Window graphics, also called window clings or window decals, are a great form of advertising. They are popular as decoration for residential use as well, and are also commonly used for creating informational decals. With so many different uses for window graphics, there are many different window decal materials available to allow customers to select the perfect material for their specific needs.
However, this can make choosing a material a little overwhelming. When a customer asks us to help them choose the best material for their window graphic, we ask them to consider five things that help narrow the options down to a manageable level.
1. Do you plan to mount the graphic on the outside of the window, or on the inside facing out?
Mounting window graphics on the outside of the window is always best for maximum visibility, but sometimes it's not possible. Graphics mounted on the outside of the window have the greatest impact because they can be viewed without looking through the glass. This eliminates the glare that the glass can cause, and since almost all commercial windows are tinted, when graphics are used on the inside of business windows, they are even more difficult to see and have less visual impact. When window clings are being used to help block the sun's UV rays, they are much more effective on the outside of the window.
However, in some cases, it's not possible or practical to install graphics on the outside of the window. One of the most common reasons for installing window graphics on the inside is fear of theft or vandalism. In our experience, this is less of a problem than people think, but it's definitely an issue in some locations and installing the graphics inside the window keeps them from getting damaged. When used for advertising, you have to decide if keeping the graphic safe, but making it less visible, is a good tradeoff. In some cases, installing it outside where it has greater impact, and potentially replacing it periodically because of damage, can make the most financial sense.
Other common reasons for installing graphics on the inside of the window are to avoid violating local codes or building regulations, or because they will be installed above ground level where access to the inside of the window is easier.
There are far more window decal materials that are designed to go on the outside of the window, so if you're in a situation where you need to mount your graphics on the inside, you've already narrowed the choices considerably. But in either case, read on to narrow the choices further.
2. Do you need to be able to see through the window graphic from the inside?
View through window graphics are some of the most popular because you can see through them from the inside, even though they look solid from the outside. These materials are full of holes of varying density, with a black backing. When there is more light outside, it passes through the holes and your eyes see this instead of the black backing. The effect is similar to looking though a screen door. This is very useful for large window graphics where solid materials would block the view from inside and leave you looking at the blank back side of the graphic. For smaller window graphics and decals, a solid material is a better choice.
If you need to see through your window graphics, then your choices are fairly simple. For inside mounting, we offer a 70/30 view through window graphic film. For outside mounting, view through perforated window material comes in different perforation patterns that leave anywhere from 50% to 80% of the image. The more of the image that's left, the greater the visual impact and clarity of the graphic, with proportionately less clarify when looking out through the graphic. See the example below.
Keep in mind that view through graphics are not privacy films. Common sense would dictate that if you can see out from the inside, you can also see in from the outside to some degree. With perforated view through materials, you'll be able to see through from whichever side is darker. During the day, when it's brighter outside, you can clearly see out through the graphic. But, at night, when lights are on inside, you'll be able to see in almost as clearly.
3. Is the window graphic going to be installed once, or does it need to be reusable?
Both types of window graphics are common. Window graphics that are serving the dual purpose of advertising products or services while blocking the sun and/or providing some privacy, tend to be installed once and left up as long as possible. This is also true of some promotional window decals and is usually the case for vehicle window graphics.
Window clings that are intended to be removed and reused are popular because they obviously save money compared with having to purchase new graphics for each use. These are often used for recurring promotions, or seasonal ads and info, such as holiday hours. Generally speaking, this type of window cling should be a material that adheres to the window without adhesive. There are some adhesive window graphics that can be removed and reused, but like any adhesive product, once it gets dirty, it won't stick to the window. Plus, keeping the adhesive clean between uses can be difficult. Non-adhesive products, such as static cling and Glassmate, don't use adhesives so if they get dirty you can simply rinse them off and continue to reuse them.
Reusable graphics have different properties, so be sure to select one that will work for your intended use. For example, static cling is the least expensive window cling material, but it doesn't stick well in cold weather, and tends to come off the window after a period of time. This makes it better for short term use, or when you don't mind having to periodically reinstall it.
By this point, if you've considered the first 3 questions, you will have narrowed your choices of material to just a few. Consider the final two questions to make your selection easier.
4. Do you want the base material to be clear or white?
Graphics that cover the entire window are usually printed on white material, and that's the most common type since virtually all printing materials are white. The same is true of rectangular graphics, even when they don't cover the entire window. For irregularly shaped window graphics, white materials can be die cut to create the intended shape, but with some intricate designs or those with soft edges where a die cut wouldn't be ideal, clear materials are a better option. Usually, a white underprint is a good idea on clear materials for the best visibility in the window. A white underprint is where a layer of white ink is printed first on the clear material, and the graphic is then printed on top of the white ink. The white underprint can cover the entire graphic, or be selectively used in certain areas to leave other areas clear. Below is an example of the Crystal Clear window film with white printed behind part of the image and the background left clear, as well as a view of the same graphic from the inside looking out.
Because windows appear almost black from the outside, putting a clear window graphic on the outside of a window without a white underprint will make them very difficult to see, as can be seen in the example below.
One of the advantages of clear window graphics, is that they can be seen from both sides. While the view from the inside will be reversed, some people prefer this to looking at the blank back side of a window decal printed on white material. In the case of using a white underprint, the white ink is not completely opaque, and during daylight hours, the printing from the front is still very visible through white on the back side. For maximum visibility from both sides, 3 layer printing can be used, where the image is printed twice with the white layer in between. This makes a graphic with the same clarity from the front or back, with the back side still being reversed. For situations were the graphic needs to read correctly from both sides, a double sided window graphic is required.
By now, your options have been limited to only a few choices. Consider the question below to finalize your choices.
5. Do you want to use eco-friendly materials for your window graphics?
Vinyl, or PVC, is the most common material for window graphics, but it's not an eco-friendly material. The manufacturing process creates harmful byproducts, and the vinyl itself isn't biodegradable. Vinyl is popular because it's inexpensive, and can be used for a wide range of applications. It's ability to conform to irregular shapes makes it excellent for things like vehicle wraps and graphics, but for windows, that's not necessary. With the exception of vehicles, windows are almost always flat, and there are quite a few eco-friendly window decal materials available. There isn't an eco-friendly solution for view through window graphics installed on the outside of the window, which is unfortunately since those are so popular, but the material for mounting inside the window is a polyester film, which is eco-friendly. Many clear window graphic materials, both adhesive and non adhesive clings are eco-friendly, so those looking for earth friendly clear window graphics have quite a few good choices. Crystal Clear and EcoCling are two such products we offer. For eco-friendly window decals with a white base, the GlassMate and EcoStick are two options, with the GlassMate being a non-adhesive cling and the EcoStick having adhesive.
By considering how you will be using your window graphics, and what qualities you want them to have, you will have narrowed your options to the point where choosing becomes much easier. When shopping on our site, many of these considerations are available as filters in the left column to help narrow down the visible products. When all else fails, feel free to contact us for assistance, as we're always happy to help make sure you choose the correct window decal product to make your project a success.