Tips for the perfect self-adhesive vinyl application

There is a wide range of self-adhesive films available on the market that incorporate different adhesive systems. Some films are equipped with standard adhesive systems for common, day-to-day applications. Applications onto low surface energy substrates, hard-to-stick-to and structured surfaces will require different kinds of adhesive technology.

Applying self-adhesive films can often be challenging but many principles apply to most types of applications. Here are some of our tips that may help you with vinyl application.

Preparation is key to the easy application of cut or printed vinyl graphics. Good surface preparation also helps with a long and trouble-free service life thereafter.


Remember to always refer to the recommendations from the materials manufacturer for the correct installation temperature. This can typically be found on the corresponding installation guide or datasheet. Most products will require “room temperature” for application – typically in the region of 20-25°C – but some products can be applied as low as 5°C or even 0̒°C!


To ensure a good adhesive bond, any surface to which the self-adhesive vinyl will be applied must be clean and free of dust, dirt, surface treatments such as wax or other contaminates. A specialist surface cleaner should be used in all cases, even if the application is short term. Newly-painted surfaces should be left to cure for the appropriate period of time (as determined by the paint manufacturer) before graphics are applied. Attention should also be paid to the type of paint, as oil-based, water-based and solvent-based paint will have different considerations for any vinyl application.

Surfaces prone to out-gassing may produce bubbles under the vinyl which could lead to a total failure of the adhesive bond. These surfaces include glass fibre (uncoated), some polycarbonates and acrylics, as well as some surfaces treated with silicone, wax, sealants or varnish. As such, it is essential to clean your surface thoroughly with the cleaner recommended by the vinyl manufacturer. There is a range of surface cleaners available.

Beware of plasticiser migration

Take care when applying vinyl to other vinyl surfaces, including flexible truck sides, banners and flexible sign-faces. These substrates contain plasticisers, which can migrate into the applied self-adhesive film and break down the adhesive system. Shrinkage and/or delamination of the film from the substrate and/or “stringing” of the adhesive are indicators that plasticiser migration could be occurring. Note: once plasticiser migration has taken place, nothing can be done to reverse or even stop this condition.

To avoid plasticiser migration, it is essential to select the correct vinyl for application to heavily plasticised substrates. There is a range of suitable materials for these applications such as Oracal 451, Oracal 3451 (digital version) and Avery Dennison SignFlex – ask your customer service representative for details.

It is also important to ensure that when a self-adhesive vinyl is laid on top of another self-adhesive vinyl (for instance, in the case of multi-layered signage, or in the event of a temporary graphic being placed on top of a base, fixed graphic), the two products should have compatible chemistry. Otherwise, this can cause plasticiser migration resulting in shrinkage and/or delamination and a breakdown of the adhesive system.

Special surfaces and environmental conditions

Seek specific advice from Spandex when applying to difficult surfaces or within extreme environmental conditions, to ensure you select the correct material. We are able to provide detailed specification sheets and advice for most products. If in doubt, ask for a material sample for test purposes.

Choose the best method of vinyl application

There are two recognised methods for applying self-adhesive vinyl: wet and dry. The method chosen will, to some extent, be determined by the size and complexity of the graphic being applied.

1 – Dry application: This method can be used for small to medium sized graphics and is the only recommended method for films with air egress technology (which allows for bubble-free application and greater levels of repositionability).  Dry application will often be utilised in cold weather conditions (such as outdoor application in winter).

Check this dry application using an ImagePerfect™ 5800 Decorative Window Film with PerfectApply technology.

This method is recommended for:

Small to medium-sized graphics ✔️

Films with air egress technology such as EasyApply, PerfectApply, Comply, etc ✔️

Cold weather conditions ✔️

2 – Wet application: The wet application method is preferred for large graphic installations, as it helps with repositioning the vinyl during application. This is a considerable advantage when applying multi-colour logos or other applications requiring precise alignment. Wet application is also beneficial when applying vinyl to glass. Under dry application conditions, the adhesive will often develop a fast bond with the glass, thereby reducing repositionability of the vinyl.

Use a specialist application fluid such as ImagePerfect™ Magic Apply, which makes it easy to reposition your graphics until you are happy with the placement.

Have a look at our application specialist using a wet application method to apply these window graphics.

This method is recommended for:

Large graphics ✔️

Applications on glass ✔️

We hope these tips will help you achieve a trouble-free vinyl application with a professional finish.




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