Car wraps, also called vehicle wraps, are the bane of graphic designers everywhere. They are among the most difficult challenges a designer will face - a large format graphic that moves down the road at high speed.
There’s a lot more to consider when designing a car wrap than say a pamphlet or billboard. Follow these five tips to design your vehicle-wrap the correct way, the first time.
Use Both Templates and Pictures
A good print shop will supply you with a template or outline of your car for you to design (usually an Illustrator file). If you’ve purchased or made your own template, it’s a good idea to run it by your printer beforehand. Not all templates are created equal and using an inaccurate template can become costly once the wrap has gone to print.
Because no template is ever 100% accurate, it’s a good idea to take pictures of all sides of the vehicle so you can spot potential issues and identify contours that are sometimes difficult to spot on a template.
In the example below, the air scoops on the front of this Mazda are illustrated accurately in the outline template, but the degree of curvature is only really evident when you see the pictures. The photos can also help you visualize how the various panels go together (ie. how the hood, side and bumper all converge at the headlight).
Know the ‘Problem Areas’
Every vehicle has them, and they are all different. An experienced printer work with you from beginning to end. They will identify any potential ‘problem areas’ and suggest design/installation changes beforehand to make sure your project comes out looking the way it should.
When using images and creating vector artwork, make sure that there’s plenty of additional image outside of the template area. Remember you are designing in 2D something that will be conformed to a 3D surface of compound curves. The actual amount of surface that needs to be covered may be several inches more than the overall measurement shows.
Make good use of layers, both in Illustrator and in any placed Photoshop images. Layers will allow elements to be isolated that may need to be produced as an overlay, or tweak backgrounds. Sometimes a small change will make a wrap go much smoother.
Throw the ‘Logo Use Guidelines’ out the window!
Vehicle graphics is one place you should exercise some creative freedom. You may want to deconstruct your logo a bit to make it work better. Vehicle graphics are all about getting noticed, so big and bold works better. Rotate, add textures and drop shadows. A vehicle is an irregular shaped canvas, so you need to come up with an irregular shaped design!