Commercial vehicle wraps are supposed to increase visibility for the businesses who own the fleets. But, as wrapped vehicles become more common on our roadways, they also increase visibility and demand for vehicle wraps and customization. On the consumer side, this increased awareness of what can be done with vinyl generates more demand for paint replacement wraps.

Like printed wraps, color change wraps have become popular with celebrities and athletes. It makes sense doesn’t it? Rappers promoting wraps. The newest wrinkle in the ever-increasing push for more customized designs comes in the form of 3D embossed wraps. These add a subtle but impressive element of style that gives them an upscale appeal. Embossed wraps not only allow your customers to stand out. These intricate installations can set you apart from your competitors, increase profit and add a new element of fun to your work.

The Basics: Paint Replacement Wrap Review

To understand 3D embossed wraps, it helps to know the basics, so here’s a quick review. Paint replacement wraps are done by applying special, laminated, high-performance cast vinyl to a vehicle. The installation process is the same as that used for printed wraps. In the world of printed wraps, a custom design is printed on a large format printer, then laminated with a clear vinyl overlaminate film to protect the print from abrasion.

With paint replacement film, the overlaminate film is applied by the manufacturer, so all the installer needs to do is grab a sheet of it and slap it on the car, one panel or fender at a time. This is of course, a gross over-simplification, but you get the idea. Paint replacement wraps protect factory paint from the elements while giving the vehicle’s owner his or her choice of color, or colors. I say colors – plural - because the newest trend in the industry is a range of films that change colors depending on the viewing angle. One moment purple, the next green or orange. ORACAL’s Shift Effect films and Avery’s Supreme Wrapping Film ColorFlow vinyls are two such products. But that's yesterday’s news. What’s this about 3D embossing?

Embossed Design Options

The 970RA logo made a nice accent on the rear quarter panels.

Because of the conformability of the paint replacement films, anything under the surface is going to show trough in some fashion. This means you can place a vinyl graphic or another layer of film underneath the top color to add an embossed effect that can be seen and felt. The design possibilities are endless.

You could add a tribal graphic effect by cutting and applying tribal or flame elements on the vehicle before applying the paint film. If the vehicle owner is a celebrity unafraid of attention, you could add his or her name or stage name under the wrap for a more personal touch. A devotee of a storied luxury or performance car brand might want the company logo on the hood or bumper, or fender. All of these can be done with high performance cast vinyl. You can apply it in layers for more intricate effects. If you’re using ORACAL 970RA, you could delve a little deeper into the ORAFOL product line and add a sub-layer of textured film from ORACAL’s 975 structured cast lineup (See image gallery below). These include visually interesting textures like carbon fiber, honeycomb, crocodile, and emulsion. And of course, you can mix and match these elements for a unique, upscale and eye-catching design as ORACAL did at the 2018 NBM Long Beach/WrapsCon trade show. The center of attention in the ORAFOL exhibit was a new Lexus LC500 coupe wrapped in 970RA Color change film installed with a 970RA logo on the rear quarter panels and 975 structured cast Emulsion accenting certain parts of the hood and fenders. The effect was tasteful but distinctive.

How To Install and What You Need

Installing embossed wraps requires a mixture of vinyl application tools and techniques. To create and install the cut vinyl graphics such as the ORACAL 970RA logo seen above, you’ll need the following:
  • A good high quality vinyl cutter, naturally. We have a few of those.
  • Vinyl: You can use 2 mil cast vinyl such as ORACAL 951 or, if all you have on hand is 970RA, that can be used as well. Due to its 4 mil construction, 970RA will be more visible as an embossed element.
  • Transfer tape for applying the cut-vinyl graphic right where you want it.
  • For applying large simple sub-layers, you can use 3M Knifeless tape to cut the swatches.
  • Use a round tipped burnishing tool or a felt squeegee to press the top layer tightly around the contours of the sub-layer to accentuate the effect and sharpen the edges.
  • If your base layer includes sharp corners, you may have a few air pockets between the sub-layer and top layer after installation. These can be removed with a good old-fashioned bubble-popper tool.

That covers the what and how. The why is fairly obvious. Adding distinctive tactile accents to your paint replacement installations will set you apart from your competitors and delight your customers. It also allows you to add a line item to your invoice that will delight your accountant. It’s an opportunity to boost customer satisfaction and profitability.

If you’re looking for a way to distinguish yourself in the wrap installer market, or a way to add new joy to your work, try some 3D embossed paint replacement wraps. They add an aspect of style that’s subtle yet appealing. And they can add value and profit to your paint replacement business.