Vehicle Wrap Design in 5 Easy Steps
BY ASHLEY CANNON
A lot of designers today are expected to be able to really design anything. The problem is, some don't really know the first thing about designing for signs and more so, designing for vehicle wraps. So much has to be taken into consideration. Luckily for me, I had a great mentor who was always willing to teach me the "way" and helping me figure out how to resolve the many issues that can arise. So my idea is that I'd like to pay it forward and give you designers out there, designing vehicle wraps for the first time, a couple tips and tricks to help get you started.
1. Use a template!
Back in the stone age, my first run in with vehicle wrap design was a Ford Eco Van. I didn't have templates, didn't know they existed or where I would find one. So, I tried taking straight on shots of the vehicle and measured EVERYTHING. I used my design software and scaled the images based on my measurements. This works, but it's very time consuming, frustrating and not exact. The vehicle templates available for purchase today allow you to choose the year, make, and model for practically any vehicle. They also include most specifics such as right sliding door, left swing door, etc. Everything is precisely laid out for you and the measurements are very accurate. The template will also help to take the guess work out of knowing where and where not to lay out text and other design elements (i.e. avoid text around major curves). We'll go into further detail regarding that later. So far the best resource I found for purchasing templates is digitaldesignware.com.
vehicle wrap design using a template
2. Design Program Choice
I'm assuming you have access to actual design software, not Photoshop Elements or Paint but actual Adobe Programs or CorelDraw. I recommend Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector based program, meaning most of what you create will be able to scale without losing clarity, take up less disk space and most of time, changes can be made promptly without waiting for exaggerated render times and such (keep in mind "most of the time"). I have done many vehicle wraps in Photoshop and they have turned out pretty well, but load times were a nightmare and some of the graphics ended up getting a little pixelized. In the end, work with what you got, but if you have a choice, go vector, go Adobe.
pizza tastes and looks much better using vector artwork
3. Layout is Key
Once you have your template, opened Illustrator and set up your working space, it's time to design. I recommend putting your template on an actual template layer and keeping the artwork separate from the template. I've seen people not realize this and the template printed with the artwork! It takes a little trial and error to learn everything about placement of elements, but if you keep in mind less is more, you're golden. Vehicle wraps have to normally be seen, read and understood at varying speeds and distances so your message has to be big, bold and beautiful; easy to read. Try to avoid putting text around any major curves or body molding. Be conscious of where seams may fall, or where doors and windows will interrupt the graphics. You wouldn't want a phone number or website (vital contact information) going over multiple windows due to the placement of the weather stripping, which may cause losing parts of or entire letters and numbers. Be sure to give yourself some wiggle room. I guarantee that the first few wraps may not lay on the vehicle as you had imagined, but if you leave yourself ample bleed, the important graphical elements shouldn't be harmed.
be mindful of curves and windows when laying out text
4. Measure Twice, Print Once
Even though you are working from a template to help ensure that the major design elements aren't disrupted, it is ALWAYS a good idea to do an inspection of the vehicle prior to printing and verify critical measurements. Sometimes the template doesn't account for any after market modifications, factory emblems and the like. I once had a client that had welded a giant metal pizza slice to the top of his vehicle that was getting wrapped. Although I searched, I couldn't find a template that incorporated pizza, who knew!
templates won't include after market add-ons..like a giant slice of pizza on the roof!
5. Professional Installer - Final Inspection
Wrapping a vehicle is no joke. Make sure a professional installer or vehicle wrap company has been hired and that accurate proofs are available for the installer. Before our team begins installation a wrap, they go over placement of EVERYTHING and how exactly the graphics will fall on the vehicle. If anything is different in the actual print from the proof, be sure to point them out. A great installer will mock up the graphics on the car and show you any trouble spots they may run into and how you would like then to handle them. Take note of the positioning and how the material handles for future use and designs. Stretching of the vinyl can and will occur, but with experience you will learn how to avoid text in those areas.
check out our groovy vehicle wrap installation video!
If any of this doesn't make sense, or you have some tips you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment. Happy designing!