Working with Vehicle Wrap Templates

Let’s Talk Shop: Vehicle Wrap Templates

I remember the early days when my husband and I first started of our business, and we were discussing how cool it would be to be able to show a customer how their graphics would look on their vehicle prior to application. This was way before wrap templates were readily available, and before digital cameras made things so easy. We thought it was a pipe dream.

But new technology and the availability of realistic and accurately sized templates have made that dream come true. Today it is much easier to quote, design and present vehicle wraps than ever before. Offering vehicle wraps can be difficult if you don’t know how to properly estimate and design the wrap, and templates can help.

Socal Signworx likes working with The Bad Wrap templates because of their accurate measurements and professional presentation. (Photos courtesy of Socal Signworx)

Quoting

I recently spoke with Ruth Beasley, a designer with SignBoss LLC in Gillette, Wyo., about her experience with vehicle wrap templates. I think Ruth summed up the initial approach to offering wraps perfectly. “Anyone who has designed a wrap knows the fear of the final product,” she said. “Terror. Will it fit? Did I measure right? Will the nice drawing lie to us? Measuring twice is not always enough, and vinyl is expensive. A lot rides on the shoulders of the designer to make it fit.”

In our shop we rely on our photos and measurements to accurately scale and quote the job prior to heading into design. We use a printout of the vehicle we’re quoting, using Digital Designware’s ProVehicle Outlines templates, to take our measurements. Instead of simply drawing a rough vehicle with measurements, we can use the template to draw our arrows and measurements in a much more accurate manner, noting where on the vehicle we placed the tape measure when measuring.

Templates are handy during the estimating process, whether you rely on the measurements off the template itself or use it to take your own measurements.

After taking a few key measurements I can usually get the customer a quote right away without having to bring any photos into the computer yet. If the wrap is complicated or requires that I scale the photo for accuracy, then I collect my information from the customer and get back to them with a quote. We base all of our vehicle wrap pricing on the total square footage and type of material used. My key measurements allow me to figure square footage quickly and price quickly.

Beasley also notes that they use ProVehicle Outlines templates. She states that “I wouldn’t swear by any drawing, but I feel pretty safe as long as I have pictures to go with them.” 

After market accessories, existing graphics and other obstacles can be planned around when the templates are backed up by photos. Taking your own measurements, beyond relying solely on the templates, can also take into account the curve under the bottom and at the top of the vehicle which will have to be considered when setting up your print and quoting the job.

This partial wrap was initially quoted in FlexiSign using a scaled template, then the design work was laid out in Photoshop on a created template using a photo of the customer’s van. The final wrapped van looks very close to the presented design.

Jason Hardman, a designer and installer with Socal Signworx in Camarillo, Calif., said that one of the reasons they use templates from The Bad Wrap is because “they have very accurate measurements.” He also mentioned that if needed you can “call the people at The Bad Wrap to get any fine-tuned measurements sent to you” as well as “custom templates for other vehicles or boats.”

The Bad Wrap templates are all raster-based templates built from high-resolution photographs. All of the templates are measured meticulously, to be accurate within ¼ inch.

Art Station Vehicle Templates offer a unique approach to vehicle templates by offering their Wrap Dimensions Reference Guide. This guide has the measurements already noted on the template, allowing you to quickly and easily quote a vehicle wrap without having to see the vehicle or take measurements before quoting. Although I always caution that until you’ve seen the vehicle, the quote should only be an “estimate” until you’ve taken your own measurements and photos.

The Wrap Dimensions Reference Guide also takes bleed and waste into account and notes the total square footage for you. Dimensions for windows are also noted individually so you can quote perforated window film separately.

Visit the websites of these and other vehicle wrap template companies to see what templates will work best for your company. 

Design

There are many different approaches to designing vehicle wraps. The actual designing of the wrap is extremely important, as Beasley noted, “a lot rides on the shoulders of the designer to make it fit.” And the fitting is as important as the design itself.

You can design a fantastic vehicle wrap, but then place it on a template or photo of the vehicle and find out that important information is cut off by window trim, door handles, mirrors or other obstacles. All wrap design work should be done on a photo of the actual vehicle, or on a template that has been doublechecked for accuracy against the actual vehicle.

A reliable template can be brought into a vector- or raster-based program and the design work can be done right on the template with fairly close accuracy. You can also design your wrap on the actual photo of the customer’s vehicle, which is how our company does most our wrap design.

We start by taking straight-on photos of both sides, the rear and the front of the vehicle and crop it down in Photoshop, leaving a little space around the vehicle for overprinting. Using our measurements we scale the photo to actual size and lower the resolution to a reasonable size, keeping the art high-resolution, but the file size within reason.

At this point the wrap can be designed in Photoshop or a vector-based program depending on your preference. Photoshop makes it easy to work with photos and effects, but if you design in a vector-based program like Adobe Illustrator or FlexiSign, photos can be dropped into these designs while still maintaining crisp lines on your text or line art.

If we’re designing our wraps in Photoshop we create a background layer with the photo of the vehicle and a copied layer of the vehicle. On the copied layer any area of the vehicle that will be wrapped is cleared out of the photo. All of our design work is done between these two layers.

The background image is for reference, the top layer is our mask. You may create additional layers, by copying the background image again, isolating the windows or other obstacles on the vehicle.

Using ProVehicle Outlines templates and photos of the customer’s van, SignBoss was able to accurately fit this partial wrap to the customer’s vehicle. (Photo courtesy of SignBoss, LLC)

By designing between these two layers we can “oversize” our images, creating a bleed behind the mask layer, giving us extra room for cropping our print files. Designing in layers also simplifies any changes that the customer may request during the design process.

If we design the wrap in a vector-based program, then the scaled photo is brought into the program and we create a mask of the vehicle. Again, all design work is done behind the masked area, showing through “on” the vehicle for presentation, but still allowing us to “over” design for bleed.

I also had the pleasure of talking with Dan Antonelli, president of Graphic D-Signs, Inc., in Washington, N.J., about their experience with wrap templates. Antonelli mentioned that “nearly all wrap design we do is vector based.” His company does all of their wrap design work in Illustrator.

The designers at Antonelli’s company are experts in the branding of business images and carry this experience into their wrap designs. Antonelli mentioned that they design all the branding for the companies that they also design wraps for, stating “it’s too much money to waste on an ineffective message, and we won’t be responsible for it.”

Graphic D-Signs does not print and apply the actual wrap so they do not always see the vehicle they are designing for. Instead they rely on Art Station Vehicle Templates for scale and placement, but they do not measure anything, leaving any adjustments or modifications up to the sign company completing the wrap.

Presentation

When talking presentation with Hardman, he mentioned that they also like The Bad Wrap “because the customers are seeing what the actual vehicle will look like once it’s on the car, and not a cartoon look.” The artwork can be designed in either a vector or raster based program using the provided layers and the final design is presented on realistic photos of the vehicle on a neutral background.

We prefer this realistic look as well when presenting our designs to our clients. By designing on a photo of the actual vehicle we are insuring accuracy, but we are also making it much easier for the customer to visualize the final wrap during the presentation.

I like Antonelli’s method of presenting designs to the customer as well. He mentioned that “whether we use a client’s photo, or one of our own, we spend a good amount of time in the presentation of this concept. Typically this includes removing the vehicle from the background, and presenting it in a neutral studio or environment, or stock photo background.”

iStockPhoto.com is one of many stock photo sites that provide low cost, high-resolution images that would be great to drop in the background of your next wrap presentation. Designing for a landscape company? Place their vehicle wrap in a lush landscape. Pool company? Use another landscape that includes a nice pool. In the same respect a simple background fade or vehicle drop shadow can also be the neutral palate the customer needs to clearly view their design and make a final decision.  

Click here to view the Wraps Template Resource PDF