What’s it cost to produce these police car graphics?

By Russ Mills

Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2022

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Occasionally, I am approached with the task of designing graphics for police patrol cars. Even though this is not a job that I am confronted with on a daily basis, it is important to know what the costs are in order to effectively charge for this type of work.

Recently, our city’s police chief contacted me to design a graphic package to be used on officer’s uniforms, patrol cars, business cards and letterheads. Over the

Materials (excluding markup):
5 feet of Oracal 851 Black film: $6.00
12 feet of Oracal 851 White film: $14.40
20 feet of Oracal 851 Metallic Gold film: $27.20
16 feet of Oracal 851 Chestnut film: $23.20
53 feet of R Tape application tape: $6.00
5 feet of 3M Tan, Robin Egg Blue, Bottle Green, and Medium Gray films: $10.25
Total materials: $87.05

Time: 10 hours 40 minutes

course of many years, this is the third design for this fleet of patrol cars. The prior chief of police wanted simple blue and green graphics for the cars, and there has never been a big demand for an intricate logo. The new chief of police, however, wanted to incorporate a new logo that reflected the city’s character.

This is a very small town. The city’s school system’s mascot has always been a mountain lion, and the school colors are maroon, gold and white. The Chain Rock is a tourist attraction that the city is well known for, and we have a nearby state park where this attraction is located, Pine Mountain State Park. Its name comes from the abundance of pine trees there.
Armed with all this material, I tried to put together an appropriate design. The chief was happy with the result and so was the community. A similar logo was adapted from this package as the city’s seal.

The job progressed much the same as any commercial sign that goes through my shop. To get the ball rolling, I first collected a design fee. Once the design was complete, I printed a color proof for the customer’s approval.

Russ Mills’ shop, Artcraft Signs, is in Pineville, Kentucky.

This appeared in the September/October 2004 issue of SignCraft.

Design: 2 hours
I hand drew a picture of The Chain Rock, scanned it in, and cleaned it up. In my sketchbook, I drew rough sketches, incorporating all of the elements mentioned earlier. I then imported a stock patch design from an online clip art source and tweaked it to get the shape I desired. I also imported a piece for the mountain lion and pine trees. Using Letterhead Fonts Conclave font, and Atkinson’s Round Block from The Fontry, I added the lettering for the design. After I colorized the design, I imported a 2003 Impala template from Digital Auto Library and applied the graphic stripes that I designed.

Cut and weed: 5 hours
This job took a little time to cut and weed, especially the mountain lion and Chain Rock graphics. I could have had this package digitally printed; however, the customer had specified a particular color for the maroon vinyl from Oracal’s color chart. There was a concern that I couldn’t achieve the same exact color in a digital print. I cut all the vinyl on my Summa D60 24-in. plotter while I worked on other jobs throughout the shop.

Clean and prep vehicle: 10 minutes
To ensure good adhesion, I cleaned the entire car using Auto Tech’s Decal Graphic Solution and DuPont’s Grease and Wax Remover (available at auto paint suppliers). I did this while the vinyl was being cut.

Mask and organize: 1 hour
After all of the vinyl is weeded, I mask and organize all of the materials in the order that I will apply them to the car.

Install: 2 hours 30 minutes
I applied the door logos first, which were blown-up versions of the police officers’ shoulder patches. Then I applied the three-color horizontal stripes down the side of the car. After all of the vinyl was applied, I trimmed around the door openings and moldings.

I not only photographed this job for my portfolio, but the police chief also took photographs and entered the designs in a National Design Contest for Police Car Graphics.