Confessions of an Image Wrapper
By Jan Faul of Art For Cars
I can’t recall whether if it was not being able to drive due to an injury for a couple of years or whether the demise of the analog era of photography allowed me to think about putting art on cars.
Photoshop and digital cameras have killed a certain skill set in photography and that skill set was responsible for allowing many photographers to make great photographs for decades without digital manipulation.
For most of my career I had about 50,000 competitors, but since 2001, camera manufacturers have produced 10+ million professional level cameras they market to amateurs and Apple has sold 350+ million cameras with phones in them and now every iPhone owner sees themselves as a decent photographer. As for me? I’m just a guy who has made a lot of pictures the old-fashioned way. And I still shoot film, not digital.
The initial concept was to invent a use for the panorama landscape images I have been making for 20 years. Almost all were from battlefield, airfield, and other historic locations in England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Normandy, and around the United States. I thought they might look amazing on cars, and I hope I am right.
At the outset of the digital era I realized that the day of the darkroom was over and if I were to make a living selling prints, they were going to be digital. So I began fine scanning images for future use. Strangely enough, here I was looking for the right scanner, and my peers were still trying to sell their darkrooms. Digital ruined professional photography by turning anybody with a Rebel into a competitor.
Vinyl Image Wrap Designs
Click any image below for larger view
All images Copyright © 2013 Jan Faul / Art For Cars
Please note: Art For Cars currently has about 600 vinyl image wrap designs in production, but we can’t show them all here. Please visit their website to see more of the collection.
By the early 2000s, commercial printing appeared to be on the verge of making the quantum leap to producing finely detailed continuous-tone images on vinyl. This would allow large format images to be manipulated to fill almost any need. It required specialized knowledge I did not have, as well as new skills to make art fit on cars, trucks, boats, and aircraft. The advances allowed techniques formerly restricted to theory to become reality. I knew that with some tweaking, high resolution images could be printed, applied to automobiles and with care, last for years.
Working with the sun
Of primary concern during the development of the process to put art on cars was to make the wraps as sun-proof as possible. Current wrap practices dictate that an over laminate is applied to protect it from scratches and nicks along with adding an extra layer to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The sun fades everything, including the Rocky Mountains. This means that any surface on a car getting direct sunlight is susceptible to fading.
Vinyl manufacturers like 3M and others guarantee their products for 2-5 years depending on whether it is vertical or horizontal panel. This does not mean that one day you will come out to find your art has vanished, but more than it will gradually fade. After five years, the art may be faded, but you may not notice as the fading is very gradual. If you keep your automobile in a garage or carport, your wrap’s colors will remain vibrant for a much longer period of time, and your car likes not being out in rain and snow too. Taking care of your car and its wrap will reward you with additional longevity of its art and skin.
I am currently working with chemists to see if we can develop a UV-blocking process to double the life of our wraps after the vinyl is on the car. We are going through a series of tests and I believe we will have a UV barrier which can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed onto a vehicle by the owner or a body shop.
My images needed a new venue and cars seemed perfect. In 2012, an interviewer asked how many awards I had won during my career and I honestly didn’t know. What I did know was that I wanted to see them displayed on cars. Here I had several hundred prize-winning images and all they were doing was sitting on hard drives. Today, everybody seems to be an award-winner, albeit possibly with an iPhone and Photoshop.
Expanding into wheels
I decided that in order to survive I needed to move away from wall art and into car art. Rather than continue to bang away at the dying horse called “gallery art,” I struck out in a new direction and into an area where I didn’t know anything: printing on vinyl. Everybody told me there was a steep learning curve and there is. But I already had 15 years of printing with water-based inks, so how different could printing with solvents be? It is difficult but not impossible, but if you can discover the right path, it will be easier than the first time any of us had to make digital prints.
I had been recovering from a series of medical errors, so I had plenty of time to kill. I scoured the internet for sensible information about solvent printing and found it was about to become what I was used to with my paper prints. I felt the time was perfect for me to begin applying my images to what are in fact, canvases on wheels. I want to allow car owners to express their taste without a creative committee in LA, Detroit, or Stuttgart being involved. With Art For Cars, if there is a comment to be made, make it.
One of the more frustrating features of owning a “luxury” car comes when you take your car in for service. Where I live near Washington DC, I am asked to show up before 8 AM to get my car serviced. If one is more than marginally awake upon arrival, you may see 50 identical vehicles awaiting service. I currently drive a Volvo and the last time I went in for service, there were 48 others, of which 8 were identical to mine.
Down the street at the BMW, Lexus, Mini, Mercedes, and Porsche-Audi dealer lots, were scores of other service-bound vehicles. In all instances, repairs were taking place under the hood or floorpan. The bodies of these luxury cars are empty of delicate features as makers entice us with provocative curves on the outside and new driver accessible features on the inside.
If I had spent serious money ($100k+) on a BMW, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, or Porsche and assumed I had an almost unique car, it might be upsetting if I pulled in to my dealer and found 17 other identical owners’ cars sitting there.
The first wrap
The first car I wrapped was a BMW 335 after a designer friend sent me a shot of his dream car. I spent six months researching patterns and found BMW’s harmonious designs allow my images to float across the surfaces, ripple up the hood and slide down to the back bumper and present a bold and/or subtle image on the car’s wrap skin.
Essentially, every wrap for every car is different. They are not made in a factory. No two cars are identical so the wraps are designed and installed by people. Although the wrap is on vinyl, we customize and style each design to a particular car. If I am “massaging” an image to fit a car, only occasionally do I get it right on the first try. The entire process is done by hand, not by a computer. We use computers, but they do not make designs. Highly skilled designers and photographers do that.
If an owner prefers, we can put their name and/or logo someplace on the car like on the driver’s door. I hadn’t planned to make these wraps be advertising, but if a client prefers, their car can become an ad. All I need is to know in advance and have the correct typography or logos. There is an extra charge, but it has to do with design time. The wrap is insurable, so if it is damaged after the owner has submitted photos to their insurance company, their insurer will cover a loss.
Care and Maintenance
I believe Consumer Reports has the best advice for washing a car, but I recommend washing your wrapped car by hand. Hand-washing and detailing provide the lowest friction on the wrap and this may in fact extend its life. The wrap can be waxed to shield it from weather events.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a vinyl wrap?
Vinyl wraps or decals protect the factory finish on a car. If a car has been repainted by a body shop not using a factory authorized Clear Coat, the finish could damage the wrap. If a body has been refinished with Bondo, fiberglass, or other composite materials, the wrap may not stick to it and release itself prematurely.
Wraps are also available with a matte or velvet finish. The downside of a velvet or matte wrap is that both the matte and velvet have enough texture to hold dirt and grime and we have found that velvet wraps last 3 years.
2. How much does a vinyl image wrap cost?
Pricing varies by square footage, but is typically about $6,000.00 for cars. Large sport utility vehicles and trucks cost more.
3. Are vinyl wraps removable?
Wraps are removable with a heat gun or blowtorch used very sparingly. When the wrap has been removed, the exterior of the car should be wiped down with a solvent to release the last of the vinyl’s glue. The vinyl will come off in small pieces, and will be easier to remove during warm weather or when the car ’s skin is warm.
4. Will the vinyl wrap compromise my car’s finish in any way?
Properly applied wraps of 3M materials are designed not to damage a car’s finish.
5. Are there any environmental conditions (extreme heat, cold, etc) that should be avoided?
Wraps are not usually damaged by hot or cold, but if you are using an ice scraper to clear snow off your car, there is a chance you may damage your wrap.
6. Can vinyl wraps be repaired (tears, dings, scratches, vandalism, etc)?
Yes and no. For minor repairs, the installer or the customer can try to match the color with a Pantone marker. For major damage, this is why the insurance companies insure your wrap.
7. Will my car insurance cover damage to my vinyl wrap?
Yes. But they will need photographs of your car with the wrap installed.
8. Can you create a wrap for my car from an image that I provide?
It’s not usually possible to use customer provided materials. The images we use are very high resolution and begin on film, not in a digital camera. We can make photographs especially for you, but it is an extra charge and can be time consuming.
9. Will a vinyl wrap violate the terms of my new car warranty?
10. Will a vinyl wrap violate the terms of my car lease?
11. Should the wrap be removed prior to sale or trade-in?
That’s up to you. The wrap will protect the finish and if you are not using it for advertising, the new owners may want to leave it where it is. If not, the wrap can be removed in a few hours.
12. What if I’m not happy with the applied wrap?
This is why we generate proofs and do not proceed with installation until the customer signs off on it and returns the proof. Unlike many wrap manufacturers, I try to match the concept car as closely as possible. This may not impress you, but I was a photographer for 40 years and I didn’t stay in business by producing rubbish. I want your wrap to look as spectacular as I know it can.
How to order a Vinyl Image Wrap:
- Contact Art For Cars (see below) for image availability and exact pricing for your specific car and requirements. We need your make, model, and year of manufacture plus the first 10 letters and numbers of your VIN so we can ensure that we have a design for the correct model car.
- As mentioned above, pricing varies by square footage, but is typically about $6,000.00 for cars.
- Work on your car’s wrap begins when we receive a $500.00 non-refundable Design Fee paid through PayPal at email@example.com
- After receipt of the Design Fee, we begin production of the design within 14 days and, with your help, we will have the final design within 30 days.
- Before production of your car’s wrap begins, we will send you a sample print showing the color and detail of the car on the driver’s door, and JPEG images of all your car’s panels as they will appear in production so you may correct or add features.
- We print on 3M materials as they will not damage the finish of your car. Also, we recommend that in the case of orders coming from outside our service area, that we ship the completed wrap to an Authorized 3M Certified Installer for installation. Special reduced pricing is available for this service. Rather than ship directly to the customer, we ship to the Certified 3M Installer, as the wrap is shipped rolled and the tube is about 60 inches long. We recommend 3M Certified Installers as their work is overseen by 3M.
- Wrapping a car takes about a week, as the body has to be prepared, components need to be disassembled and removed (headlights, taillights, trim, and door handles, etc), and after the installation of the wrap, the car must be reassembled, cleaned, and inspected for installation quality.
Note to BMW owners: Any design shown on our website can be developed for your car even though it may be displayed on another brand. There are hundreds of makes and models in the US market and it is impossible to show them all.
Contact Art For Cars for image availability and pricing:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: (240) 988-7744
- Art For Cars: art4carz.com
- Jan Faul: artfaul.com
- PayPal email: email@example.com (use this address when paying the Design Fee)
About Art For Cars
Tired of the same old same old? Your ride not looking as good as it did when when was new? Let Art For Cars make your car or truck into a thing of beauty.
Art For Cars’ experienced team of designers and photographers are set to help you choose the perfect look for your wheels. Dig into our 150,000 image library and find the image you need to improve your image. We can provide wraps and skins for your ride for the fraction of the cost of getting a new one. Wrapping is less than half of a repainting, and if you decide it’s not “you” in six months, it can be peeled off and you can select another.
Art For Cars began as an offshoot from Jan Faul’s art and photography. The company was born to redirect existing photography into high quality imagery for use on automobiles. We knew that large format photographs could become 3-dimensional art and after the application of many hours of imagination, the shift to art for cars became a possibility. Jan Faul’s extensive collection of panoramas could be made to fit and become beautiful and protective additions to cars.
The first concepts appeared in 2011, after preliminary sketches showed that redesigning the shape of an image to fit a car could be done. Within a year we had developed over 150 concepts. After exploring wrap technology and finding they were exclusively used as advertising, development began in earnest. We have not found another provider of art for cars. Commercial art yes, but not strictly for enjoying the combination of curves and content.
About Jan Faul
Now living in Maryland, but born in New York, renowned photographer Jan W. Faul has traveled across the United States to portray vibrant landscapes and distinctly American creations on our land. He has traced the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather who both attended Yale and fought in the Civil War. Mr. Faul has spent 40 years portraying historic sites and the hand of man on the land in hundreds of locales spread across the US and Europe.
Mr. Faul has been awarded grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, James Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he is a member of the ASMP Hall of Fame. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery at UMBC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hirschhorn Museum, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and approximately 30 others. His work is in more than 200 corporate and private collections.