Why Clear App Tape and App Fluid Don’t Mix

If you are new to the sign business and have wrestled with the challenge of creating multi layer vinyl graphics, you may have gotten some conflicting advice. To more easily align one layer of vinyl on another, use clear transfer tape.

The more transparent the application tape is, the easier it is to align your graphics. Application fluid, such as RapidTac or SureGlide, is often recommended to produce a more forgiving surface when you position one layer of vinyl on another. But you may have also been told never to use application fluid with clear tape. Why is that, and how do we get the benefits of transparency and wet repositionability at the same time?

Unlike paper application tape, clear tape has a plastic face stock. In wet applications, paper tape’s porous face stock allows the fluid to pass through the face stock and away from the adhesive. This prevents the fluid from degrading the adhesive properties of the application tape. Clear tape has a plastic face stock which prevents the application fluid from passing through it. Therefore, the fluid can become trapped under the tape and begin to degrade or delaminate the adhesive. That’s bad news. But there is an answer to this apparent conundrum.

If you use just a light mist of application fluid (on the tacky side of the masked vinyl graphic) and spread it around with your finger, you will have just enough fluid to give you that wet application repositionability without drowning the adhesive. Then, as you apply the masked graphic and position it, squeegee it down. As you squeegee the layer in place, use a paper towel to soak up the application fluid. This method will give you the benefits of the transparent pre-mask and the repositionability of wet application without drowning the tape’s adhesive.

Remember that wet applications generally take longer for the vinyl’s adhesive to cure (especially with a vinyl with an acrylic adhesive), so allow a bit more time on the substrate before you begin to remove the pre-mask. That is another reason to use the SureGlide or RapidTac sparingly. Happy layering!

Here’s a link to a clear app tape we recommend.