Skip to content

"If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough"- Mario Andretti

Welcome to SPS! Questions or Need Help? Chat, Text, Email or Call 877-614-SOLO(7656)

Permanent Vinyl Lettering and Number Installation Guide

How To Apply a Vinyl Decal

vinyl decal layersEach decal has three pieces:

1. The top layer is the transfer tape or pre-mask.
2. The middle layer is the actual vinyl decal.
3. The bottom layer is the backing.

These decals come to you all together in three layers. 

The top layer is called transfer tape or pre-mask. It looks somewhat like regular masking tape or clear tape. And is used to apply and protect you decal as you apply.
The middle layer is the actual decal. And this will come up with your transfer tape when your ready to apply.
The bottom layer is a backing paper with a waxy surface.


Quick Vinyl Application Tips....

  • Do not apply in cold weather - adhesive may stick but will lift easily.
  • Do not apply in extreme heat, apply in the shade - vinyl will get very soft and stretch.
  • Do not use alcohol to apply - it will destroy the adhesive.
  • Do not use ice scraper on the sticker/decal - may lift or break pieces off..
  • Do not touch the adhesive backing - oils from your skin will prevent sticking.
  • Do not point high pressure car wash nozzle at the edges of the sticker/decal for a long time - may lift or break pieces.
  • Car washes are safe.
  • Before application make sure there is no wax or rainx products on the surface - adhesive may stick but will lift easily.
  • Don't apply wax over graphics, especially if the wax contains any petroleum distillates. 

Cleaning Procedures:  
All surfaces are contaminated to some degree.  To ensure good adhesion to any vehicle surface it is critical that you follow these recommended procedures in decontaminating and preparing the surface prior to any vinyl product installation.  

1. Wash and rinse the area with liquid dish detergent and warm water.  Then dry the surface with a clean, lint-free towel or cloth.

2. Finish up the cleaning process by wiping down the entire area with Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol).  To avoid recontamination during the final cleaning step, wipe the surface in just one direction, using a clean, lint-free towel or cloth.  You are now ready to apply the vinyl.

Temperature Recommendations:  
Surface temperatures MUST be between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit before attempting the installation. As a general rule, if the surface is hot to the touch it's over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Adhesive becomes brittle when it gets too cold and gummy when it gets too hot. Applications outside the recommended range of 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit reduce the adhesives' ability to perform.

Application Procedures:  
You can choose to apply vinyl in one of two ways; dry or wet.  Applying vinyl dry does not allow for any mistakes, and recommended for small decals.  Once the vinyl touches the surface, there is no removal without damage.  We suggest that all customers use the wet process for larger graphics.
Do Not use the wet method on Wall words or reflective vinyl.

Wet Application Fluid:

You can make you own application fluid with 4 drops of dishwashing liquid (dawn, joy, or baby shampoo etc.) to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle.


Figure 1

SMALL Decal Installation

1. Measure where you want you decal to be. Then tape in place on 1 side only to use as a hinge, using regular masking tape. Place your tape on the top, bottom or either side, however you feel more comfortable.

Figure 6

2. Peel the bottom WAXY LINER layer away from the DECAL and MASK LAYER starting at the opposite side of the masking taped hinge, and slowly remove it.

Figure 6

3. Wet method is suggested for beginners and larger decals. To use the wet method placement, spray the smooth surface with a mixture of soap and water.

Wet Application Fluid: Wet method is how you install larger images with NO BUBBLES in it (and a MUST for frosted vinyl to ASSURE every bubble is removed) , being wet allows your to squeegee out the air bubbles trapped inside before it sticks to the surface. You can make your own application fluid with 4 drops of dishwashing liquid (dawn, joy, or baby shampoo etc.) to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle.

Figure 6

4. While still holding the PRE-MASK layer away from the smooth surface. Use a squeegee, credit card or any plastic straight edge to help in application. Start from the side with the tape and gently work away from the tape and squeegee out all water and soap.

(Note: if you do not have a squeegee use your fingertips or the sharp edge of a credit card, plastic ruler or similar object)

Figure 6

5. Use your squeegee and apply pressure from the middle to the outward sides, this will remove all water and start the decal adhesion. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing. If your decal appears to not be sticking the fluid is still behind the decal, just squeegee again and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

The decals have a pressure sensitive adhesive the harder you rub the harder it sticks, also the longer you let it sit the stronger the adhesive will adhere.

Figure 6

6. Now your ready to pull off your PRE-MASK layer and view your decal. Gently pull it off, if you see some vinyl start to come up with the PRE-MASK then lay it back down, squeegee, and wait a few minutes and try again.

Prick any air bubbles with a pin and rub down. Be sure that outer edges of decal are rubbed down smoothly and all liquid is forced out. This is essential for proper adhesion.

Wet Method
The wet method is recommended on decals larger than 12" x 18" in size, and frosted vinyl.

  1. Be sure that the surface is clean and free from residue. Find center of decal and the surface on which you want to apply it. Hold the decal in place desired and mark two top corners with pencil.
  2. Put 2 to 3 drops of Ivory Liquid per gallon of water and sponge onto adhesive surface only. DO NOT wet backing sheet. (Glass Plus or other non-ammonia window cleaner may also be used).
  3. Start separating the decal at one corner and pull it back slowly, keeping the adhesive wet as you go.
  4. Wet the surface with the same solution mixed previously and position the decal to the marks established in No. 1. Wet hands with solution and rub over decal lightly, smoothing out any wrinkles.
  5. Work out water with plastic squeegee and dry excess liquid with a soft cloth or paper towel. Squeegee the decal from top to bottom beginning at the center. Proceed right from center, and left from center overlapping strokes 50%. Prick any air bubbles with a pin and rub down. Be sure that outer edges of decal are rubbed down smoothly and all liquid is forced out. This is essential for proper adhesion.
  6. Decal must dry out for 24 hours before adhesion is complete.