A Quick Guide to Translucent Vinyl

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Why Was Translucent Vinyl Developed?

For almost as long as lighted signs have been in existence (i.e., since the advent of electricity) sign makers have been trying to figure out how to give their back-lit lettering and signs a uniform feel. If you can believe it, it wasn't until 1983 that translucent films were first introduced. For the very first time, it became possible to produce a cast, 2-mil thick film that produced uniform back-lit color. Previous techniques, such as spray painting and screen printing, rarely produced uniform color densities and often showed "hot spots".

How to Choose the Right Translucent Vinyl for You

There are a number of considerations to make when you're thinking of using a translucent vinyl film in your next application, project or craft. In essence, there are five major considerations to be made and they are as follows:

  1. Budget: How much will you be spending?
  2. Duration: How long do you need the graphic or sign to last?
  3. Color: Does it need to match with existing print and digital promotional material?
  4. Substrate: Is the substrate uneven? Does it require a wet installation or a dry one?
  5. Purpose: How much light do you need to have pass through? Is this for a sign or an architectural purpose?
How Much Can You Afford to Spend

When it comes down to it, price is almost always the top consideration for everyone. If you need a cheaper translucent film, there's no question that calendered, matte or satin film is what you'll need. Which brings us to our next issue: longevity.

Short or Long Term Application

Calendered films are ideal for short term applications where they need to be removed within a few months. Not only are they cheaper but they tend to peel off in one piece, making your life easier and requiring less work. Cast films are intended for longer term signs and graphics, offer more colors but are more expensive.

Color Choices and Matching

Do you need to match your back-lit sign or graphic with existing PANTONE® colors? If so, Avery™ UC900 Translucent vinyl is a must. However, if you're simply looking for a wide selection of films and of ORAFOL's or Avery Dennison®'s Translucent vinyl films will work as they offer a stunning range of colors to choose from. If you're not sure what the PANTONE® Matching System Matching System is we've written a post about it and how it is used by Avery Dennison® that you 'll want to check out.

Where Will You Be Installing It?

Depending on where you'll be installing the film, you'll want to use different application methods. Many people swear by dry application for flat Translucent vinyl films whereas they recommend wet applications for Frosted and Etched vinyl. However, if you're installing on clear or colored acrylic, most installers recommend a dry method only as opposed to wet for glass partitions and windows. Clearly, this is a subject that is too complicated to cover in its entirety here but is well worth researching in depth when you decide on your budget, end use expectancy and color requirements.

What Are You Doing With It?

Are you going to be using this film as a back-lit sign? Or, will your Translucent film application be intended as a privacy film to be used on glass walls in an office or on storefront windows? If you need more privacy you'll want to choose a frosted film or an etched glass but if your focus is on attracting attention to your sign you'll want a matte or satin color film.

Translucent Vinyl: A World of Choices

It's still pretty surprising that a film that has become so crucial to the sign and craft industry was only developed within the last 40 years. But, thanks to the incredible pace of technology, you now have a wide range of Translucent vinyl films to choose from at a number of price points. We hope this guide has helped you to make a better, more informed decision and we'd love to see your results so be sure to send in your pics so we can share them here.


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