Making application of large cut vinyl graphics easier

By Randy Brunette

Posted on Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

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In What’s it cost to letter this box truck, I went through the time, materials and major steps of lettering a box truck. The following photos show how I handled the application. I thought it would be helpful to share a few of the tricks for large jobs that I’ve learned along the way.

When applying large graphics, I place masking tape tabs on first, before I get upon the ladder and start trying to place it. I fold over the ends of the tape to allow for easier repositioning. It’s hard to tear off a piece of tape while holding a large graphic.

The first graphic is the most important step of application because everything else works off that. Take extra care to get this first graphic applied exactly where you want it. Here you can see the height of this truck and how the stepladder was required.

When working on location, I have a couple job buckets that contain all my essential installation tools. Before leaving the shop, I take a few minutes to think the job through to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

I like to place multiple masking tape “hinges” where possible on large graphics so that I can work on smaller sections at a time. There’s nothing worse than fighting with a large graphic on a windy day—it keeps trying to stick to itself!

After taping multiple hinges, I cut the graphic into sections, applying each of the smaller sections rather than fighting with one large piece. I’ve learned this the hard way by ruining my share of large graphics when they ended up stuck to themselves.

Take it slow and easy when squeegeeing the vinyl graphic. Rushing means wrinkles! I found that a small tool pouch works great for carrying my basic application tools— tape, squeegees, X-acto knife, scissors, and so forth are all within easy reach.

Good trimming is the key to compensating for misalignment. I always use a new blade so I know I don’t need to push too hard. A sharp blade guarantees a clean cut the first time.

On a large surface, the key is good planning, accurate measurements and careful application. After almost 20 years in this field, I’ve learned that the faster I go, the more mistakes I make. There’s no need to be intimidated by working on large vehicles, even if you’re doing the application by yourself. Just take it slow and get it right the first time.

Randy Brunette operates SignCrafters in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and does a wide variety of signs, banners, graphic design and web design. 

This appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of SignCraft.