Applying Vinyl Graphics

The following describes the procedure used for applying vinyl graphics. We also refer to this type as "PCV" for pre-cut vinyl. Follow these steps for a trouble-free application every time.

PCV Step1 For most applications, you will want to provide a guideline for your graphic to ensure that it is properly aligned with the model.  In this example we used 1/4" masking tape.  
PCV Step2 Start by spraying the area where the graphic will be applied with Windex® or a soapy water solution made from a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a quart of water. Don't be stingy, go ahead and flood the area, the fluid will not affect the adhesive on the decal in any way.

If you want to use what the pros use, look in your local yellow pages under "sign supplies" and any store that carries supplies for making vinyl signs will have several different brands of "Application Fluid" for vinyl lettering.  This works very well, however Windex® does the trick and is used by most modelers.
PCV Step3 When your decal arrives, you will see the cut characters (letters, numbers, etc.) through the transfer tape that has been applied to keep all the characters in perfect alignment during the application.

Begin by peeling the tape up from the backing sheet. The characters should come up with the tape.  If you find that a character wants to stick to the backing sheet, back up and rub it so as to adhere it the tape, then try again.

If that doesn't do the trick, carefully use the tip of a hobby knife to "coax" the left edge of the character off the backing sheet and onto the tape. Once the edge has been separated, the rest of the character should come up with the tape.
PCV Step4 When you have completely removed the tape, discard the backing sheet. Beware that you have now exposed a very aggressive adhesive. Do not get it near anything you don't want it stick to! For large graphics you may want to use a helper to keep the decal away from other objects.

Hold the decal above the model where it will be applied, about 1" above the surface and aligning it for proper positioning.
PCV Step5 With your left hand, touch down the decal/tape on the left end, keeping the right end elevated above the surface.  
PCV Step 6 Working from left to right, smooth the decal down to the surface a little at a time until it is completely down and in the proper position. Watch your alignment and make small corrections as you go with your right hand if needed . Don't try to put it down all at once!

Once down, if it is not in perfect position, the fluid should allow you to slide it into place.  Beware that you don't have long, as the adhesive will start to grip even with moisture on the surface.

If you can't slide the decal into position, lift it completely off, spray more fluid on the surface and try it again.
PCV Step7 Once the decal is in position, we find that a small 4" paint roller available at any paint store or home improvement center is an excellent tool for smoothing the decal and moving the moisture out to the edges.

For large decals, work from the center to the outer edges.
PCV Step8 A plastic squeegee or credit card can also be used to smooth the decal and move the moisture out past the edges. Be careful not to press too hard or you can dislodge the decal.  
PCV Step9 After the decal has been smoothed out and most of the moisture has removed, saturate the tape with the fluid and allow it to soak in for around 5 minutes.

You can use your fingers to rub the moisture into the tape to help it saturate.
PCV Step10 Next, very carefully peel up the tape working from left to right.  Pull the tape almost back on itself to avoid lifting the graphic from the surface.  Do this SLOWLY and carefully watch to see that the graphic is not lifting off with the tape.

If you find that the graphic wants to lift off, put the tape back, rub it down, wait another 3 - 5 minutes and try again.
PCV Step11 After the tape is removed, let the decal set up for a few hours or overnight before rubbing, cleaning etc.  

Return To Hints and Tips Page
Copyright 2010 - 2011
Cal-Grafx Hobby Art
All rights reserved