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3M Scotchcal Film Instructions

by Drue Tibbits

Scotchcal, which is made by 3M, is any of several vinyl films that are used for graphics and signage. Scotchcal comes in a variety of colors and widths and has a pressure-sensitive adhesive backing for quick installation of complicated graphics. Although you'll need a sign company to cut your graphics, you can lower costs by installing them yourself. For professional-looking graphics, Todd Childers of Graphics to Go recommends having a sign company weed and mask your graphics prior to installation. This entails having the excess sign material removed from around the graphics and a wide adhesive-backed paper applied to the top of your graphics.

Mix three drops of liquid dishwashing soap with one qt. water in a spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle to dissolve the liquid dishwashing soap.

Clean the substrate thoroughly using a lint-free rag dampened with isopropyl alcohol. Remove all traces of dust and dirt. Even a small grain of sand, especially on the glossy 3M Scotchcal films, will ruin the look of the graphics. Allow the substrate to dry completely.

Use masking tape to hold the graphics in position on the substrate. Apply the masking tape to the top of the graphics only. Use enough masking tape to hold the graphics securely, as you will be pulling against the tape during installation.

Lift up the graphics from the bottom and, holding the graphics away from the substrate, spray the substrate with the soap/water mix until the substrate is thoroughly wet.

Continue holding the graphics away from the substrate and peel the paper liner from the graphics, exposing the pressure-sensitive adhesive back of the graphics. Spray the back of the graphics with the soap/water mix as you peel away the liner.

Lower the graphics onto the substrate and gently press the graphics in place with your hand, starting from the top edge and working downwards.

Use the rubber squeegee to press out the soap/water mix from under the graphics. Work the squeegee from the center of each graphic to the outside. If you do not have a squeegee, a plastic credit card will work.

Remove the masking tape and peel the paper mask away from the graphics and substrate, pulling it back against itself as you work. Watch for tips and edges of graphics that may stay adhered to the paper mask. If this occurs, use the rubber squeegee or your fingernail to push the tip or edge back onto the substrate, working from the paper mask side. Never touch the pressure-sensitive side of the graphics, as oil from your fingers may interfere with adhesion.

Press down the exposed graphics with the rubber squeegee, working from the center of the graphics to the outside edge. Use the rubber squeegee to push any bubbles out the nearest edge. Do not use a credit card on the exposed graphics, as this may scratch the 3M Scotchcal film.

Wipe off the graphics with a lint-free rag to remove the soap/water mix.

Remove any remaining bubbles by pricking them with a needle and using your fingers to push the bubble from the outside edge of the bubble towards the needle hole.

Tip

  • Fabric surfaces may not work with 3M Scotchcal film. If you are unsure about the substrate, stick a small piece of scrap film on the substrate, then remove the scrap. The scrap should stick aggressively and require some effort to pull off. If the scrap pulls off easily and without resistance, your substrate is not appropriate for 3M Scotchcal film.

Items you will need

About the Author

Drue Tibbits is a writer based in Central Florida, where she attended Florida Southern College. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur and Your Home magazines. She has also been profiled in the Florida Today newspaper and the Writer's Digest magazine. In addition to writing brochure copy for local businesses, she helps new start-up companies develop a local image presence.

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Photo Credits

  • detail of cafe roofline image by Bo Widerberg from Fotolia.com