visual cues as body lines, running boards or trim. Vehicle lettering needs to sit with the visual flow of the automobile. Often this becomes a visual preference issue resolvable by temporarily adhering the lettering and stepping back and taking the role of the viewer.
Proceed by adhering a strip of masking tape across the whole top of the of the vinyl unit so that the tape is half on, half off the top edge of the vinyl lettering unit. The material and the tape have to be flat and in a straight line since you are creating a hinge. Check to see if the unit will flip up easily and return back to your chosen layout location. If it does you are ready to install. Flip the letter unit up using the masking tape hinge. Check the surface beneath to ensure no grit or dirt has found its way there. It is not a bad idea to give the surface a swipe of window cleaner just in case. Hold up until dry. If your letter unit it bigger than a foot in length here is where a friend might come in handy. Your other option if your vinyl allows, is to make scissor cuts through the carrying and backer sheets from the bottom up to the hinge while leaving the hinge itself intact. Ensure that you do not cut through any vinyl as letters, logos or horizontal details. Next reach up underneath one section and slowly peel the paper ‘backer sheet’ down from the hinge. Watch your letters to make sure they are not coming off with the backer layer. As you peel, the letters must not be touched and must be held up in place so they do not accidentally drop onto the surface and attach inappropriately. That’s where a friend holds one corner, you the other. As the backer is being peeled away, slowly and gently start letting the front carrier and letters rotate downward on the hinge. Do not let it drop and continue to hold it away. Start using your squeegee at the hinge to firmly stroke the carrier and letters against your mounting surface. Do so going sideways from the center out, first one way then the other holding the squeegee at about a 45 degree angle. Take small steps here as you stroke and attach you will also have to lower the outer edge of the carrier while peeling more of the backer away. Continue until it is all attached. The process is designed to allow air to escape from behind as you apply. The next step is to use your squeegee to firmly attach the letters by firmly stroking across each letter in multiple directions. This should be done firmly but not so harshly that you are deforming the carrying sheet. If any air bubbles are noted they should be swept towards edges of letters to allow the bubbles to escape. If you have portioned the lettering continue with each piece until they are all installed.
The last step is the removal of the carrying sheet. First remove the masking tape and discard in a responsible manner or reuse it. Next take a corner of the sheet and fold it completely over against itself and gently pull against the fold pulling along the surface rather than away from it. Pull gently and continuously until the entire piece is removed. The last step is to inspect for any remaining air bubbles. If any are found, lay paper over the bubble area and use the squeegee to try to work them towards whatever letter’s edge is closest to allow the air to escape. Enough of an area should be covered so that you are not squeegeeing over unprotected letters. On any stubborn bubbles use a pin to prick the vinyl and delicately stroke the bubble towards the pinprick to let the air out and adhere the vinyl. Now congratulate yourself because you are done.