PrismJET 48 Boat Wrap
Boat wrap printed with a PrismJET 48 ecosolvent printer from SignWarehouse

One way to expand your sign making business is to find new applications for your skills and products. If you’ve mastered vehicle wraps and want to find new markets for your installers, take it to the water. Marine wraps -- wrapping bass boats, speed boats and personal watercraft -- can be a lucrative addition to your product line. This can be especially helpful if you find yourself in a crowded market where price competition is eroding margins.

The Process: Same thing only different

Wrapping boats is generally the same as wrapping cars, trucks, and buses, with three exceptions: templates, compound curves, and durability. You’ll find there is not a ready-to-use library of two dimensional templates for boat wraps such as those used for wrapping cars and trucks. Although there are a few templates for boats and personal watercraft (aka jet skis) in the Pro Vehicle Outlines collection, the odds of finding the exact make and model you need are not as high. And if you do find the right template, you’ll have to bear in mind that, due to the curvature of the bow, the degree of variance from the 2D template to the actual “vehicle” is much higher. It may be necessary to make a template by hand on the boat to ensure your design will fit correctly. You’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way using kraft paper and blue painters tape. But it’s the only way to make sure you get it right. Also, it’s best to avoid putting a line of text along the bow line. The curvature of the bow will make it very hard to install the text without having it run “uphill” Try to limit horizontal text to the stern if you can.

The Media: Choose carefully, take an extra step

Once you have your template, you’re almost ready to design and install your wrap. Since we’re dealing with extreme curves, it should be no surprise that the recommended vinyl is 2mil cast. The amount of conformability required to adhere to those sweeping curves and channels rules out calendered films unless you’re installing a temporary wrap for a weekend event or race. If that’s the case, you’ll still need an ultra-calendered highly conformable vinyl. Now what about that durability thing? Most vehicle wrap installers these days use a film with some kind of air egress feature that simplifies getting a bubble-free installation. With marine wraps, these modern time-savers require extra consideration. To put is simply, you don’t want an air egress film underwater. To be perfectly honest, there are differences of opinion on this matter, depending on whom you ask (and what they sell). So to be fair, let’s consider the recommendations of two respected companies with slightly different product lines.

The ORACAL Marine Wrap Solution: 3951

ORACAL has high performance vinyl with and without air egress in their 3951 and 3951RA. Josh Culverhouse and Dean Strohmenger from ORACAL’s tech support department recommend using standard 3951 for marine wraps, and caution that using the RA variant can cause the installation to fail. If there is a tear in the vinyl while the craft is in afloat, water can seep into the air egress channels. If the boat’s going at a good clip, that water invades the channels like a power sprayer and bad things happen quickly. So how do you install a wrap on a complex shape without air egress? You take advantage of 3951’s removable and repositionable adhesive and simply reposition the panels until they’re just right. With the right combination of tension, repositioning and an adept squeegee, it goes on fine. This isn’t as hard as it may sound. Scott Bechtel of Texoma Wraps produced some terrific boat wraps for local radio stations recently using this method and was kind enough to send us a few photos of his work (Fig 1, above).

The Avery Approach: Easy, but not RS.

Avery doesn’t offer a 2 mil cast wrap vinyl without air egress. Instead they have two different air egress product lines, Easy RS (which is repositionable and slideable) and 1005 EZ which has a higher tack adhesive. Avery Sales Support Manager Molly Waters says “We actually recommend the MPI 1005 Supercast EZ (no RS) for the boat wrap applications. The higher initial tack of the standard EZ will provide adequate adhesion to the gelcoat surface of a boat. We recommend the use of an edge sealer to ensure that the air egress channels are completely sealed and to protect the edges of the film from lifting as the boat goes through the water.” Molly adds, “..the seams should face the rear of the boat so the waves or debris in the water do not catch on the edges and cause lifting. Also, our warranty is for above the waterline only.” Whether you prefer ORACAL, Avery or some other media, marine wraps can be a profitable and highly visible supplement to your wraps business. The demographics of boat owners are a little different from those of the general public so selling in this market may expose your business to more affluent (and less price-conscious) customers. If you have already ventured into these waters and found smooth sailing, feel free to share your boat wrap tips in the comments.