How to Make Money with Architectural Signage and Wall Graphics

Examples of large, digitally printed, wall graphics

Examples of large, digitally printed, wall graphics

Architectural signage and wall graphics in particular represent a promising new revenue opportunity for sign businesses. We’ll try to bring you up to date on the challenges of this market and some tips for using our newest wall media product, PrismJET 234 WallTEX.

New Non-seasonal Sign Markets

One of the great things about wall graphics is that it’s a product with broad appeal for both commercial and residential customers. Commercial demand is being driven by national brands and franchises like Dunkin Donuts and Taco Bell, who make use of interior wall space to promote products and support ad campaigns. These commercial customers may already be buying fleet signage and outdoor storefront signage from you. Why not sell them removable graphics for their interior walls as well? Not only is it a largely untapped market, but since these graphics can be installed indoors, you could use them to boost sales during months when colder weather interferes with the installation of outdoor graphics. Use commercial wall graphics to extend your peak sales season and keep installers busy and productive year round.

The other market for wall graphics is the general public. Fathead.com has made a successful business of selling pre-printed removable, repositionable, life size decals of sports heroes. This has created demand for repositionable custom graphics. Rather than putting LeBron or Drew Brees on the wall of the den, why not a life-size picture of your own high school all star, or little Buffy in her soccer uniform? Repositionable wall graphics can be a lucrative extension of the booming scrap-booking and custom interior décor markets. This B2C business can dramatically expand your sign shop’s customer base.

Challenges and Choices
Yellow arrow points to unprinted border

Yellow arrow points to un-printed border that’s needed to improve adhesion and decrease edge curl.

To produce a repositionable and removable wall decal, you need some pretty specific print media. It has to have an adhesive strong enough to bond to less than ideal painted surfaces, but not tacky enough to damage them when removed or repositioned. To withstand the repeated peel and stick process of repositioning, it has to be a thicker, more durable film than those commonly used for standard sign industry applications. The most commonly used solution is a 6 mil matte vinyl with a low tack adhesive. The problem is that the ink load required to create a vivid image on six mil vinyl often overloads the low tack adhesive needed to prevent damage to painted surfaces. The result is a tendency for the edges of contour-cut images to curl away from the surface after installation. To prevent edge curl, most media manufacturers advise sign makers to leave an unprinted border of about ¼” rather than creating a full bleed decal, and to avoid installing decals larger than three square feet. This may or may not be satisfactory for all residential and commercial customers.

The related challenge is getting a low tack 6 mil vinyl to adhere to a painted wall with surface texture commonly found in modern homes and offices. (The texture hides flaws in drywall and is used almost universally by modern builders) A thinner 3 mil vinyl such as ORAJET 3628 may be more suitable for less smooth walls, but its added conformability comes at a price. It’s too thin to allow repositioning without stretching. ORACAL recommends it only for removable graphics like murals; not for repositionable Fathead style decals. You could opt for a 2 mil cast high performance film like 3M IJ8624, which is also suitable for extreme textures like brick and stucco. But the price of a cast vinyl may put you out of reach of the consumer market. The best solution for rougher painted surfaces is a fabric-based adhesive backed media like PrismJET 234 WallTEX

WallTEX to the Rescue

PrismJET WallTEX

The superior conformability of fabric based media makes it an ideal choice for repositionable interior wall decals for both residential and commercial customers. Since WallTEX is a 7 mil film, it can be easily peeled from one location and repositioned elsewhere. It’s on a 90# liner so it can easily be contour-cut on a standard vinyl cutter with moderate force. And it supports full bleed contour-cut graphics with excellent layflat performance; no edge curl. In short, it’s the ideal medium for your indoor wall decals. As mentioned above, one of the limitations of 6 mil wall vinyls is a recommended size limit of three square feet. Not so with WallTEX. You can sell and install life size decals with confidence. That brings up a couple of application questions. What’s the best technique for installing a 6′ by 2′ decal?

 Soft Squeegees, Hinges, and Application Tape

WallTEX Hinge Method

WallTEX Hinge Method

Even though it’s a fabric based product, PrismJET WallTEX is easy to use. For best image quality, request the WallTEX ICC Profile created by the SignWarehouse tech support staff. If you would rather work with an existing profile, and have one for PrismJET 201matte vinyl, that’s a good place to start. If you’re using a Q Series or Graphtec vinyl cutter, set your blade force to 22. You’ll need to use RIP software that supports the contour cut process. If this is your first attempt at printing and cutting decals, and you have FlexiSign Pro or Flexi Sign & Print software, this tutorial from the SignWarehouse Tech Support Blog will make it easy. Weed the graphic as you would a normal vinyl graphic, removing all the WallTEX media outside the contour-cut area. Once you’ve printed, cut, and weeded the graphic, installation is easy, depending on size.

For small to medium size graphics: less than 2 square feet. Just remove the release liner and apply the decal using a soft squeegee, working from one side to the other. You may prefer to stick the bottom first and work your way up. Keep the release liner handy. Once you have the decal applied to the wall with no bubbles or wrinkles, use the liner as a cover sheet, place it over the decal and re-squeegee firmly to aid adhesion. This allows you to apply more vigorous force without worrying about smudging the ink or scratching the finish.

For larger graphics: two to four square feet. A hinge is the best method for medium size decals. Keeping the decal on its liner, affix it to the wall in the desired spot using blue painters tape or something similar. Tape the top and bottom to secure it in the desired position and check alignment. Then bisect the decal vertically or horizontally with a piece of tape covering the entire width or height of the image and securing it to the wall (see above). A vertical or horizontal hinge can be used depending on the shape of the decal. Once the hinge has the decal secured to the wall, lift one side of the decal, peel it from the release liner and cut away the liner as closely as possible to the position of the hinge, removing half of it. Set this aside and carefully, working from the center outward, squeegee the WallTEX to the wall, applying pressure from the hinge to the edge. Now that you have half the decal secured to the wall, simply lift the rest, carefully remove the liner and repeat the process, working from the center outward. Then cover with the release liner and squeegee firmly to secure.

For graphics larger than four square feet or graphics with irregular shapes, you may also want to mask the weeded graphic with a low to medium tack tape such as Main PerfecTear Plus 750 tape. The tape can be applied by hand, with a WEBERmade premaskerBig Squeegee, or other ingenious pre-masking devices. Use the hinge method described above to affix the masked decal to the wall and check for proper alignment. Then remove the liner in sections and apply with the same process. The addition of transfer tape with the hinges is helpful especially if your decal has an amorphous shape where part of the decal may flop around as you apply a section of the image. The tape keeps it uniform and prevents a section from sticking to itself or sticking to the wall prematurely. After the entire decal has been squeegeed to the wall, remove the tape slowly, then cover with the release liner and re-squeegee.

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