FAQ & Installation

Can I store my vinyl products until I am ready to apply?

Our vinyl products are made fresh just for you upon purchase and may be stored for up to 3 months. However, for best results, it is recommended to install as soon as possible. Prolonged storage can increase the bond between the tape and the vinyl, making tape removal difficult following application. This condition worsens if the graphic is stored at elevated temperatures. If your vinyl products will not be applied right away, be sure to store them in a clean, dry area at room temperature either rolled up with lettering facing out or lay flat if possible. Do not fold or bend the decals. After storage, a quick rub down with a squeegee will help release the graphic from the paper backing before applying.

How do I prep the surface before installing my new graphics?

Clean your surface before applying a vinyl graphic with detergent and water, then use a wax and grease remover if applying to an automobile. The last step is to give the surface a final wipe with 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA). This last step should be performed with both hands. In one hand, you’ll need a rag saturated with alcohol. In your other hand, keep a clean rag. After you apply the alcohol, wipe it dry before it evaporates. Do this final cleaning right before vinyl application to remove any airborne contaminants that may have settled on the application surface.

To prepare wood panels before you apply vinyl graphics, take the following steps:

Before sanding, wipe the surface down with isopropyl alcohol (IPA).
To ensure that the surface is perfectly smooth, lightly sand the panel with 600-grit sand paper.
After sanding, wipe the panel with a tack rag.
Before application of the graphics, coat the sanded panel with a clear coat. When the clear coat is thoroughly cured, apply the graphics. Curing time can vary depending on ambient temperature and humidity. Most clear coats are cured and ready for vinyl application after 24 hours.
After removing the application tape, remember to resqueegee the entire graphic. This is an important step, which can prevent edge lift.
Clear coating after installation can provide extra protection from the degrading effects of sunlight and create a barrier that prevents damage to the graphic from abrasion and chemicals, BUT,
prove compatibility to yourself. Install a scrap of your graphic on a similar surface and shoot some clear on top of the graphic. Wait a day or two until the clear has hardened to make sure the graphic will survive the clear coat and then proceed with caution on your project. Make sure the graphics are firmly attached to the surface so no clear coat gets underneath them. Spray several light coats, not one heavy coat as this will help prevent clear coat from getting underneath the graphic.

Properly Prepping a Painted Wall

Even newly painted drywall must be wiped down before vinyl application. Dust and other contaminants collect quickly on a wall and can prevent good adhesion of the graphics panels. In cleaning, wipe the surface down with a rag dampened with 50% Isopropyl Alcohol and 50% water. After wiping down the wall, wait a half an hour for the wall to dry thoroughly before applying graphics.

If an older wall surface is contaminated with years of grease, dirt and smoke film, the wall must be cleaned before either painting or application of pressure-sensitive materials. To ensure that the paint bites into an older painted wall surface, wash the wall with trisodium phosphate or TSP. This heavy-duty cleaner will cut through the years of grease and scum that accumulate on a wall and etch the surface.

 Typically, about ¼ cup of TSP is mixed into a gallon of very warm water. Using a sponge, apply the cleaner to the wall surface. Drench a sponge in clean water, wringing it out until it is just damp. Wipe the dirt and grime from the wall. Finish the job, rinsing with a wet sponge.

How do I install my new graphics?

Instructions for applying vinyl graphics in pdf form are here.

Will vinyl products stick to any surface?

Vinyl lettering and art will stick to almost any non-porous smooth surface such as painted walls, windows, glass, mirrors, tile, smooth metal, and wood that is sealed. Lightly textured walls are usually acceptable, but medium to heavy textures are not. Vinyl products are difficult to adhere to rough or uneven surfaces such as cinder block, brick, stucco, unfinished wood, or any other surface that is porous and bumpy. For wall graphics, flat, semi-gloss, and gloss paint are generally favorable. The compatibility of specialty paints, high gloss paint, faux paint finishes, glazes, lacquers, wallpapers, or any other questionable texture or surface should be tested prior to installing vinyl products. Small samples are available upon request.

Adhesion to Powder Coated Paints
Graphics can be applied to powder coated surfaces but can be problematic. Factors which can inhibit adhesion of vinyl to a powder coated surface are additives in the powder. Waxes and slip agents, in the powder coated paints can inhibit adhesion, resulting in problems, such as edge lift and tunneling.

The texture of the substrate can also affect adhesion. Some powder coated jobs have a very smooth and high gloss finish. Other surfaces have a rough “orange peel” finish. Both high gloss finishes and rough surfaces can be problematic.
Highly textured surfaces are especially troublesome. On rough surfaces, adhesive may not flow into the crevices or valleys of the surface. Instead, the adhesive merely makes contact with peaks of surface. Insufficient surface contact generally results in adhesion failure.
High gloss coatings are also prone to problems. These smooth, glossy surfaces are extremely slick, and have less tooth for a good bond.

Help! My vinyl lettering is not sticking to the application surface. What should I do?

Make sure you have cleaned the surface properly (see how to clean your surface before applying a vinyl decal above) and if not applying to walls, wiped the surface down with alcohol. Make sure that the application surface is dry and that both the surface and decal are at room temperature. If the surface is too cold, you may warm it up with a heat gun or hair dryer. It can also help to warm the graphic with heat to reactivate the glue. Do this after the graphic is in place on the surface and before removing the application tape. The application temperature range for most vinyl films is usually between 50⁰ and 90⁰F (10⁰ to 32⁰ C). Avoid applying your decals during humid climate which can make it difficult for the transfer tape to release. Make sure that there is NO residue on the surface, such as dust, dirt, grime, grease, or smoke. Be sure there is no left over residue from cleaning, including any soap that may have been used to clean the surface. Make sure you have allowed enough time for the surface to completely dry. It may feel and appear dry, but moisture may have absorbed into the surface and as it continues to dry, it will break the adhesive bond on the vinyl.

With the surface properly prepared and the graphic in place, squeegee the graphic onto the wall with the provided applicator tool using a bit of pressure. If applying to walls and wood painted surfaces, note that some walls, due to different paints and textures, can be more difficult than others and may require a little extra care and patience. Slowly, while pressing the lettering down with your finger, pull the transfer tape back onto itself to remove it (not straight up at a 90 degree angle). I have also found it to be helpful to just walk away and leave the graphic attached to the surface with the application tape still there. Leave it overnight and try again the next day.

If you find parts of your graphic are peeling off over time, you may try warming it up with a heat gun or hair dryer to reactivate the adhesive. Press the vinyl back onto the surface and allow it to cool and set. You may also dab a bit of glue under the graphic to reattach it and as mentioned above, you may clear coat the entire graphic.

Can I install my graphics over ribs and rivets?

A good instructional video for rivets is here, ribs and corrugations video here.

How can I remove old vinyl graphics?

The first step in the removal process is to heat to the graphics. Heat softens the face and its adhesive allowing the vinyl to be more easily peeled from the surface. By getting a large area hot you can peel larger pieces of film off at one time.

If you are removing small letters, a small handheld propane torch or industrial heat gun provides sufficient heat. Heat a large section of the surface for approximately one minute. Keep the flame moving, so you do not to burn the vinyl or surface.

After heating, use a fingernail or a plastic blade to lift the graphic’s edge. When lifting the vinyl from the surface, pull the film at a low angle (preferably less than 45°) close to the work surface.

Whether you use a heat gun or a propane torch, the secret is to apply the correct degree of heat, something that can only be learned by trial and error. If the vinyl is too hot or too cold, not only will you leave the adhesive, but the film itself will break into little pieces. At the optimal temperature, the film will remove more easily, in large pieces and you will reduce the time it takes to perform the removal.

To remove the adhesive residue, after film removal, requires the use of a chemical adhesive remover. You can use a variety of chemicals, including kerosene, lacquer thinner, xylene and a citrus-based remover.

Before using removers, always test the chemical on an inconspicuous spot of the substrate to make sure the remover doesn’t react with the paint.

Spray the remover on the adhesive residue. Wait for the chemical to react with the adhesive residue. When the adhesive softens to a jelly-like substance, use a squeegee to scrape the gel from the surface.

Finish cleaning the surface by wiping with isopropyl alcohol.

The surface must be perfectly clean before installing new graphics. Applying new vinyl over old adhesive practically guarantees film failure, because the adhesive will absorb the chemicals like a sponge. If the new graphics are applied over the residue, the remaining remover will attack the new adhesive. This can cause new vinyl to bubble, peel or fall off.

What is the smallest lettering you can cut?

About .200″ height with bold lettering. If you need smaller text it can be put inside a box of just about any size and color and printed on vinyl. The quality of printed vinyl is very good and most multi colored logos are now produced this way.

Can I send you a model to work from?

Yes, but good straight photos of the model are usually all that is needed. If you send the model, please add a few extra dollars for return shipping.

Can you include my railroad name or city in the graphics?

Yes, I usually put this in the repacked date but it can be included elsewhere. It was common for railroads to use a maintenance facility ID abbreviation (this could be your city or railroad abbreviation) instead of “NEW”. If you want something besides your city in the repacked date, be sure to put this info in the text box, mailed note or an email.

Can I choose my car number or built date?

Yes! Just be sure to put this info in the text box, mailed note or an email.
Dates provided with most sets include a built date, this is the date the car was actually built; a new date, this is the date the car was rebuilt or made “new”; a rebuilt date (same as new date) and a repacked date.

How do I use registration marks on paint mask?

A video link here!