Heavy Metal Metallic Graphic

Heavy Metal: Metallic Graphic Films Give Luster to Vehicle Wraps

With so many advances in vehicle wrap technology and the mindset of today’s creative graphics teams, the possibilities of what can be done with vehicle wraps remains endless. Recent developments in film technology are helping to drive this innovative market, resulting in a number of interesting chrome-finish, metallic and brushed-metal wrap and graphic films.

Over the last year alone the industry has witnessed the rising trend of chrome and colored chrome car wraps. Metallic and chrome car wraps can give any vehicle a mirror-like finish and make it stand out from the rest of the pack. These projects do more than just turn a vehicle into a one-of-a-kind piece of art or unique branding campaign; they also protect the original paint job by reducing its exposure to the sun and minimizing any damage from the elements. And it’s not just about cars; this media is also being installed on vans, trucks, boats, home appliances and retail signage projects of all kinds.

Array of Applications

“I think the biggest trend right now is how wide and varied the applications for paint wrap films are becoming,” says Justin Pate of Justin Pate Inc., an Avery Dennison specialist and 3M-certified graphics instructor/installer who specializes in vehicle graphic installations. Pate, who is based in Amsterdam, and Bosie, Idaho, says that this is very exciting in terms of paint wrapping because it appeals to a wider base of clients and draws talented installers into the industry.

Pate has seen a major spike in the workshops he gives because of the introduction of many these new metal film products. (Images courtesy of Car Wrap City and Justin Pate Inc.)

“Chrome, brushed metallic and other types of high-end finishes require installers to be highly skilled, which is pushing the industry to new levels,” Pate says. “I see wrapping not only expanding for paint wraps but in other venues. For example, the 60 foot KAWS-designed Moonman at this year’s MTV awards was wrapped in chrome film. Doors in this market are opening wide and quick.”

Social Media’s Role

Pate strongly believes that the Internet and social media have really opened up the opportunity to get seen if you can do something unique and special.

“I think of vehicles that I wrapped years ago, like two tour buses for All Detergent, that were covered with 3,000 pieces of actual clothes or 17 concrete mixers for Coke that would have gone completely viral today,” Pate says. “A city bus in Copenhagen, wrapped for the zoo to appear like a snake was crushing it, went viral last fall. Thinking outside the box and getting attention leads and work. The Internet is an easy way to attract work if the work is done on the front end to set up the networks and the due diligence to keep them fed.”

He says that the technology of graphics has really gotten to the point where just about anything can be wrapped.

“This, coupled with the fact that enough people know about wrapping, means that a much wider variety of objects are being looked at to wrap: laptops, phones, refrigerators, appliances, doors, buildings and on and on,” Pate says. “I personally have seen the demand for appliances wrapped in brushed metallic film just explode. There is a high profit margin in this area.”

Wrapping Trends

Bobby VanderVliet, co-owner at N8V COMP/Exotic Vehicle Wraps, Hughesville, Md., agrees that the largest growing trend is the use of brushed metals and chrome vinyl wraps.

The Internet and social media make it possible for unique wraps to seen by millions of people. This Copenhagen city bus, wrapped with a giant boa constrictor for a city zoo promotion, went viral online last year. (Image courtesy of Bates Y&R, Copenhagen, Denmark)

“In the past, matte wraps have reigned supreme and are still extremely popular,” VanderVliet says. “However, brushed metals and chrome wraps are giving clients the ability to stand out more significantly by producing a look and feel that paint cannot replicate.”

VanderVliet says that brushed metals currently come in many options including steels, aluminums, coppers, and even brushed black and blue.

“The textures give an added ‘Wow Factor’, as from afar they may present a matte look but upon closer observation it reveals a textured look and feel to be enjoyed by everyone.”

He adds another up and coming trend is with standard chromes and colored chromes. “These still present the most visually stunning appearance which has the ability to turn heads on the roadways,” VanderVliet says. “Steering away from standard silver mirror chrome, many manufacturers now are producing colored chromes to further satisfy every style sought. While chromes may be the ‘king’ of vehicle wraps at the moment, they have also warranted the title with a price that is roughly three times the cost of a standard wrap film.”

Fancy Colors

Sean Tomlin, owner of Designer Wraps, Millville, N.J., says that right now chrome colors are all the rage.

“Straight chrome was quite the trend at the end of last year and into 2013, but people were asking for more than just the normal chrome look, they wanted colored chromes,” Tomlin says. “So the manufactures have answered them with new colored chrome films like Gold and Blue from Avery Dennison and some other colors from Ritrama.”

He says that his shop has tried and used every chrome film that is or was available as well as made their own colored chrome films in the past (before the manufacturers started making them).

Tomlin adds that the brushed and chrome films could also be used for architectural and furniture wrappings and design as well.

“The material sticks to just about anything, and the there are limitless possibilities,” Tomlin says. “The films could be added to wrapped vehicles to be used as text accents to add some pop.”

360 Wraps in All Directions

“The trends for specialty wraps are definitely leaning toward the more exotic films, like the brushed metal look, the matte films, and the chrome films,” says Tommy Strader, president and founder at 360 Wraps in Dallas. “These films make it easy for shops to get in the business of wrapping as it requires very little capital investment. There is little-to-no actual design required, and no printing in most cases.”

His company opened in March of 2007 with a handful of automotive racing customers and has since become a full-service vehicle wrap shop serving thousands of customers ranging from mom and pop businesses to major global advertising agencies.

Alternatives to Painting

Strader says that a majority of the specialty wraps they are doing is on high-end sports cars.

N8V COMP is in the process of wrapping a Chevrolet Corvette in Avery Conform Chrome film. “We have also taken this project to another level by laminating the material to further protect the already expensive vinyl from scratching,” VanderVliet says. “To complete the ‘chromed out’ look, we’re also wrapping the rims in chrome along with a few other added accents.” (Image courtesy of N8V COMP/Exotic Vehicle Wraps)

“We have used the brushed metal films, chrome and an assortment of colored films,” he says. “The best application for these films is a full wrap because you can customize the vehicle without lowering the value of the vehicle by painting it. If you paint a car, it is no longer original and sometimes creates doubt in the next owners’ mind that the vehicle might have been wrecked and that is the reason for the paint.” Besides, painting a vehicle, especially an exotic sports car, is expensive.

“Wraps are more affordable and a great option for these expensive cars,” Strader says. “The wrap not only achieves the customized look that the client is going for, but it also protects the original paint when done correctly and removed correctly.

“The reason we don’t see as many cars in the $40,000 and under range get wrapped with specialty material is because most specialty wraps cost $4,000 and up for a good job, and this would be 10 percent of the value of the car. However, when you are wrapping a $200,000 car, it is an investment for the client,” he adds.

Other Applications

As for other applications for these films, Strader says that they have not yet done a whole lot of retail work up to this point.

“They are not as durable as say Formica counter tops, so I wouldn’t recommend them in areas that will get a lot of wear, but something like metal window framing in a commercial application and the face of fixtures where the wear will be minimum would be okay,” he says.

Strader adds a recent project for these films involved wrapping a bass boat for a client.

“He wanted his boat to look like a P-51 Mustang, so we printed the rivet panels on the chrome and wrapped the boat, then we overlaid the rest of the graphics printed on regular white wrap film with a matte overlam. This gave it a really cool look,” he says.

Film Products and Suppliers Grow

VanderVliet says that typically they use 3M (1080 Series) or Avery Dennison (Supreme Series) on all major projects because they have a good reputation for quality, but adds that suppliers such as Hexis, Arlon, Ritrama, and APA America are also making strides to break into the automotive customizing niche.

“The benefit of having more manufacturers in this market is the ability to offer clients hundreds of color options that can be used to complete any project large or small,” VanderVliet says.

360 Wraps recently completed a project for a client who wanted his bass boat to look like a P-51 Mustang. The job was completed using films from Avery Dennison. (Image courtesy of 360 Wraps)

He explains that each manufacturer has a product line strictly for vehicle wrapping that comes equipped with unique air-egress technology, conformable memory PVC, and a 5-10 year life expectancy.

“This allows us to confidently tackle anything from cars to boats, and we know without a doubt that the product will last for years to come, VanderVliet says. “These product lines allow consumers to nearly seamlessly wrap any surface and will leave the possibilities endless.”

Commercial Signage Solutions

VanderVliet notes that other popular commercial applications—for chrome, metalized and reflective vinyls—involves the use of good old cut lettering. This allows for the graphic to be placed onto existing surfaces with an ease of installation and stunning appeal without being excessive. “These vinyls may also be applied to full signs within retail stores and storefronts,” he says.

He adds that business customers often strive to differentiate themselves from the competition, and the use of metalized vinyls make that much easier to do. “Customers are drawn toward flashy signs and professional environments, and that’s exactly what these vinyls simulate,” VanderVliet says. “What is great about this industry is that it is very fast paced and always expanding in products. This will leave room for many different types of companies to use these products to suit their image without having to be cliché,” VanderVliet says.

Wrap Workshops

Pate points out that that the growing popularity of these new films has helped his instructional platform gel, so he admits that he hasn’t had as much time to wrap for clients as he used to.

“Over that past year I have been very busy on the educational side of my business,” Pate says. “I have helped develop and launch a new hands-on workshop for Avery Dennison this year that focuses solely on paint wrap film. I think one of the motivating factors for people signing up is the chance to work with chrome and brushed metallic films as they are readily available during the workshop.”

Pate reports that he is in the process of launching two new projects for the wraps market.

“Croftgate USA asked me to help them develop a line of solutions for prepping and finishing wraps,” he says. “The cleaning system is really unique, which will save installers time and raise quality. The line for aftercare is super cool in that it cleans and protects wraps, especially chrome and brushed metallic films.”

The second project, The Wrap Institute, is a new video instructional platform that will offer streaming videos.

“I am really excited about this as it’s a huge step up from the DVDs in terms of detail and volume,” Pate says. “The main focus at first will be wrapping cars with the hope that people will submit their own videos with new techniques and tips in addition to the 100 or so I will start off with. If I can help installers wrap better, the industry gets better. If everyone is sharing techniques and materials then it makes everyone get a bit more coin in their pocket. There are exciting times ahead for sure.”