By Dave Newbery
Over the past decade, wall graphics have become increasingly relevant. High-quality, affordable large-format printers have enabled graphics companies to offer more than just their standard signs, vehicle graphics, and posters. Formerly blank wall space can now convey a promotional message or simply brighten things up.
However, wall graphics all too often go wrong, sometimes very badly. This is due to different types of paint (particularly interior paints) and their compatibility with wall graphics products. Factors such as the incorrect face film and incorrect adhesive (including the wrong coat weight of adhesive) can have a disastrous effect.
A common cause of failure is lack of a proper site survey. A site survey should include peel testing the products that will potentially be used, checking the paint in situ, finding out if there are any air conditioning units or heaters in the vicinity and what the local ambient atmosphere is, and, if possible, discovering what is under the paint and how long ago the paint was applied. There’s lots of detective work to do.
Printers and sign makers can easily fall into the trap of thinking any wall graphics media will work with any wall. But often, the day after installation, the client calls to complain that the wall graphics have overnight become floor graphics.
Graphics producers can eliminate a world of pain and embarrassment by explaining to the customer at the start of a job that they would like to visit the site to check the walls and do some testing before producing the graphics. The customer won’t always grant this request, but most will understand that a day’s disruption is better than several extra days on site to correct any faults later. A survey will make everyone’s life far simpler in the long run.
Washable or wipeable paints that have become popular over the past few years never make for an easy install when it comes to adhesive. If a paint wants to chemically repel dirt, ink, and fingerprints, it will want to do the same to adhesive. If not prepped correctly, the highest-strength adhesives can still fail when applied to these types of paints. Even if the bond is a “pass,” but the face film isn’t stable enough, a “pass” can quickly become a “fail” as the film is effectively pulling on the adhesive. And oftentimes, wall graphics are expected to be fitted when the wall was only painted a matter of days, or sometimes hours ago.
Paint needs to have been applied a bare minimum of 72 hours in advance (ideally much longer) to give any adhesive a fighting chance of working. And if the printer has input into the type of paint to be used, a basic emulsion paint is a far better choice as this has no washable properties to it. However, if a washable or wipeable paint has been used, there are some fixes. Ideally, this type of paint needs sanding to remove the “washable” surface. Sanding generates a new problem of dust—and lots of it, but this is the preferred work-around for this type of paint. If this is not possible, a quality sealer or primer to lock in the washable properties of the paint is a viable alternative. All finishes also need to be clean—a seemingly obvious fact that can be overlooked.
Dave Newbery is regional sales manager of Drytac Europe.