Home / Introduction /  Vinyl Wrap Types

Not All Wraps are Created Equal.


Here’s the deal: there are a lot of crappy wraps out there. We feel like it’s our job to help educate our community about wraps, and that in doing so people will stop accepting badly designed, poorly installed and cheap quality wraps as “industry standard” and start demanding quality vehicle wraps.


So, whether you’re on the market for a wrap, already have one or just want to add “wrap connoisseur” to your resume, we’re honored to have the opportunity to teach you more about our industry.


From custom racing stripes to commercial fleet lettering, vinyl vehicle graphics have long been a mainstay of the digital graphics industry. As more aspiring young sign makers get into the market, the challenges of vehicle graphics generate lots of questions.


Questions about the best choice of vinyl, surface preparation, and application methods can be more than a little confusing. Do you have to use cast vinyl? What kind of cleaning is required? What are the best markets to pursue?




Vehicle Wraps Are Printed On Sheets Of Cast Vinyl Or Calendered Vinyl The Primary Difference Between The Two Vinyl Wraps Is Durability.


Cast Vinyl Is Best For Long Term Use Of 1 To 5 Years;

Calender Vinyl Is Appropriate For Short Term Wraps Lasting Just 3 To 12 Months.

Cast Vinyl Is A Premium Material That Stretches Easily To Best Conform To The Vehicle's Surface.


When Brushed Over With A Clear Laminate, Cast Vinyl Provides A Paint Like Finish On Cars, Buses, And Even Boats,in Addition To Increased Flexibility, Vendors Prefer Cast Vinyl Because The Sheets Don't Shrink Much During Manufacturing, And Also Because They Maintain Colors Better During Printing. However, Cast Vinyl Wraps Are Considerably More Expensive Than Calendered Material And Isn't Recommended If You Need A Vehicle Wrap For Less Than A Year.


Calendered Vinyl Has Strong "Memory" It Snaps Back To Its Original Form After Being Stretched, This Means It Doesn't Conform As Well To Vehicles.


It's Also Difficult To Match Colors. But Calendered Vinyl Is Much Cheaper Than Cast Material, And It Can Be Produced In Greater Quantities. This Makes It An Acceptable Solution For Vinyl Wraps Lasting Only A Few Months Especially If Used On Flat Surfaces Such As The Side Of A Box Truck  But Not For Longterm Advertising.






Truck and Commercial Fleet lettering: Any company that manages a fleet of trucks needs professionally installed lettering. Commercial vehicles are required to post certain information on the doors including gross vehicle weight and applicable license numbers. Likely customers include wrecker or tow truck services, construction companies, and LTL carriers.


Motor Sports: Auto racing is another traditional source of business for vinyl vehicle graphics. Many top tier race teams have upgraded to printed vehicle wraps, but there are still plenty of racers who just need vinyl graphics like door numbers and/or sponsor logo decals.


Custom: The other applications for vinyl vehicle graphics all fall into the custom category. These are all graphics designed for the general public to customize ‘street’ cars. Although tastes and styles in this sector have changed over the years, there is still a large demand for vehicle customization and that includes vinyl graphics. There are still import tuners decorating their rides with tribal graphics, but there are a lot more automotive enthusiasts opting for matte black racing stripes, chrome or carbon fiber accents, and complete paint replacement or “color change” wraps.


As you might expect, these various markets require different skills and materials. So the answers to your basic vinyl vehicle graphics questions will depend largely on you



One of the most frequently asked questions about vehicle decals involves the choice of vinyl.

For commercial fleet graphics, standard cast and calendared films will work. Which type you choose is partly a matter of personal preference and customer budget, but there are some basic technical guidelines to keep in mind. For decals on compound curves or deep recesses, a cast vinyl is the best option. Calendared films will not adhere to such challenging surfaces permanently. They’ll stick for a while, but will tend to lift due to their lower levels of dimensional stability.



  • 1. Types of Wraps

    There are two different types of wraps: digitally printed and Color Change. Digitally printed ones are designed on a computer and printed on a wide-format printer, whereas Color Change ones come in a variety of solid colors (everything from ultra-metallic to matte) and textured films (such as carbon fiber or snake skin).


    When it comes to vehicle wraps, there are two different categories of wrap films: calendared and cast.  Calendared vinyl is thicker than cast and usually contains a more aggressive adhesive, whereas cast vinyl is highly conformable, re positionable and clean-removing. Both categories of films can be used for digitally printed wraps or Color Change ones, however, we strongly believe that calendared films should never be used in vehicle wrap applications. We’re going to emphasize that point again because it’s one of the most important things you need to understand about wraps: calendared films should not be used to wrap vehicles. The reason is because calendared films cannot conform to concave and convex curves of vehicles the same way cast films can.


    When calendared films are stretched into tight crevices or around curves they might look great at first, but after a few weeks the film will tighten, causing the vinyl to shrink or bubble at the edges. The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of vehicle wrap “wannabe’s” out there who are buying calendared vinyl and using them for vehicle wraps, because calendared films are typically 50-75% cheaper than their cast alternatives. We meet people every week who come to us with a failing vehicle wrap they had done at a local sign or window tint shop.  The customer is angry (rightfully so) and discouraged: they don’t understand why their new wrap that looked so great at first now looks so terrible. The most obvious culprit is always the wrong product being used (calendared film instead of cast).  Now you might be wondering about calendared films on flat surfaced-vehicles, like box trucks or trailers. Sure, the film doesn’t have to stretch as much as it would being wrapped on a car, but the truth is that calendared films shrink, regardless of whether or not they’re applied to a flat board or a compound curve.  Using calendared films on a perfectly flat box truck with no rivets (do those even exist?) seems like it would be okay but in actuality it’s not because the panels shrink where they overlap, causing the graphics to not line up after the shrinking has occurred.


  • 2. Wrap Film Quality

    So now that you understand the difference between calendared and cast vinyl and the reasons to avoid calendared vinyl on vehicle wrap applications, let us remind you that there is a substantial difference in quality when it comes to the various manufacturers of different films.


    American made materials such as Avery Dennison Car Wraps and 3M are considered to be the best films, and the subtle differences between the two come down to each shop’s unique preferences because they are both superior quality films. There are a lot of replica vinyl films made overseas that are not of the same quality and do not perform to the same standards as Avery and 3M, even though they are advertised to do so.


  • 3. Digital Printing Technology

    There are three main types of wide-format printers that are used to print on vinyl: solvent/eco-solvent, latex and UV. As a rule of thumb, look for a shop that only uses OEM inks because third party inks are known to show more pixilation, be more prone to UV fading and more likely to adversely affect the vinyl’s ability to adhere (and stay stuck) to the vehicle.


    Solvent and Eco-Solvent –  These are the original wrap printers of the industry and use extremely aggressive, stinky inks (either solvent or eco-solvent).  These printers are known for saturating vinyl with heavy amounts of ink that takes a long time to dry or “off-gas” as we call it in the industry.  The main disadvantage of using solvent/eco-solvent printers is that without proper time to off-gas, wraps printed on these printers are extremely prone to failure. This is because the heavy concentration of ink can attack the adhesive on the back of the vinyl and cause it to stick inconsistently, which puts the wrap at high risk of peeling or bubbling back.  Moreover, prints that are laminated too soon after printing without ample time to off-gas tend to look more cloudy, hazy or bubbly because the ink fumes get trapped underneath the laminate.  Solvent/eco-solvent prints need to off-gas for a minimum of 48 hours prior to laminating.


    Latex – This is the latest and greatest technology in the wrap world and uses less abrasive inks than solvent printers. Latex printers are unique in that they use multiple fans and extremely high-powered heaters to cure the ink as it is being laid down on the vinyl, resulting in prints that are 100% dry immediately after being printed.  Latex printers completely eliminate the need for off-gassing which makes them ideal for the vehicle wrap industry.  Moreover, since latex ink’s composition is naturally more flexible than solvent/eco-solvent ink, it’s ideal for applications requiring vinyl to conform or stretch around curves.


    UV – Ultra Violet (UV) printers are not typically recommended for printing vehicle wraps because the inks’ curing process under UV lights makes the ink brittle when dry.  These printers are great for doing signage and window graphics, but when you take UV printed vinyl and try to stretch and conform it to fit around highly compound curves or bend into deep crevices, there’s a greater risk for ink cracking underneath the laminate.

  • 4. Installation

    Would you hire a car stereo installer to replace the brake pads on your car? So why would you hire a traditional sign maker or window tinter to install a vehicle wrap on your car? Let us put it to you this way, when it comes to vehicle wraps, the only person you want going near your vehicle is an industry certified, professionally trained and highly experienced vehicle wrap installer.


    The unfortunate truth is that there are countless people out there who think that because they more or less “successfully” installed a pre-made wrap purchased on Ebay using a hairdryer and “free-with-purchase” squeegee, that they have mastered the art of vehicle wrapping. Are we impressed they did it themselves and are proud of their work? Sure. Do we think they have any business offering their services to unsuspecting wrap consumers who pay good money for a high-quality wrap? Absolutely not.


    Professional wrap installers have tricks and techniques that can only be acquired from formal training and years of experience. They know how to properly prep the vehicle’s surface for the wrap and take the time to do so. They work slowly and take their time to ensure panels line up perfectly and that there aren’t any visible seams unless 100% necessary. They know the proper order for which they should lay down overlapping panels to ensure their longevity and they know how to achieve perfectly straight edges on wraps without taking a blade near your paint. They know exactly how far they can stretch the film before distorting the image or risking that it won’t stay stuck, and they know how to seal off edges to insure they don’t ever lift. They know how much heat the material can take before the shine of the overlaminate is marred or the panel gets burnt and they know how to properly post-heat the wrap once installed. They know how to care for wraps and take the time to explain to each customer the do’s and don’t’s of wrap maintenance.


    Mediocre wrap installers are a dime a dozen but superior ones that are industry certified, manufacturer-recommended and that have one numerous national awards are extremely hard to find.

  • 5. Design

    Designing a vehicle wrap is unlike any other type of graphic design project. You have to have an intimate understanding of the wrap production and installation process in order to successfully design wraps.  You need to be able to think about how the wrap will install on the vehicle, where the natural seams will be, where the optimal places are to put text, what areas text shouldn’t be placed, how much contrast is needed for the text to be visible, etc.


    Moreover, vehicle wraps need to be designed on to-scale sized three dimensional renderings of the specific vehicle to which the graphics will be applied.  Shops that are using line-drawings or “outlines” of your vehicle to proof artwork should not be taken seriously. How can they account for the contours and curves of your vehicle with a 2D line drawing? How will they know exactly where your car’s side molding is placed compared to that of a similar make/model vehicle?



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One of the most effective testimonial “styles” is the customer story.




Based on the numerous positive reviews, I decided to take my car in to vip wraps   about a year ago.  The first time I drove by, Douglas wasn't actually there which left me a bit disappointed and uneasy.  The second time, I called and made an appointment to bring my car in.  It's a small garage that I noticed was kept pretty clean and organized, which was important for me to see considering I was about to dish out 200+ bucks for his service.  Douglas was very friendly and didn't make me feel rushed at all when I was selecting the tint levels.  He showed me his own car which had 20% tints on it so I can better gauge the darkness level.


Tinting all 5 windows took little less than 3 hours, and when I came back, the car looked beautiful.  There wasn't a single spot on my front+rear windows that wasn't covered.  No air bubbles or imperfections.  The water spots between tint and window will dry out after a few days and disappear.  It looks like an air bubble at first, but it's actually not.  So don't worry about it.


It's been almost a year now, and my tints are still looking great.  My friend complimented them the other day, saying whoever tinted my car did a great job.  For those enthusiasts out there, Douglas also carries 3M tints, which are higher-quality and a bit more expensive.  I didn't get those, but it's nice to know you have an option.  Also, be forewarned if you decide to tint your front windows because it is *illegal* in California.  I already got ticketed once while my car was parked in a park n' ride lot (ridiculous) and pulled over once on the entrance ramp to 101.




Thank you for choosing VIPWRAPS.PRO, the bay area's number one Vinyl wrap company. To request an estimate or discuss your project with our Vinyl Wrap Certified professional, call or email us

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