Vehicle Wrap Lamination

Vehicle Wrap Lamination


Finishing a vehicle wrap with laminate is essential. It may be tempting on a temporary ad to skip the lamination step, but the added cost is minimal, while the added benefits are great. Whether the project is temporary or intended for the long term, the overlaminate provides important benefits including UV protection, moisture resistance, abrasion protection and finish enhancement.

While the UV protection and moisture resistance may not be as important for short-term graphics, protection from abrasion and an enhanced finish are important for all applications. The additional thickness that lamination adds to the printed vinyl also makes the graphics easier to install.

UV inhibitors in laminates help prevent the deterioration of media in sunlight and help protect colors from fading. Along with UV protection, the laminate also protects the graphics from ozone and industrial pollution that can cause the images to fade and deteriorate.

Our shop uses only solvent prints for our vehicle wraps. Even without lamination, all of our prints have some amount of UV and moisture resistance. The addition of laminate provides increased protection of the underlying graphics against moisture and other environmental elements such as abrasion from scratches and those annoying little dings from flying road pebbles.

And finally, adding a layer of laminate provides a noticeable enhancement to the look of the finished graphic. Our company uses 3M Scotchcal 8518 gloss laminate for our vehicle wraps. The gloss laminate increases the vibrancy of the colors in the print, and offers a very paint-like finish. 3M also sells a Lustre overlaminate (8519) and a Matte overlaminate (8520) that offers a different look. As an aside, I heard that Hexis has introduced PC30M2, a 1.2 mil cast matte laminate that is designed for complex curves and that creates a glare-free effect.


Choosing the right vinyl to pair with the overlaminate is essential in creating both a cost effective and attractive wrap. Temporary ads can utilize a calendared vinyl, but a cast vinyl should be used on all long term ads.

Calendared laminate should only be applied over calendared vinyl. Cast laminate can be applied over either calendared or cast vinyl, but a graphic is only as good as its weakest element. Applying a more expensive laminate with longer outdoor life over a temporary vinyl material doesn’t make economical sense.

There are many calendared vinyls and laminates on the market that can help make a temporary ad cost effective for the customer and profitable for the sign company. Our company produces short term advertisements for our city buses. For the bus graphics account, we use BusMark brand vinyl with Arlon 3420 gloss calendared overlaminate on all of the flat ads.

One of our bus advertisers often requests a full tail wrap on the city buses. For these ads that need to wrap around lights, corrugated panels and other obstacles, we use a calendared Arlon DPF 4560GTX material with X-scape technology that releases bubbles. Coupled with Arlon 3420 calendared overlaminate, this makes for a cost effective solution for short term graphics. 3M, Avery and many other manufacturers offer calendared vinyl and laminates; test these products to find one that works best for your company.

Most of the wraps we do are intended for long-term advertisements. To achieve long-term durability, it is essential that the correct cast overlaminate and cast vinyl are used for the application. We use 3M ControlTac IJ-180C vinyl and 3M Scotchcal 8518 Gloss overlaminate for all graphics not going over windows.

Over the years, we have tried many different types of materials to find a vinyl and laminate combination that works well for us. We evaluate how well the graphics can be repositioned, how the materials conform over obstacles, how the graphics respond to heat and stretching and if there was any lifting or tunneling in the graphics.

For any wrap that also will cover a window, our company uses Clear Focus SuperVue vinyl with Clear Focus Curvalam overlay. 3M, LG Hausys, Avery, Oracal and many other manufacturers each offers their brand of perforated window film. There are a lot of great options out there. Be sure to use an optically clear overlaminate with any perforated film.

Some companies choose to not laminate over perforated window film. By eliminating the laminate, the added benefits are also eliminated. UV, abrasion and moisture protection are just as important on perforated window film as regular vinyl films. Water can also pool in the holes of un-laminated perforated film further obstructing visibility. The laminate will also enhance the colors of printed window graphics.

Our company is careful to not stock too many different types of materials. We have compared costs and have found both calendared and cast vinyls and laminates that will not only work for vehicle wraps, but will also work well for window graphics, vehicle lettering and signs. We limit our materials, make the ones we stock do double duty and work with our suppliers to keep our costs down and the materials we use in stock.


There are a few ways to make it easier to work with laminate. By understanding the properties inherent in different kinds of laminate, you can choose the one that works best for your installation. A cast laminate tends to be thinner and more compliant over contours and complex curves. 3M Scotchcal 8580 gloss overlaminate is designed to conform even more than 3M Scotchcal 8518 and is more resistant to lifting. When paired with 3M IJ380 or 380cv3 the wrap of a Sprinter van or H1 Hummer would be a lot easier than using standard wrap materials.

    • Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when working with laminate:

    • Handle your printable media with cotton gloves to avoid fingerprints.

    • Dust off your media just before printing to remove any dust particles.

    • After printing, wait 24 hours before laminating to allow the graphics to completely dry.

    • Create a dust free environment where you print and laminate your graphics.

    • Label your laminates as they come in to avoid confusion.

Using the right tools during installation will not only make it easier to wrap a vehicle, but it also will help preserve the finish of the laminate. 3M has a wide variety of tools such as a Vehicle Channel Applicator Tool, a Roller L tool, Air Release tools, rivet brushes and plastic applicators with low friction sleeves.


When a customer invests in a vehicle wrap, they are going to have fairly high expectations in the return that wrap produces. A knowledgeable sign company is going to have a leg up over the competition. Each sign company and its employees should be familiar with not only the vinyl options used in wraps but also the laminate and how it enhances a wrap.

Customers may not know what questions to ask, but providing the answers as a wrap is being sold and the advertisement is being developed will build the essential relationship with a customer that produces repeat business.

Most manufacturers offer informative technical bulletins on their products. When using a product, check these bulletins for ink, media and laminate information, storage guidelines as well as surface preparation and installation techniques.

A lot of our information comes from our supplier reps. We count on them to let us know about new products on the market and get us samples when possible. Our supplier reps also provide us with swatch books. Using these books at the front counter allows us to easily show a customer the materials used in their wrap.

With all the benefits laminate has to offer it is definitely a step that shouldn’t be skipped. By knowing what laminates are available, how they work and the benefits they offer, you can confidently sell and produce vehicle wraps.