Applying graphics to walls and other surfaces


With the current trends in interior design and décor, more and more customers are asking for pressure sensitive wall graphic materials to make custom designs in retail or home settings. What is often not considered when designing custom wall graphics is where the end user wants to apply the material or on what type of surface they choose to stick onto. Different textures will require different adhesives to make sure that the graphic stands up for the duration of its life expectancy.  Also, if it is for short term display that there is no damage caused to the wall surface during removal which could lead to extra costs in the long run. Most product installation failures are due to a range of factors including; improper surface cleaning and poor installation techniques but more often it’s because the wrong vinyl was used. Even the strongest adhesives peel and fall off when the wrong product is used in the wrong environment and application.

We always get asked for a vinyl film that works for all type of surfaces especially on walls where higher amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)  in the paint can cause tremendous headaches. The simple answer is a “one size fits all”  product does not exist and that is why it’s very important to test a section of wall to make sure correct vinyl is selected.

Where Do Wall Application Challenges Come From?

-Low VOC paint is a key issue with most painted walls

-Allowing sufficient time for paint to dry on walls before applying graphics is another key challenge. Rule of thumb is most painted surfaces require at least 10 days for curing and off gassing before being ready for pressure sensitive adhesive vinyl  to adhere to them.

– Poor cleaning of the wall prior to installation

– Faulty installation methods

What does low VOC mean?

Certain types of paints emit potentially harmful gases called volatile organic compounds or VOCs.  VOCs are the hot topic with paint manufacturers and many have reduced the VOCs in their products to meet consumer demand and industry regulations. The lower the amount of VOCs in the paint, the better it is for you use and clean, but more difficult for vinyl adhesion due to more latex and silicon in the paint. The result is that shortly after installation the graphics start to peel off the wall or curl at the edges and sometimes completely fall off the wall. Most important is to remember that that is not the adhesives fault!

What are my solutions?

It is recommended that every customer purchase a 3M Wall Test Kit to eliminate the risk of choosing the wrong adhesive for the surface that the graphics are intended for. Although testing does not always seem feasible or convenient for many customers, re-printing and reinstallation most certainly is not desirable so we recommend to do it the right way the first time and test the surface before to select that right pressure sensitive adhesive vinyl for the job.  If none of the adhesive within the kit stick, then a primer maybe recommended before any application. A clear fast drying primer can be used to increase the surface tension between wall and adhesive therefore giving better adhesion. A couple of brands of primer that could be used are Zinsser Bulls Eye or Gardz primer.

Are you interested to learn more about the graphic materials offered by 3M and how to apply them to a variety of smooth, textured, flat and contoured surfaces? Please join us as we host a Walls, Windows ‘N Floors Workshop at 3M Canada in St. Laurent , Quebec on Tuesday October 9th, 2018. You will learn how to apply graphic films to a variety of surfaces and learn about the installation tools that are indispensable to make your next job more efficient and more profitable.


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