How to Easily Install Vinyl Boat Graphics and Improve the Look of Any Boat
By Jeff Cartee
Before applying your vinyl boat graphics, please read the following precautions and instructions.
Do not apply vinyl boat graphics to extremely hot or extremely cold surfaces. Surface temperature needs to be at least 40 degrees F.
Avoid touching the sticky adhesive side of the graphics, or let the adhesive side of the graphics get dirty.
Applying vinyl graphics is not a difficult process, but it may be challenging to the novice who has never worked with the material. We recommend that beginners consider getting help from a local sign shop. The cost of having a professional do the application could be well worth it. Please contact you local sign shop for installation.
What You Are Working With
Vinyl boat graphic kits are typically supplied in 2 to 3 sections for each side of the boat depending on the number of colors in the graphic that you ordered. Each section is a separate color of the boat graphic. The actual vinyl boat graphic is sandwiched between a wax paper backing and application/transfer tape. The transfer tape is a low tack sheet that will hold graphic in one easy to handle piece after the paper backing is removed. After the vinyl is applied to the boat the transfer tape can be removed.
Each colored section will have registration marks that look like plus signs. Apply these registration marks with every color/section. During the positioning process, stack the registration marks on top of each other to help line up all the colors. After all of the colors are applied you can then remove the registration marks.
2" wide masking tape or painters tape
Spray bottle filled with water and un-concentrated dish washing solution (1/2 teaspoon of dish soap to a full bottle of water)
One or two assistants
Step 1 Surface Preparation
Proper cleaning and preparation of the area of the boat to be decorated prior to application of the vinyl boat graphics is critical to the adhesion of the vinyl. The surface to which vinyl boat graphics are applied must be completely clean, smooth and dry prior to application.
Remove all dirt and grime with a commercial detergent solution and water.
If grease, oil, wax, etc., are present, the substrate must be scrubbed with a solvent wipe (Xylene, heptane, ethylacetate or denatured alcohol).
After thoroughly wiping with cleaner, dry wipe the surface completely using a clean, soft, lint free cloth before solvent evaporates.
CAUTION: Prior to cleaning with solvents, test the cleaning solvent on an inconspicuous area of the application surface to check for potential damage from solvent usage. NOTE: There must be no dirt, oil, grease or solvent residue remaining on the substrate prior to decal application.
Step 2 Rough Positioning
By roughly positioning all sections of the graphic you will be able to make sure you are starting in the proper location and angle to accommodate all 3 of the sections/colors of the vinyl boat graphic kit.
With the paper backing still in place, apply the port or starboard section "1" to the boat and hold it in position with a few pieces of masking tape. Use your grease pencil and make a line that starts on the graphic and continues on to the hull. Do this on 2 or 3 places of section "1" of the boat graphic. Making these lines on the graphic and hull will enable you to remove the graphic and reposition it in exactly the same position.
With section "1" still in place, repeat this process with sections "2" and "3". Each section will have registration marks that look like plus signs. Use the registration marks to line up section "2" and "3".
Step 3 Application
Remove sections "1", "2" and "3" form the boat after marking all 3 sections and the hull with your grease pencil.
Start with section "1". Lay it on a flat surface with the wax paper backing up. Starting at one corner, carefully and slowly peel the wax paper off at a 45 degree angle until it is completely removed from the graphic and discard. CAUTION: Do not get the wax paper wet. if the wax paper gets wet, it will be impossible to remove from the vinyl.
Thoroughly spray the boat surface with your soap and water solution in the area where section A is to be applied. You can spray the adhesive side of the boat graphic with the soap and water solution too, but only after the wax paper has been removed. TIP: Saturate the boat with the soap and water solution where the graphic is to be applied. CAUTION: Do not get the wax paper wet. if the wax paper gets wet, it will be impossible to remove from the vinyl.
Position section "1" with the transfer tape still in place on the boat. Slide the graphic into position and align it with the grease marks that you made in the previous steps. The soap and water solution that you sprayed will allow your to slide the graphic into place before the adhesive on the back side of the vinyl has a chance to stick to the boat.
After you have slid section "1" into position and lined it up with the grease pencil marks, start from the center of section "1" and squeegee upwards. Now go back to the center of the graphic and squeegee down to the bottom. Now go back to the center of the graphic and continue this upward and downward squeegee motion as you work from the center of the graphic to one side or the other. Go back to the center of the graphic and repeat this process as you work toward to opposite end of the graphic. Repeat this process across the entire section of the graphic until all of the soap and water solution has been squeegeed out from under the actual vinyl graphic and the transfer tape surrounding it. TIP: Always work from the center toward the edges of the graphics to avoid trapping air or water bubbles.
Now allow this section of the graphics to sit in on the boat 20 to 30 minutes before attempting to remove the transfer tape. TIP: You will need to apply a moderate amount of pressure to the squeegee. The adhesive on the back side of the vinyl is pressure sensitive, so applying pressure to the squeegee will allow the adhesive to activate. TIP: It is a good idea to take a little extra time during this step to really squeegee the vinyl down good and get all of the solution out.
Spray the transfer tape down with the soap and water solution and let it soak in for 2 to 3 minutes. This will soften the transfer tape and make it easier to remove. Slowly and carefully peel off the transfer tape at a 45 degree angle leaving the actual vinyl graphic on the boat. TIP: When peeling off the transfer tape, peel it back onto itself. CAUTION: If the vinyl graphic wants to lift off the boat when you peel off the transfer tape it means that the fluid has not dried/evaporated enough to proceed. Simply re-squeegee down the part of the graphic that is coming up and give it a little more dry time. TIP: A standard hair blow dryer can be used to speed up the dry time for each section. Hold the dryer a minimum of 12" from the transfer tape and move the dryer over the entire surface of the section you are working with for 3 to 5 minutes.
After the transfer tape has been removed from section "1" you can now move to section "2" and repeat steps 3 through 7 in this section. Use the registration marks and the grease pencil marks you made to line up section "2".
After the transfer tape has been removed from section "2" you can now move to section "3" and repeat steps 3 through 7 in this section. Use the registration marks and the grease pencil marks you made to line up section "3".
The entire process will now be repeated for the other side of your boat. TIP: Take measurements of the placement of the graphics on the first side you completed. Use these measurements to help position the graphic on the second side of the boat.
Step 4 Clean Up
Remove all registration marks.
Remove all grease pencil marks.
Step back and admire the end results.
Allow the graphic to bond to the surface of the boat for at least 24 hours before using the boat.