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Vehicle Wrap Templates: Using Templates to Trim Steps

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at pgladych@gmail.com.

As the popularity of vehicle wraps grows, so does the number of shops offering to provide the creation of these wraps, putting a strain on profit margins as companies battle for customers. This results in shops looking for any way they can to streamline their processes, and vehicle wrap templates are a great way to help.

And thanks to a handful of companies in North America that develop vehicle wrap templates, it is easier than ever to do a professional vehicle wrap.

Vehicle templates allow a designer to go in to the computer program and actually place the designs and graphics they want on the vehicle of their choice. The client can then proof the designs on the template before the printer prints out the different pieces on vinyl, which saves time in the proofing stage as well as the ink and printer time that would be tied up with unneeded samples. Also, each template is exactly to spec.

Larry Lopez, owner of Art Station Vehicle Templates in Conroe, Texas, draws all of his company’s vector-based templates himself. He takes photos and measurements of new vehicles as they are released to the market and puts them together in Adobe Illustrator.

If a wrap shop needs to wrap a Toyota Prius for instance, that company can purchase the Toyota Prius template from Lopez’s company and design the necessary graphics on top of them.

“You can use it for proofing purposes. When you go in there and look at the artwork, you can see two or three different versions of it. You can choose which one you want. They’ll print it out on vinyl and install it on your vehicle,” Lopez says. “Most of the time, that’s all you are going to see is just proofs. When you present this to your customer, you want your proof to look as professional as possible. You don’t want a drawing that is not very professional looking, a photograph or half-way drawn or kind of skewed, because photographs do lie.”

Lopez has been designing car wrap templates since 2004. He has about 9,000 templates of cars, trucks, SUVs and vans and he tries to keep up with all the new vehicles coming out.

The vehicles that are in huge demand for wraps these days are the Ford Expedition, the GMC Acadia and the GMC Terrain.

Lopez likes to make his templates are as accurate and as detailed as possible. That means including little things like the vehicle badges and gas cap doors.

An upset customer called him one day complaining that they had used a competitor’s template of the VW Beetle, but that template had not included the silver VW badge on the back hatch. After printing out 16 vehicle wraps, including the company’s phone number for the back hatch, and shipping them from California to New York, they were sent back and had to be redone.

Lopez says he tries to make sure he includes every little detail in his designs. He also charges less than his competitors. His theory is that when you charge too much for your work, people are tempted to pirate it, sharing the templates with their friends, but if you charge an affordable rate, they are more likely to buy the template themselves and keep coming back for more.

“The vehicle template creation process hasn’t changed in a while,” says Luke Green, sales and tech support for North America for Pro Vehicle Outlines in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His company has been designing vehicle templates the same way since 1994. He says that the company’s designer heads to the dealership lots three to four times a week to take photographs and measurements of any new vehicles.

Pro Vehicle Outlines only produces templates for North American vehicles.

Green says that his designer’s templates have gotten a lot better since he started doing them in the ‘90s.

“They look a lot better, a lot cleaner, a lot more detail to them too,” he says. That ensures that the job is done properly and looks good when presented to the client.

Malcolm Hilcove, CEO for The Bad Wrap in Phoenix, says that his company’s template system has not changed in years.

“We think it is the perfect system so no need to change it if it is perfect,” he says with a laugh. “But it is different than traditional line art templates in that we use a proper photograph scaled exactly.”

Jeff Garrison, technical director at The Bad Wrap, says that the company doesn’t do vector line art templates but instead makes its templates from studio photography of the vehicles.

The templates are scaled to manufacturer specs so “basically we have the measurements and we make the vehicles line up with that,” he says. All of the templates are made at a 10th scale, which makes for easy conversion to full scale. They are then put into Photoshop, where it “looks like you are designing right on the vehicle. You still see all the body lines and curvature on the vehicle and there is no extra work to clip things out,” he says.

On its website, The Bad Wrap has a tool called the Wrapulator, which basically offers pdf files of most of the latest model vehicles showing what the area is of that vehicle and what the size of the vehicle is.

“When a salesperson goes out to sell, they are usually quoting by square footage. It saves them a lot of time and trouble not having to go and measure and calculate,” says Hilcove. Those pdfs are available online for $9.99 each. “That seems to be doing really well,” he adds.

Garrison says that the company is always keeping an eye out for new vehicles as they become available.

“We prioritize by the most commonly wrapped body styles but we’ll put it at the top of the queue if someone has one,” Garrison says.

One of the things that has changed in the industry is that many vehicle wrap template companies can sell individual vehicle templates or sell their entire inventory of templates in one package.

In 2011, Lopez decided to make a book – Wrap Dimensions – that includes the square footage of every vehicle that is out there specifically for car wrap sales people to figure out how much to charge for a job based on total square footage. His book includes square footage and square meters because he works with clients in North America and Europe.

“Believe it or not, I didn’t think it was going to be a huge seller, but it turned out to be one of those things where all my customers bought it. I also gave them a bundle price. If you buy Wrap Dimensions and templates, I knock off $100,” he says. Most people buy both of them together.

It is convenient for sales people to have total square footage of a vehicle at their fingertips because not everyone wants to do a full vehicle wrap. Some people just want to wrap a hood or a door and this gives them the tools they need to quote a job that only includes the square footage they will be covering with a wrap, he says.

Pro Vehicle Outlines sells its software to new and returning customers. Returning customers always get a discount on the newest version of the software, he says.

“The industry is definitely growing. A lot more people are getting into vehicle wraps. We still have a ton of return customers. They look at this piece of software as a valuable tool for their company,” Green says.

Customers of The Bad Wrap can buy templates individually for $29.99 per template or they can purchase the full package. The benefit of buying all of the templates is that when changes are made, customers automatically receive the updates, Hilcove says.

Aurora Graphics of Dorado, Kansas, creates digital art that can be used in conjunction with vehicle wrap templates.

Dave Dorsey, owner of Aurora Graphics, says that his company produces both vector and bitmap artwork for both plotters and digital printers.

“We make everything really big so if you want to wrap something, it will still look really top drawer,” Dorsey says. “You can always go down to a smaller scale.”

He began his career designing vector images for cutting vinyl because no printers were available back then. He used a cheap version of AutoCAD and an old 386 computer with a 40 MB hard drive.

He sold diskettes or floppy disks with 100 images on them.

“That’s how we got started, how we got our business off the ground,” Dorsey says.

When the first digital inkjet printers came out, he was first in line to purchase one.

“You can do so much more with a printer than a plotter,” he says. “With a plotter, all you could do is cut shapes out of solid-color vinyl.”

If the image was multicolored, each color had to be cut out of vinyl separately and then pieced together on the car or whatever surface it was being installed on.

“When printers came along, it opened up the possibility of doing literally anything you could produce,” he says.

Most shops don’t have the time or staffing to design all of the artwork themselves. That’s where Dorsey comes in. He produces hundreds of original pieces of artwork, including fish and camouflage patterns. All of his files are very large scale, 222 inches by 100 inches, so that the patterns don’t repeat.

Designers can go on the Aurora Graphics website and purchase the design they want for $95. They can then take the pattern and put it into a car vehicle wrap template to make it look the best it can look before printing it out on vinyl.

“Templates come in particularly handy when you are selling the job,” he says. “You’ve got to show what it is going to look like and then you’ve got to make it look like that.”

If the designer doesn’t have the vehicle in their possession, the templates allow them to design and output everything they need to do the job before a client even shows up.

“That’s really the sweet spot of having templates,” Dorsey says.