You were able to secure a prime location for your business: a storefront with plenty of windows on a pedestrian-heavy street. There was, however, one thing you didn’t see coming. How the mirrored high rise across the street would reflect the afternoon sun directly into your shop.
Now trying to cool your business has sent your electricity costs skyrocketing, and all merchandise in or near the window is prematurely looking faded and old. You could shutter your windows during that time, but it would be during peak pedestrian traffic and both block your view and make your shop look cold and unwelcoming.
Fortunately, there is another option. One that can reclaim your windows and, at the same time, promote your goods, sales, and special events: perforated window vinyl.
What is Perforated Vinyl?
Perforated vinyl (which is also known as “see-through vinyl,” “one-way vision film,” or simply “perf vinyl”) is manufactured with evenly spaced holes spread throughout the film. The size is usually about 1.5 millimeters.
Graphics are printed on one side of the film, and it is then applied to a window. The perforated holes make it so people outside the window can see the colorful advertisement, and those on the inside benefit from reduced sun glare and increased privacy while still being able to see through the glass. It is similar to window tinting.
The varieties of perf vinyl are categorized by their ratio of printable area compared to the area that has been removed. Two of the most common types of perf vinyl are 70/30 and 50/50.
- 70/30 – 70 percent of the material is printable while 30 percent is removed.
- 50/50 – The printable area is equal to the area that has been removed.
Because the distance between the holes determines the print coverage and visibility, the type of material you choose is determined by your needs.
“With a higher number, like a 70/30, the perforations are further apart from each other so you have more coverage and can see more of the graphic,” said Lori Harvey, sales consultant for the Commercial Graphics division of The Trade Group. “If people are going to be looking closely at the graphic, then 70/30 is recommended. Inside it’s a little bit darker because there are fewer dots in the pattern. On a 50/50 there is an equal amount of holes and vinyl, so you can still see the actual graphic but it allows more light to come into the room.”
Where is Perf Vinyl Used?
Perf vinyl provides an inventive marketing opportunity while also offering a practical benefit.
“The product may be limited to windows,” said Harvey, “but it has limitless applications within that construct. It could be an external window, an office window, dividing window. There are various ways to use it for different reasons, whether it’s to block the sun or get your message outside. There are so many creative possibilities.”
- Gyms, spas, and healthcare – Passersby see promoted specials instead of through the windows, which enhances privacy for the clientele. Perf vinyl lets in the light while keeping curiosity seekers at bay.
- Vehicles – A car can be completely wrapped – including, side windows, and back window – thanks to perf vinyl. Public transportation often uses perf vinyl for creative campaigns that stretch across the entire side of buses and subways.
- Office building facades – Massive banners can stretch across several stories with minimal obstruction of the view from inside.
- Outdoor banners – Advertisements that are going to be used in windy conditions experience less wear and tear when gusts can pass right through the banner.“We did an install on a clear glass bubble elevator,” said Pete Adauto, project manager for the Commercial Graphics division of The Trade Group. “This was a round-shaped that was comprised of five equal panels in a circle. These elevators were the interior of the buildingand the perf vinyl allowed people inside to still have a good view looking out to the atrium while those on the outside could see the advertising.”
How Does It Work?
Perf vinyl is manufactured in several layers. Typically, the top layer is white vinyl; this is the printable area. Next is a layer of black vinyl. The final layer is the adhesive coating and release liner.
It’s the black layer that allows for the clear visibility from behind the printed vinyl. It is sort of like an optical illusion that tricks the eyes. When viewed from outside a window, the light-colored perforated vinyl sign appears solid (or, at least, opaque) because our eyes will naturally focus on bright, well-lit surfaces and generally overlook the holes.
However, the dark side is what can be seen from inside the window. Here our eyes are predisposed to focus past the dark vinyl to the light and motion and whatever else is happening outside the window. This is how folks inside the store, office, car, bus, etc. see past the sign to the outside world.
What is the Production Process?
The Trade Group creates all of our perf vinyl pieces in house. We use our VUTEk GS Series 3250X Pro Grand Format UV Printer, which enables us to print on just about any type of material up to 126.5 inches wide. We can create small(ish) car-window sized pieces and/or giant, seamless banners.
Once printed, we achieve the exact design shape by running the piece through one of our digital cutters. Pete Adauto explains.
“We have different machines for different size material. For example, if the material is less than 30 inches wide, we use our Summa S120 D-Series. If the material is over 30 inches wide, we use our Zund G3 3XL-3200.
“I would not advise cuts that utilize really tight corners, unless it is a ninety-degree cut, because the perf will move on you a little bit. Perf is for large windows and areas where you want to be able to look out but on the outside you want to show a message.”
There is also an option to add laminate to a perf vinyl piece. This decision is usually dictated by the intent of the piece and how it is used. If the perf vinyl is only planned to be up for a limited period of time, then a laminate is not necessary. If, however, the piece is expected to last a long time or is located where it will be frequently bumped and touched, like a car window, then a laminate is recommended to improve the vinyl’s durability.
“The elevator installation, for example,” said Adauto. “People are entering the elevator with bags and luggage and carrying items that bang up against these windows. So we actually installed the vinyl on the outside rather than the inside to keep it from getting scratched up.”
Lamination protects the printing from scratching and provides UV protection to help keep the ink from fading. Laminating will also help keep rain, snow, and dirt from getting in the tiny holes, which is good for outdoor use.
Once the piece is printed and cut, it is time for installation. Perf vinyl can be pretty tricky to install (and that’s not even taking into account projects that are hundreds of feet up the side of a building), which is why most customers opt for professional installation.
The installation technique varies depending on if the piece was laminated or not. First, the window must be clean – completely clean, any waxy residue must be removed. Then, for laminated perf vinyl, the procedure is similar to traditional vinyl. Using a squeegee held at about a 45-degree angle, begin at the center of the graphic and push outward, working slowly to ensure adherence and that all bubbles and wrinkles are removed.
However, this method only works if the perf vinyl was laminated. If not, the squeegee will catch in the small holes and could cause significant damage to the piece. The perf vinyl may actually need to be held away from the window while the squeegee is used to push the vinyl to the surface, or the squeegee could be placed at an extremely low angle – almost flat – so it is much less likely to snag the holes.
The key to a successful installation is organization and planning. The pieces must be placed in the window correctly so they fit as intended. For projects with multiple panels, everything needs to be carefully laid out before installation to ensure each sheet is aligned.
Again, with all things considered, this is a job best left to the pros.
What are Some Tips for a Good Design?
When thinking about a perf vinyl design – you want to think big.
Even though the design will look solid, the holes will distort small elements and text, even for 70/30. Large images and bold lettering will look best in a window.
For car wraps, the curve of the back window may make some text appear distorted. It is always a good idea to keep this in mind during the initial design. Try to keep text either centered or place on an angle to account for the curve.
Whether you are looking to block the sun, add some privacy, or advertise a sale without sacrificing your view, perf vinyl is the perfect solution. To see how our team can design, manufacture, and install an eye-catching display, give call The Trade Group a call at 800-343-2005.