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Contour Control

Templates Enable Efficient Vehicle Wraps

By Cassandra Carnes

Vehicle wraps offer a great revenue source for print service providers (PSPs). Utilizing skilled installers and properly created designs account for a majority of a shop’s productivity, but additional tools, such as vehicle wrap templates, provide PSPs with an edge.


Even the most talented vehicle wrap designers understand the time and cost savings achieved with templates. While many rely on a solid background of skill and experience, vehicle wrap templates help automate processes and prevent re-work or an unsatisfactory end result.


Depending on the number of wraps produced and the level of sophistication needed, several solutions are available. Many vehicle wrap producers utilize templates for various needs. Some feel that the experience of creating templates from scratch is also important.


From Proof to Install

Vehicle templates play an important role throughout the vehicle wrap process. To create an effective wrap, templates provide a reliable solution for mimicking the contours of a specific vehicle. Wraps do get complex and manual template creation often proves to be a bottleneck. To address this, several companies have made it their mission to streamline the process by offering pre-made templates.


No matter how created, templates are essential in three primary stages of a vehicle wrap process—proofing, design, and installation. The level of importance varies based on a particular job as well as a shop’s experience and skill level.


The sales process experiences advantages. Often, customers have a tough time envisioning the end result. Templates serve as a communication tool. Designers work with a customer to produce a mock up of a job. With this in front of them, clients have a clearer understanding of what they are investing in.


From a sales perspective, wrap templates enable designers to visually communicate about a wrap. “Customers cannot be expected to approve a concept that is not a representation of what their vehicle will look like,” comments Bruce Weese, project manager/sales representative, 3M Trim-Line of Calgary.


Mock ups created with the use of templates portray where the body lines, lights, windows, gas caps, and other car details are located. With this information available, designers steer clients in the right direction from the onset, ensuring important elements of the design are visible.


Colin Davis, president/CEO/owner, Active Grafix LLC, explains. “In the proofing process, templates allow us to provide the customer with an accurate and realistic proof. This helps the customer visualize the final result and make the decision to incorporate changes or move forward,” he says.


Quinton Steckler, co-founder/designer, WrapJax LLC, explains that templates also aid in pricing. For example, Art Station Vehicle Templates offers a square footage guide, which allows the company to estimate a job based on the panels wrapped.


Once a customer commits, it’s time for the designer to begin creating an accurate rendering of the approved graphic, which will be printed onto the selected material and installed by an experienced wrapper.


At this phase, templates are typically imported into a compatible design program, providing the designer with a solid blueprint. Throughout the design process, proofs are emailed back and forth between the client and designer. Davis says that in his experience, templates are perfect for this stage of customer communication.


Following customer sign off, accurate installation is critical. Templates provide installers with an appropriate representation of the wrap so they can install as intended. However, when it comes to translating design into installation effectively, skill and experience matter. While users of vehicle wrap templates are appreciative of time savings and improved efficiency, the tool can only take a job so far.


Kevin Messina, president, Stripeman Graphix, Inc., recommends that anyone serious about designing vehicle wraps spend some time watching the installation process. Even with templates, an installation background helps prevent design errors. “Being involved in actual installations helps a designer realize how much a particular area of film needs to be stretched to make the installation work. This is kept in mind when deciding where to limit a design,” he notes.


Messina finds that The Bad Wrap templates work well with his process. The files incorporate layers, which are easy to show and hide in Adobe Systems Incorporated Photoshop. “The layers allow for a photo of the vehicle to be taken and then graphics pasted in. Additional layers take highlights and shadows from the body lines and creases of the vehicle to make artwork appear as if it’s on the actual vehicle,” he says. This prevents the artwork from laying on top of door handles or lights.


Davis explains that templates should be used sparingly during preflight and installation. In his experience, most claim to be correct within a quarter of an inch, but this is not always the case. Any discrepancy leads to installation issues. “Templates should be used as a guide during this phase. We always measure the vehicle ourselves prior to printing, that way we make adjustments to the print files or the templates themselves. Sometimes we are forced to make our own templates if the measurements are really far off,” he notes.


Template Transition

Before the move to templates, many PSPs fight through the creation process on their own. The efficiency advantages of pre-made templates are uncontested. However, experience creating manual templates is worthwhile.


“When we started in 2008 we built our own templates with a measuring tape, pen, and notepad. We believe this is a crucial step for any designer because you get to know areas of the vehicle that don’t show up in a two-dimensional (2D) representation, such as disappearing roof lines and contoured bumpers,” comments Steckler. “It wasn’t long before we identified the bottleneck in our process and made the investment in templates,” he says.


WrapJax launched because co-founders Jason Scott and Steckler felt there was an opportunity to provide a better quality product and service than what was currently available in the marketplace. Initially, the company created wraps by laying the design over a picture of the actual vehicle in Adobe Photoshop. Steckler notes that while they still do this on occasion, utilizing vehicle templates allows for greater accuracy and efficiency. “As the business grew we needed a solution for making the best possible use of our time. Vehicle templates allow us be efficient and provide a format to communicate the design to our installers,” he adds.


Steckler admits there are short falls. For designers keen to these, creating wraps with templates is seamless. “With any 2D template you draw upon the knowledge of your designers to fill in certain blanks. Templates give you a great baseline for your designs, but you have to know where to add material to cover areas not represented because of contours,” he notes.


WrapJax is happy with its Art Station templates. “After being given several sample templates from Art Station we were impressed with the accuracy and functionality of the product itself,” says Steckler. He notes that it is also fairly priced for the amount of templates included.


Active Grafix designs all of its wraps with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. “The capabilities that these programs offer are endless, and with the right designer the result is nothing short of amazing,” exclaims Davis. The shop has a full library of templates from CADlink Technology Corporation’s Digital Designware Pro Vehicle Outline collection, and they have a subscription to The Bad Wrap templates. Davis finds that each solution has its pros and cons and utilizes both regularly. “Pro Vehicle Outline is great due to the vast collection. Pretty much every vehicle that we’ve ever wrapped is included. The Bad Wrap software is great for proofing—the realistic look of all the templates really allows the customer to visualize the end result,” he says.


Stripeman Graphix entered the wrapping business from a background in automotive graphics. In business since 1991, the company got into printing about eight years ago. In its early days, it would create the artwork, burn it to a disc, and then ship it off to a business that would stock print. This was before inkjet had really taken off. When the product came back, they would handle the install.


As this part of the business grew, Messina kept an eye out for tools to make the process easier. “For any company trying to stay in business, it is common sense to stay on top of the newest tools of the trade. You should never limit yourself because things are always evolving,” comments Messina.


Stripeman Graphix eventually found The Bad Wrap and immediately realized the benefit of true-to-life templates. Before The Bad Wrap, Messina admits he would build similar looking tools to use for mock-up purposes, but would then switch to a flat template to ensure accuracy. He explains that until a few years ago, the only templates they had were created internally or flat drawings. “It was a very time consuming process because building templates that rival The Bad Wrap product would require a lot of time and effort, sometimes more than you would spend building the entire wrap,” he says.


In a typical order process that requires a new template, Stripeman Graphix first downloads a low-resolution version, which is used to create a mock up of the wrap for the customer. Once the client decides to go ahead with the wrap, a high-resolution file is downloaded and design starts to work on it.


Messina says the templates are ideal for Adobe Photoshop. Once the customer approves the layout, the vehicle layers of The Bad Wrap template can be turned off. “Now there is just nice and clean artwork to scale—ten to one. Flatten the image, scale it up ten times, and send to print,” he adds.


3M Trim-Line has applied wraps for close to ten years. Personally, Weese has five years of experience in designing, printing, and installing. The company decided to use vehicle wrap templates from Pro Vehicle Outlines for the conceptual benefits as well as an installation guide.


“They are a great starting point without having to get access to the customer’s vehicle,” says Weese. However, because the templates are flat, he notes that they do not provide measurements following the contours of the vehicle, which can be critical in determining the need for and the best placement of seams.


Weese notes that he does not update the templates with each release, finding that every second release is fine for their needs, as long as there aren’t new features. “With manufacturers maintaining body styles for some length of time, templates don’t outdate that quickly. If a unique or new vehicle is encountered with no template, available photos can be used for concept and design,” he admits.


Templates Conquered

Vehicle wraps present revenue potential. With the help of templates, PSPs are able to effectively communicate with customers and cut time out of the design process. While these solutions provide advantages, they do not discount the importance of savvy designers and skilled installers.


May2012, Digital Output

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