Wrapping around a curve

Wrapping a Compound Curve

Troy Downey is the founder of Coronado, Calif.-based APE Wraps. he specializes in custom, one-off wraps while also providing training on how to wrap vehicles with Avery Graphics films. For more information about Troy and APE Wraps, visit www.apewraps.com.

Wrapping a compound curve on a fender can be difficult. However if you know where to start, this can be an easy lay-down. In fact, if you think about it, it’s a pretty basic three-step process. The trick is knowing where to start. As with any wrap project, you need to begin with a very clean surface. Use isopropyl alcohol to make it squeaky clean, and make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.


With many of the curved panels we apply, we analyze the surface and break it up into three areas of application. The rule of thumb is that you always start in the middle. For our fender example, we start with the high center point in the middle (Surface No. 1), then the top area (Surface No. 2), and finally the bottom portion (Surface No. 3). When positioning the vinyl over the fender, make sure it is bed-sheet tight, but too much pressure will cause it to distort. 


Surface No. 1
Starting with Surface area No. 1, apply horizontally from left to right about the width of a squeegee.

Surface No. 2 

For the top area, squeegee horizontally left to right, applying beyond your intended area of application well past the seam between the hood and fender. 


Surface No. 3
Surface area No. 3, the bottom portion, is where it gets fun. Begin by pulling the vinyl out, and then down. 

Use your hand to conform the material.

Pull to conform toward the front, over the headlight well. 

Squeegee toward your pressure hand, moving air forward.

Apply heat to conform around headlight well.

After heating, use your hands to conform into the light well.


Note that we have a wheel well to deal with here in Surface No. 3. We’ll trim this area fat so we can get our hands up in there to apply a bit of pressure as well as apply some heat to break the memory of the material so it can conform around the wheel well’s edge and contour (past our application surface).

Pull the vinyl over the wheel well area bed sheet tight.

Trim excess material for easy conforming. Don’t cut it too short!

Heat to break the vinyl’s memory and then use your hands to conform.


Trim excess and heat in.



Go back to the top area and make a cut where the fender meets the hood

Remove the vinyl that covers the hood and then use your fingers to conform the vinyl into the cut area.

Trim around the headlight well, leaving a little extra, then use your fingers to conform the vinyl.


Heat in the entire area to make sure everything works together. 


If you feel this is going to be a challenge for you, please practice on your own vehicle a few times. It’ll come to you. The main thing to remember is your three surface areas.