Recommendations for working with application tapes

3 Minute Read
Posted by Nekoosa on 5/14/20 4:26 PM

Struggling to install graphics – both large and small? RTape application tapes and premasks are beneficial tools during the installation process. Here are helpful tips and tricks to apply (see what we did there) when using application tape to install your graphics.

Avoid trapping air bubbles between the vinyl graphic and the application tape.

  • Whether you laminate application tape by hand or with a laminator, it is important to avoid trapping air bubbles between the vinyl graphic and the application tape. Bubbles and wrinkles in the application tape often result in bubbles and wrinkles in the applied graphic, regardless of the skill and effort of the installer. If you inspect the adhesive side of a graphic, after removing the release liner, you can often see the formation of wrinkles and bubbles in the adhesive. If this appears to be the case, those wrinkles and bubbles will transfer to the substrate.
  • During the lamination process, avoid stretching the application tape. Stretched tape usually shrinks causing the vinyl graphic to curl.
  • If you can afford a laminator for your shop, it’s a worthwhile investment. If the laminator is set up properly, you will apply application tape to graphics with a minimum of wrinkles and bubbles.
  • The next best alternative is to buy some type of application tape dispensing system. There are several available in the market. Some systems bolt right on to your workbench with a couple of clamps and have a clutch to allow you to adjust the unwind tension of the roll.  Others have two rollers, which the application tape feeds through. You simply roll the application tape over your graphics.  
  • Use a single sheet of tape to cover the graphic, rather than overlapping pieces. Otherwise, a fine line of tiny air bubbles will appear in the applied graphics where the pieces of tape overlapped.

Properly mask screen printed or digital printed graphics.

  • For screen printed and digitally printed decals, allow the inks and clear coats to thorough cure before applying the application tape. Solvents in uncured inks and coatings often cause the decal and tape to adhere to each other, making it difficult to remove the tape once the graphic is applied. Solvents can even cause ink to delaminate from the vinyl during tape removal.
  • Curing the ink system is critical. The general rule of thumb is to allow the inks to cure for 24 hours before adding clear coatings or overlaminates. Then wait another 24 hours before applying the application tape and trimming the print.
  • Install the graphic soon after applying the application tape. Prolonged storage can increase the bond between the tape and the vinyl, making it difficult to remove the tape following application. This condition worsens if the graphic is stored at elevated temperatures.

Recommendations to follow during a wet application.

  • Wet applications generally require additional time for the vinyl’s adhesive to bond to the substrate. This means that you will need to allow more time before removing the application tape. It’s best to apply the graphic dry, if you can. If you must use application fluid, use the least amount to accomplish the job.
  • To facilitate the removal of paper application tape spray the tape with application fluid and wait 20 to 30 seconds before removal. If a paper application tape doesn’t release easily from the transferred vinyl graphic after applied to the final substrate, lightly spray the paper tape with application fluid, wait about 30 seconds, and then try to remove it. The application fluid will penetrate the paper facestock and soften the tape’s water-based latex adhesive, causing it to release more easily from the graphic. 

Properly removing the application tape.

  • To properly remove the application tape after transferring the vinyl, carefully pull the tape 180° against itself. This tape removal procedure prevents you from pulling the graphic off of the substrate. To minimize edge lifting, use a squeegee covered with a low friction sleeve to resqueegee the entire graphic, especially the edges. The low friction sleeve will prevent the squeegee from scratching the graphic.