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It's sticky, Sally,

Ordering vinyl graphics seems straightforward: you just need graphics that will adhere to a surface, right? But, there are a number of options to consider. Save this guide as a resource the next time you order them and you'll stay out of a "sticky" situation.

------ FILE PREP 101 ------

Questions to ask yourself as you consider printing your project.

Window graphics

Will they install on the outside or the inside of the glass?

  • OUTSIDE: The outside of the glass is called first surface. Some film, like cut vinyl, can only install on first surface. 
  • INSIDE: The inside is called second surface. 

Do you need to see through them?

Graphics on windows can be transparent (solid or perforated) or opaque. Either can be printed in full color.

  • YES - Transparent film usually covers the whole window. Solid film can install on first or second surface, but perforated window film must install on first surface (or outside of the window). Solid film can be clear or frosted in a variety of textures and patterns for privacy.
  • NO - Opaque film, or cut vinyl, comes in a few colors that are the same color on the front and back. We stock red, bright green, black and blue, but other colors and a few metallics are available by special order. Printable opaque film is white on the front and grey on the back. Regardless of the colors printed on the front, printed cut film will look grey on the back. All cut film must install on the first surface or on the outside of the window.

Wall graphics

Are they temporary or permanent?

  • PERMANENT: Dreamscape is a highly-durable product professionally applied like wallpaper. Dreamscape is recommended in high-traffic areas like hallways. It is a favorite in educational and health care facilities. 
  • TEMPORARY: Most vinyl wall graphics are made from opaque film, a self-adhesive product with varying degrees of adhesion. Choose a re-positionable vinyl for a temporary application. In optimal interior applications, it can be expected to last many years, less in exterior applications. 

Is the surface smooth or rough?

  • SMOOTH: Standard films will adhere well to a smooth well-prepared surface. 
  • ROUGH: Rough walls require a special exterior grade product that is especially suited to apply to rough surfaces like concrete, brick and stucco. Request "Rough Wall Graphics" for use on sidewalks, driveways or brick or block wall surfaces.

Vehicle graphics

Vehicle graphics are always printed on opaque or cut vinyl for the body and perforated window film for any glass areas. 

Have questions about your vinyl project?

Reach out. We're happy to help.

Contact Us!


We've assembled all our File Prep 101 emails into one handy reference library on our website. Check it out when you have questions about how best to set up your files for optimal printing results. The website has information on die guides, color profiles, setting bleeds, embedding images, and outlining fonts.