Vinyl: A Crash Course For Dummies

The trend of adding flashy and far-out vehicle graphics to cars is at its most driving momentum these days. The number of people that are applying graphics to their cars and vehicles is increasing each month. For car, van, truck, boat, or other applications high-grade vinyl is used, but many customers come into our store not knowing a thing about the material. Vinyl is typically used in crafting signs, but nowadays its uses have expanded to include wall and floor coverings, automobile wraps, and stickers. Vinyl used as wraps come in different colors, prices and quality. Virtually anything can be printed on them with our specialized wide-format digital printing techniques. We decided to give you a brief rundown of four types of vinyl material that is used for different applications so you can be “in the know.”



Calendared Vinyl:   

This is the lowest quality vinyl on the market. It does not last for too many years. A viscous liquid material is used to make the vinyl. After being poured in a mold it is then stretched. This stretching process causes the vinyl to weaken and it becomes susceptible to flaws that include cracking in extreme weather conditions, quick color fading, etc. The best use for calendar type vinyl is for low-budget banners and stickers that are not required for long periods of time. We advise our customers that this type of vinyl will only last about 9 months to a year at best.

Intermediate Vinyl:

As far as quality is concerned this vinyl is stuck in the middle of the road so to speak. It has higher sturdiness and excellent UV durability giving it a life of around 5 years or so before starting to crack and fade. Intermediate vinyl is often sold as self-adhesive and comes in both glossy and matte colors. This type of vinyl is stretchable when heat is applied and allows for smoothing. Intermediate vinyl has many uses in signage, crafts, homes and businesses. Mostly used for decals and wraps, it is prone to bubbling and buckling with constant exposure to the elements. It is not recommended for curved planes and works best on flat surfaces.

Cast Vinyl:       

This is your premium, industry-standard vinyl. This is hands-down the best vinyl to use. The term  “cast” is a tribute to the manufacturing procedure that is used to create this exceptional product. Making a cast vinyl film is a lot like baking a cake. The vinyl begins with a “recipe” calling for a list of ingredients that are added to PVC. These ingredients include: plasticizer to make the film flexible, pigment to make the desired color, and additives to help achieve specific properties such as UV absorbers to improve resistance to UV radiation, heat stabilizers, fillers and processing aids. These raw materials can be chosen from a wide range of quality levels. Of course, for a film with limited durability, often the least expensive raw materials are chosen. (Source:

Cast vinyl can be applied to any surface, gets easily fashioned on any contour surface, and can form nice coverings for rivets and other odd protrusions making it the optimum choice for vehicle wraps. Cast vinyl is also exceptionally impervious to severe weather, water, wind, and heat. Other vinyl materials can perforate or crack but cast vinyl, thanks to its 2-millimeter thickness, stays the same for longer. Cast vinyl decals are easily applied and removed as opposed to the sticky, messy, and predictably difficult removal of cheaper vinyl.

Perforated Vinyl:         

Perforated window vinyl is the kind with the little holes that you can see through. It is often applied to vehicle windows or storefronts. It aids in utilizing the entire surface of a vehicle as advertising space. It didn’t take long to appreciate perforated vinyl on storefront windows and vehicles. They produce appealing graphic images and logos at ground level and the effect on drawing customers directly to the front door is remarkable. Perforated vinyl on store windows and vehicles offers you privacy by blocking the view in while allowing those inside to see out. The vinyl often used is up to 60% solid so it reduces light and heat, much like tinting. This effect is increased if the bulk of the image is white or pastel. Be sure to check city ordinances regarding signage and highway patrol laws prior to utilizing this type of vinyl.

If you have additional questions about materials or simply want to start the process of getting your vehicle into our garage for a makeover use our CONTACT FORM and one of our sales team experts will get back to you immediately! Thanks for reading The Elite Beat and remember to visit our blog often for helpful tips and a wealth of graphic industry knowledge!

Article by: Mike Gangi