The Inside Scoop: See-Through Graphics and Window Films


Working with perforated window films proves that there are times when a material intended for one use can fill an entirely different need, sometimes with greater ease of application and more benefits for the clients. That is the case with perforated window vinyl, which was designed to cover the windows of vehicles while allowing the occupant to see out and at the same time making the entire surface of a vehicle an advertising space. The same concept applies to storefront windows, which represent a huge amount of wasted advertising real estate.
It didn’t take long for some sign companies to realize the potential of digitally printed perforated vinyl on storefront windows to create a billboard-sized graphic at ground level, drawing potential customers directly to the front doors. To get the perspective on wrapping building windows, I spoke with three sign companies that have been doing just that for anywhere from eight months to seven years.
Christine Dahlquist of BIG Images in San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Steve Jedele of Steve’s Custom Signs in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Joey McClinton of M&M Grafix in McNeill, Miss.; all agreed that the advantages outweigh the drawbacks when selling, printing and applying perforated vinyl on storefront windows. All three shops print their graphics in-house, and do their own application and removal. Since most removals are done in preparation for a new graphic, they offer that service at a reasonable cost to encourage new business.
Perforated vinyl on store windows not only takes advantage of a large advertising space, but also offers privacy by blocking the view in while allowing those inside to see out. Since the vinyl is up to 70 percent solid, it also reduces light and heat, much like tinting. This effect is increased if the majority of the image is white or pastel colors.
In many cities, window graphics are not as strictly regulated as other types of signs, and some don’t require a permit at all. When there are restrictions, the amount of coverage is often limited to 20 percent or 25 percent, so as long as 75 percent of the windows are left open, a big impact can still be achieved. In some cases, as long as no logos or copy are included, a store will be allowed to project large images of products or services they offer out on the street.
Compared to temporary signs such as banners, full-coverage window graphics are considerably more expensive, since they are often much larger and should be applied and removed by professionals. But with all of the benefits listed above, a smart client will see the value of wearing their image on the outside.
Unfortunately, the view through the vinyl is reversed at night if the lights are on the inside, and the saturation of colors on perforated vinyl is not as intense as on solid vinyl, but these are minor disadvantages when compared to the benefit of covering the building with high-impact graphics.
BIG Images started experimenting with perforated film seven years ago with their HP aqueous printer, but switched to a solvent printer three years ago so they could eliminate the need to laminate. Their vinyl of choice is LexJet FLEXcon SEETHRU-SIGN because it is dependable, easy to work with and the company has a great reputation and offers a good guarantee. They don’t do vehicle wraps, and find that the perforated material retains visibility even in the rainy season, as long as it is applied vertically. They prefer working on flat windows rather than the curved, oddly shaped windows of vehicles, and point out that there is less waste generated as well.
BIG Images started with its own storefront, which began selling itself immediately. A lot of its clients come from marketing companies, and when it organized a marketing association and started holding meetings at their shop, word of mouth began to spread. The largest window BIG Images has done to date was about 8' x 33', wrapping around a corner.
Steve’s Custom Signs did its first perforated window job about five years ago on a vehicle, but since then the majority of windows covered have been on buildings. Steve’s Custom Signs finds flat applications to be easier, since you don’t have to deal with compound curves or windshield wipers. The shop uses a Mimaki JV3 54" printer and several different brands of vinyl depending on the length of time and the budget. If it is a short-term application, no laminate is necessary. They do their own installation and removal, and offer those services to other shops, as well. The largest area they have covered so far was about six feet by eight feet.
M&M Grafix is the newcomer to the technique, starting about eight months ago, when their first job that called for see-through graphics happened to be for a retail store. They also do vehicle wraps, and report that the use of perforated vinyl is split about 50/50 between the two. They find vehicle wraps to be easier because the area to be covered is usually smaller, and no ladders are required.
M&M uses a Roland XC 540 54" printer, preferring 3M IJ8171 vinyl with a laminate for both storefronts and vehicles because it increases durability and improves visibility even when it rains. Without the laminate, the shop finds that water can get trapped in the holes and make the view-through the vinyl blurry. The largest window M&M has done to date was about 6' tall by 15' wide.
If you haven’t already investigated the possibilities of window graphic applications, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your local ordinance allows for considerable flexibility so that you can help your clients showcase the goods and services offered inside their store with high-impact, see-through window advertisements. 
Big Images
SLOCama Marketing Association
Steve’s Custom Signs
M&M Grafix