reflect vue

Window Film Applications

Bill Schiffner is a freelance writer/editor based in Holbrook, N.Y. He has covered the imaging industry for 25 years and has reported on many evolving digital imaging technologies including wide-format printing and newer electronic digital signage. He was the editor for a number of imaging publications and websites. He can be reached at

Windows continue to provide excellent opportunities for adding exciting graphics with window films. Whether it's custom window graphics for a retail store or an office boardroom—or specialized window graphics for vehicles—these films can highlight a business or product launch to potential customers with promotions, sales, store hours, or a company logo. These specialty films are easy to install and provide window graphics that can be viewed from the exterior, but still allow people inside to have an unobstructed view.

There are a plethora of options from solid to clear, one sided or two sided, and see-through graphics with either permanent adhesives or reusable adhesives. Today’s window applications can be produced using a variety of window film media—from optically clear films to perforated films, as well repositionable film options and utilizing various roll fed or flatbed printing technologies. Recent developments also enable the creation of more customized window graphics in which pieces of a display can be tailored to meet regional or industry-specific requirements.

Making a Bold Statement

“Window graphics offer businesses the opportunity to make a statement and draw customers into restaurants and a wide variety of retailers, from jewelry stores to large department stores,” says Joey Heiob, regional technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, Cincinnati, Ohio. “Graphics have also been incorporated into total bus, train and subway wraps offering brands and marketers more space to make an impact,” he adds.

Heiob points out that in Detroit, auto manufacturers incorporate building wraps into the launch of new vehicles and advertising campaigns centered around the Super Bowl. Movie and product launch campaigns are often featured on building wraps in Los Angeles. And concerts and shows are promoted on hotel wraps in Las Vegas.

“SF 100 has been used in museum exhibits and for interior decor in office buildings and headquarters. Companies such as Adobe, Panasonic and Avery Dennison feature wall and window graphics throughout their corporate offices that were created with Avery Dennison films.”

“Lastly, we’re also starting to see window film offerings that feature air egress technology in the adhesive. Integrating air egress technology eliminates the need to do wet application installs,” he reports.

Making a Splash

Debbie Ross, general manager of the Clear Focus brand, Transcendia Inc., Franklin Park, Illinois, explains that businesses big and small can magnify their brand by splashing their message on windows of every size. “That’s the real power of these products such as our Clear Focus perforated window graphics solutions. Our One Way Vision’ perforated, pressure-sensitive vinyl films have greatly revolutionized the advertising industry by making windows a canvas for vivid, colorful communications all without blocking the view.”

Ross points out that since the company was acquired by Transcendia they now have a full line of economy products and they can quote on short-term campaigns where the turnaround time is critical. “Many times a shop will get awarded a job at the very last minute.  So as a solution, we now carry a high volume inventory of products and we can quickly customize rolls for different printing technologies and different lengths. This hands-on customer service approach is a real game changer.”

She reports that window film growth areas they are seeing include those for P.O.P. applications—short-term economy films with bigger perforation areas.

“We are also seeing a growing interest in etched films. We recently launched a line of etched glass films. Applications include more architectural features such as logos for conference rooms and boardrooms. They are ideal for long-term usage identity for banks and financial institutions.”

Changing the Landscape

Holly Coleman, market development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions Division, St. Paul, Minnesota, says that developments in film technology are changing the landscape of this market and providing sign shops with more opportunities.

“These developments in film technology have opened the door to new application features that make the installation process easier. For example, 3M Controltac Print Film 40C-114R now offers 3M Comply adhesive, which enables bubble-free application, as well as 3M Controltac adhesive for enhanced slide-ability. The film can also be dry-applied, which makes application more efficient.”

Architectural and Environmental Designs

Craig Campbell, market manager, Graphic Products, ORAFOL Americas, Black Creek, Georgia, says the biggest trend they are seeing is for window films on the architectural and environmental design front. “Many of these firms have embraced the fact that PSA films offer a more cost-effective and more creative solution to specialty acrylics and glass. Films that tend to be the focus are transparent colored films, etched glass, dusted glass and frosted glass films—when these films are used with layering techniques, truly unique projects can be created.” 

Indoor/Outdoor Window Displays

“When looking at indoor/outdoor displays, we see a lot of different digital media (and laminates) being used in these applications,” says Campbell.  “Specifically, a digital media similar to our ORAJET Series 3169RA with removable adhesive and ease of application tends to lead the charge—we see a mix of both white and transparent films being used depending on the final aesthetic of the graphic being achieved,” he explains.

3M’s Coleman recommends a premium perforated window film. “For long-term brand marketing, a premium perforated window film like 3M Scotchcal Perforated Window Graphic Film 8170-P40 will provide optimal performance. This kind of premium film will exhibit increased resistance to lifting compared to other intermediate or calendered options,” she points out.

Heiob says that the foundation of Avery Dennison’s Perforated Window Series, MPI 2728 and MPI 2528 films, are an ideal choice for these applications. “These intermediate calendered films can be solvent printed, offer opaque/blockout capabilities and durability of three years unprinted/one year printed.”

He points out that their MPI 2728 features a 65/35 perforation pattern that provides an open area of 35 percent and is ideal for stationary windows, as it allows for the best possible image quality while still providing a one-way graphic panel.

Building Wraps

For glass-faced building wraps, Ross recommends Clear Focus ImageVue 65/35 (1.5mm hole). “It’s ideal for exterior-mount window graphics for decals, P.O.P., retail and commercial signage, corporate identity and a wide variety of other applications. It’s easy to install and remove. Long-term building wraps are very high impact application and need to have that Wow factor. We always recommend ImageVue for building wrap projects where it has to be easy to install and remove. With premium products removability is almost as important as the install,” she explains.

Heiob says Avery Dennison's MPI 2728 film features a 65/35 perforation pattern and is ideal for building wrap applications as well.

“It’s important to note that a window can shatter from the increased stress and heat of a film that isn’t designed for window applications. External windows should have perforated graphics for full coverage. Solid graphics are designed for partial coverage of windows. Using a non-window rated film can cause visual distortion, premature adhesive failure (dog-earring in the corners) and the vinyl may crack,” he points out.

Campbell says when it comes to building wraps, perforated window graphics still are the top choice due to their versatility, ease of application and removal. "We typically see shops offer the 60/40 perf pattern vs the 50/50 in order to achieve a more color-saturated print. Longevity is key in these applications and a product like ORAFOL ORAJET Series 3676 Perforated Window Film offers a complete three-year solution,” he says.

Office Décor

Coleman recommends a frosted look for indoor window applications. “Films designed to have a dusted or frosted look are an effective way to create privacy in a more aesthetic and welcoming manner. 3M’s Crystal Glass Finishes are available in both dusted and frosted options, and can help achieve sophisticated designs. Another great option is 3M Scotchcal Clear View Graphic Film IJ8150, an optically clear film intended to feature decorative or other branding graphics,” she explains.

Ross suggests Clear Focus' lines of frosted films—Etch Vue, Crystal Etch and Glass Etch. “They are all printable and plottable. All are made in the United States with a 5 year cast.”

“For the office, Avery’s SF 100 series includes super clear film faces and adhesive that allow full window coverage. So, the unprinted area maintains glass clearness without the need to cut around the image—installation is fast and easy, says Heiob.

He says that SF 100 series benefits include a high gloss finish, easy printing, excellent compatibility with white inks and one year removability. The films allow full glass coverage without distorting clarity in unprinted areas of film. Avery Dennison Etchmark film can be used to create privacy for interior offices and it provides a high-end etched glass appearance at a much cheaper cost.”

“Transparent colored films, like our ORACAL Series 8300 Transparent, are the fastest-moving trend in this space. These films offer more color options and less minimum order quantities than colored acrylics. Etched, dusted and frosted glass films, similar to our ORACAL Series 8800, are also popular films for these applications,” Campbell says.

Vehicle Graphics

“When selecting products for vehicle graphics, it’s important to consider a film that can enhance light transmission, provide vibrant image quality and excellent see-through capability,” explains Coleman.  “To satisfy these conditions, 3M recommends 3M Scotchcal Perforated Window Graphic Film 8170-P50, a long-term, premium perforated window film. For short-term partial vehicle graphics, 3M Controltac Print Film 40C-114R offers ease of application due to its air egress and slideability features, and is removable for easy updates.”

“For vehicles, MPI 2528 has a 50/50 perforation pattern that provides an open area of 50 percent and the best possible visibility through a one-way graphic panel. This film is intended for vehicle windows or applications where visibility through the graphic is important,” adds Heiob.

Campbell points that on commercial vehicles, 50/50 perforated window film is the product of choice—whether it is being used for a full wrap or a simple advertisement on a rear window. “Our product ORAJET Series 3675 Perforated Window Film is a perfect solution for window graphics needing to last at least 3 years. Laminating these graphics with an optically clear laminate, such as our ORAGUARD Series 297, is key to ensure visual clarity and ease of cleaning.”

Benefits of Hole Ratios

Coleman says less perforation means more color density for the graphic. More perforation means better visibility from within. “When selecting the level of hole ratio, the customer will want to consider their needs from both sides of the graphic. Less perforation of the film will result in a richer image quality for the graphic, and a higher perforation offers better visibility from within.”

She adds when laminating a perf the most important thing to consider is to keep the tension on the perforated base film very low, as most base films have a solid liner attached directly to the film. “The perforated film has a second liner and film layer that have holes, which can stretch if there is too much tension. Also, focusing roller pressure more towards the middle of the laminators’ range will help it feed straighter and with less bunching,” she concludes.

Heiob point out that print service providers can choose whether visibility or the graphic appearance is more for an architectural or retail application. Many states require certain visibility for window graphics in vehicles or public transit.

As for laminating a perf, he recommends webbing the overlaminate up in the machine the same as the perforated window film. “Its best to wind media side out and keep it to at least a three-inch minimum inner diameter on the roll. If the film is wound too tight, the film will tunnel on the liner.”

Customers Providing Solutions

“Most of our ideas for product solutions come from our customers, so the reality is that films that are being used are a result of recommendations from our customers. As they continue to push the application envelope, we will continue to give them the products they need to be successful,” says Campbell.  “Our mission as a company and an industry is to help sign and graphics companies grow and showing them new avenues of revenue for their business is key to the growth of these market segments. Our products give shops new and unique products to offer to their clients as well as new clients in general for them to call on, such as glass companies and design firms,” he concludes.