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5 tips to get you started in vehicle wrap design

Vehicle wraps are a very popular design product for small businesses. The side of their vehicles is a great advertising space that will be seen by many people. It’s basically a mobile billboard with ad space that a business owner only has to pay for once.

Many vehicle wraps are made of large, printed vinyl stickers that are applied to the surface of the vehicle. However, designing these effective ads can be a little complex. Any designer who decides to undertake a vehicle wrap project should at least be at an intermediate skill level with standard graphic design programs and do their research before they jump into it.

Below, we’ll discuss the basic process for designing print-ready vehicle wrap files and how to deliver them to your client. Let’s get started.

1. Gather information

To ensure a successful vehicle wrap design, start by obtaining an accurate template of the client’s vehicle. This is crucial for creating a to-scale, print-ready design. Keep in mind that vehicle wrap files can be complex, and fixing them can incur additional costs.

Ideally, your client should provide the car’s blueprint template upfront. However, templates purchased online may not always be 100% accurate due to potential surface irregularities.

Additionally, determine the client’s chosen vehicle printing company and their specific requirements. Different companies may have unique file requirements and printing processes, so gathering this information is essential before beginning the design.

Lastly, request high-quality photos of the client’s vehicle, along with details about the car model and any surface irregularities not covered by existing templates. This comprehensive approach ensures a smooth and accurate vehicle wrap design process.

2. Gather inspiration

Now that you have all the technical information ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about how to turn your client’s vehicle wrap dream into a reality! Let’s assume that they already have a logo and advertising copy ready to go. You should be asking them about what type of vehicle wrap designs they like.

While it’s not recommended, many clients love photos in the vehicle wrap design. If that’s what they want, very high resolution images need to be obtained and purchased. You’ll need to agree on a budget for stock photos.

It’s always a good idea to keep a vehicle wrap design simple, especially if it’s an ad for your client’s business. Your client’s vehicle may be going 65mph on the freeway, so you’ll need to make sure that the brand’s message can be read in seconds.

Here’s a cool vehicle wrap Pinterest board and design gallery to get you started.

3. Create the design

Now that you’ve obtained photos of your client’s vehicle, you can use them to quickly sketch out your design. You can also create the design in the template files, but many designers find it easier to Photoshop the design on a photo of the vehicle first.

It won’t be a 100% match for how it will look on the real car, but it will make it easier to visualize how graphics look when they meet at corners and rounded surfaces of the car.

Make sure that any mockup you create can be easily recreated or applied to the template files before you show it to your client. Mockups are great for showing your client how the design could look in real life and for getting their approval for the final design. However, it’s important to manage their expectations appropriately by showing them designs that can be implemented in real life, not ones that just look good in Photoshop.

4. Apply the design to the template

Vehicle wrap print files can be created in either Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. At The Business Toolkit, we prefer that our designers deliver Adobe Illustrator files in vehicle wrap handovers, since some vehicle wrap printers only accept vector files for printing.

Many vehicle printers accept both PSD and AI files, though.


Basic things to consider:

  • Set your document color mode to CMYK
  • One way to create the design to scale is to use 1:10 ratio
  • Set the document ppi to 720
  • Use high resolution photos/raster images if they’re part of the design
  • Convert all fonts to outlines
  • Label and organize each part into separate layers and make sure that each graphic has it’s own sublayer.
  • Add 5-10 in bleeds to each piece of the template. The design will have to wrap around objects like the edges of doors, and adding extra bleed will help the design grip to the car.

5. Deliver the files

vehicle wrap design
Vehicle wrap design by The Business Toolkit

Provide your client with either .ai or .psd files, in addition to an uncompressed .tiff file of the vehicle wrap. Makes sure that they know the name or own a license to all fonts used in your design.

If any photos or other raster images were used in the design, include the raw photo file as well so that the vehicle wrap people can use it if they need to adjust your files.

Vehicle wrap projects can be a challenge, but it can be one of the most rewarding examples of watching your designs come to life on a big, fast-moving object.

If you need help with your vehicle wrap design, contact us!

Ask to see more of our vehicle wrap designs.


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