Vinyl Lettering Application Tips

Working with pressure-sensitive films is, in many ways, like working with paints. Anyone can dip a brush in paint and apply it to a surface. The professional, however, is far more aware of the various factors that will affect the final product. This discussion will approach application techniques with the intent of acquainting you with some of the factors that will affect your end result. In this way, rather than just give you one way to apply letters, you will hopefully be able to adjust your techniques to what will work best in any given situation. Techniques vary in how you position the legends, which direction you apply from, and whether the application is made “dry” or “wet”.

Wet vs. Dry Application

As a general rule, we prefer wet application over dry. Wet application will almost always result in a bubble-free, wrinkle-free-work. The main disadvantage is the short waiting time drying. Dry application is chosen when time is a factor or working on maginal sign surfaces or at low temperatures. For trouble-free results using dry application, always use a squeegee. Use one smooth stroke, medium pressure, and drag the squeegee. Concentrate on laying the application tape down smoothly and the film will take care of itself. After the legend in in place, follow with more pressure over the entire legend.


Application Tape

The top layer of the legend. Normally made of highly dimensionally-stable paper with a low tack adhesive. This holds the various components of a legend together in proper registration. It is removed and discarded after application.


A piece of masking tape which holds the legend in exact position for application, yet allows it to be turned over for easier removal of the release liner. It is either placed across the top of the legend (horizontal hinge) or up and down through the middle of the legend (vertical hinge).


A line or lines of lettering, or a set of graphic images with or without text, together with a top layer of application tape and a bottom layer of release liner.

Release Liner

The bottom layer of a legend. This is removed from the adhesive side of the lettering just prior to application


A plastic application tool designed for applying pressure-sensitive films. Stiffer than window squeegee, it requires about 15 pounds of pressure to flex it.


A piece of masking tape used to make positioning moves with a legend before applying the hinge. As an example: When applying graphics to a vehicle, tack every legend into place before actually applying. This will give you a chance to find the overall layout to see any problem areas. Then apply hinge(s) and proceed with the application.

Wetting Solution

A mixture of dishwashing liquid and water. Works best when only enough soap is used to eliminate water beading. Use about 1/2 teaspoon to a quart of water. Too much will result in excessive drying times. It is used to be temporarily defeat adhesive action in order to position legend without wrinkles or bubbles.

Some Do’s & Don’ts


Degrease the sign surface; Use the proper tools; Allow hot surface to cool; Warm cold surfaces with hot air; and Wipe sign surface with a dry cloth.-Always remove the liner by lifting it from the application tape, not the tape from the liner.


Apply to a surface HOT to touch; Apply to a surface COLD to touch; Apply in high wind; or Use Windex or Formula 409 as a degreaser.