Transfer Tape Vinyl Application Guide

One of the most Frequently Asked Questions we receive is, “What application tape should I use with this vinyl?” Vinyl and tape go together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you’ve got the wrong tape for your vinyl, it might feel more like peanut butter and yogurt. Nobody’s gonna want that sandwich.
To help you get the recipe right, we’ve consulted with the manufacturers and created an easy to follow users guide for tape and vinyl. It’s not comprehensive, and it’s not set in stone. If you’re using a different combination that works for you, by all means stick with it. Maybe some people actually like pb&y sandwiches.
But if you’re having problems transferring or applying vinyl graphics,  these tips and the new matching guide below should help you get the blend just right.

The guide has been updated to include information on our new EnduraMASK MHC 160G and 165 imprinted hobby tapes, as well as ORATAPE MT80P and other tapes popular with craft and hobby decal fans.

Transfer Tape Vinyl General Guidelines

The Guide linked below has a fairly complete list of recommendations for vinyl and application tape. For those who prefer the Readers Digest version, here’s a quick summary.

  • Most ORACAL vinyls require high tack tape for successful release from the liner. This is the only downside of a face film that offers some really nice benefits. For more about these properties and a few other ORACAL transfer tips, please click here. The exception to the ORACAL high tack rule is 631 Exhibition Cal. This matte vinyl has a low tack adhesive. A high tack tape will transfer the film from the liner but may overwhelm the vinyl’s adhesive and make application to the substrate difficult.
  • EnduraGLOSS vinyl works well with medium tack tape. But if you’re applying very small letters, a high tack app tape may work better.
  • EnduraMATTE vinyl has a removable, low tack adhesive engineered specifically for interior wall decor. A medium or medium-high tack tape is recommended for this vinyl to provide a balance between the adhesion of tape to vinyl and vinyl to wall surfaces.
  • Endura GlitterCAST Ultrametallic vinyl has a permanent, acrylic adhesive similar to that used in EnduraGLOSS.  So, our recommendation for Endura GlitterCAST depends on the size of the graphic. Medium to large sized graphics should be applied with medium tack tape. Small graphics will work better with high tack tapes.
  • Metallized films are less flexible than standard PVC vinyls, so they need more coercion to get off the liner. High tack tape is recommended. These include Schein and Endura Holographics, R-Tape VinylEfx films, Avery Chrome, and Schein Print Polyester Chrome vinyl.

The SignWarehouse Transfer Tape and Vinyl Matching Application Guide lists all compatible application tapes in our product line for each type or brand of  vinyl listed. There are separate columns for paper tape and clear tape. In most cases, there is more than one clear or paper tape option. In some cases, there are five or more. These are generally grouped by manufacturer and listed in order of price. The order should not be interpreted as our endorsement for one brand or product over another.

So much for summary and context. Please click here to view and download the guide, which has been updated to include application guidance for our newly added EnduraMASK MHC 160G, and MHC165 grid clear tape. Both are excellent for both sign industry and craft applications.  If you’re wondering why a particular tape works better than another, or if you just need help choosing from five possible options, you’ll find more useful information elsewhere on the Sign College Blog in our Beginner’s Guide to Transfer Tape.

Craft and Hobby Transfer Tape

SignWarehouse is proud to sell a variety of craft and hobby transfer tapes all with a pre-printed grid pattern for easy measuring and application ideal for any craft and hobby projects. The pre-printed grid pattern that is printed on this type of tape helps with applying the vinyl. While the grid may not be perfectly lined up on the graphic, they can still help lay the graphic straighter then with no grid and guessing at it. Here are some different types on craft and hobby transfer tape that will be perfect for your projects.

ABI Tape’s TransferRite 1310G is a clear tape with a blue grid printed on it. EnduraMASK MHC 160 is just a clear tape, while 160G has a grey grid imprinted on the face film. EnduraMASK 165 is the same excellent tape laminated to a yellow siliconized release liner. The liner has a red grid printed on it which aids in registration and has some other nice benefits.

Other Ingredients for Transfer Tape Vinyl

  • Substrates matter. Beyond the recommendations in the guide, when you’re deciding on what transfer tape to use for a particular job, you should consider the substrate. Bear in mind that “cut vinyl” is designed to be applied to smooth flat surfaces like glass and aluminum. These kinds of substrates bond well with the adhesives used by vinyl manufacturers.  Rough or porous surfaces reduce the effective contact area between the vinyl’s adhesive and the substrate, which can complicate the application process with the tape you’ve chosen. Using a high tack tape with a low tack vinyl on a rough surface generally fails because the bond between the tape and the vinyl’s face film is stronger than the bond between the vinyl’s adhesive and the rough substrate.
  • Wet or Dry? All the recommendations in the guide are based on dry application. Adding application fluid can dramatically weaken the bond between the vinyl’s adhesive and the substrate, making it more difficult to complete the application. This is especially true of vinyls with acrylic adhesives.
  • If you need to use application fluid, follow these simple tips:
    1. Use it sparingly. The more fluid you use, the more you risk crippling the vinyl’s adhesive  and/or causing the transfer tape’s adhesive to separate from the face film.
    2. Once the graphic is positioned the way you want it, use your squeegee to push all the excess fluid out from under the masked graphic. Then sop it up with a paper towel.
    3. Allow a few extra minutes for the vinyl’s adhesive to set up before you try to remove the transfer tape.
    4. Clear tapes don’t work as well with app fluid (find out why) but can be used if it’s done right. Use as little fluid as possible. Then squeegee and sop up the excess fluid as quickly as you can.

Beyond Cut Vinyl

Despite the fact that many sign makers buy digital printers to escape the need to cut and weed vinyl, there is still a place for transfer tape in the world of printed graphics. If you’re applying cut vinyl letters to a vehicle, the vinyl doesn’t get handled by itself or directly. It’s covered and strengthened by the app tape. So now you’ve moved on to digital printing and the world is your oyster.  If you’re installing vehicle wraps or floor graphics, the overlaminate film takes the place of application tape. But if you sell a sign without lamination printed on 2 or 3 mil vinyl, you may find that it’s hard to manage the installation without stretching the print.   Using transfer tape can give the vinyl more ‘body’ and stability and take some of the anxiety out of the process. To avoid removing any uncured ink, opt for medium tack tape.  Read all about it.

If you’ve kept your ear to the ground, you’ve probably heard about how easy it is to add garment decoration to a sign business. Most of the processes are similar to what you already know about vinyl signs and graphics. There are heat transfer applications – mostly digitally printed transfers –  that require transfer tape. Unfortunately, you can’t use your EnduraMASK or R-Tape products for heat transfer appliqués. These tapes are not happy in a heat press. They will either leave residue on the shirt… or melt. Neither is a good situation. For print-and-cut T-shirt transfers, you need heat transfer tape. Guess what. We’ve got a blog article for that too. Click and learn.

Now that you have the SignWarehouse Transfer Tape and Vinyl Matching Application Guide,  you have one less ‘FAQ’. Your vinyl and tape choices will work together like peanut butter and jelly, not peanut butter and ham salad.  The guide will be updated periodically. If you have a question about what’s there, or what’s not there, please post it in the comments below. And if you have a different combination that works for you, feel free to share it with our readers.