Using a squeegee is a basic skill that everyone working with vinyl needs. This video teaches you basic fundamentals while explaining the general approach to application. This video discusses different types, as well as how and when to use them.
For every square inch of vinyl you apply you need to use a squeegee. The question is, which is the best one for the job? We will work with a felt, Teflon and wet-edge squeegee.
How to Hold the Squeegee
The angle you hold your squeegee on is critical to your success. Hold the squeegee at a 30° angle installing about ½ inch of vinyl at a time. It is important that your squeegee moves in a straight line across the graphic. We have a natural tendency to curve down at the end of each stroke. This is wrong and can lead to difficulties. Always squeegee in a straight line.
Now you have installed the top 2” of the graphic and are ready to install the rest. Snap the graphic up to your line of application. On a larger graphic this line won’t be perfectly straight so when you snap it up, lift about a 1/2” of the applied vinyl. Hold the vinyl off the vehicle without putting tension on it; just hold the weight of it.
We want to secure the pressure sensitive adhesive to the substrate, not to push the vinyl onto the substrate forcing initial contact. Drape the vinyl so that about ½” makes contact with the substrate. Then, holding the squeegee at about a 30° angle move the squeegee firmly across the vinyl in a straight line and your application will be perfect!
It is never a good idea to hold your squeegee at a 90° angle and install more than ½” at a time. As you can see, this method will cause wrinkles and creases to develop. There is extra vinyl in this area that gets compressed as your squeegee gathers it together as it comes across. Instead, tilt it back to about 30° and move it straight across the graphic.
Using a Felt Squeegee
Felt squeegees are flexible, about ½” thick and are used in recessed areas or on curved substrates. Squeegees that conform to these curves can eliminate wrinkles and creases.
Using the technique previously mentioned to install the vinyl up to the curved area. Watch the front edge of the squeegee as it begins to take the concave shape of the curve of the vehicle. Here you can see the front edge of the squeegee taking a convex shape as it conforms to the top edge of the curve of the vehicle.
Using a Wet Edge Squeegee
We will saturate one edge with water. This second layer is a sponge that holds water and evenly feeds it to the microfiber as you use the squeegee. First saturate the soft edge of the squeegee with water. It isn’t necessary to use a soapy or alcohol based solution, the wet microfiber will slide smoothly across the surface of the vinyl quite well if you use just plain water.
Here you can see how easily the squeegee slides over the matte surface of the vinyl leaving no scratches or squeegee lines on the surface. On open strokes like this the hard edge of the squeegee may scratch the surface. But the soft edge leaves the surface absolutely perfect!
We installed this open and relatively flat area with the Wet Edge squeegee. Some tension has built up around the wheel well so now we need a Teflon squeegee.
Using a Teflon Squeegee
Here I am not pulling or adding any tension to the vinyl. I just hold the weight of it and begin to apply. The angle is even lower here, about 20° and the stroke is more like a cut than a pull or push. If I used a soft edge squeegee here I would get wrinkles and creases.
The firm, sharp, slippery edge of a Teflon squeegee forces the vinyl into place by dispersing the tension in the vinyl and firmly setting the adhesive. It is important that you don’t add tension by pulling down. I will let go of the vinyl so you can see that it is all the work of the squeegee. You will need to hold the vinyl off the vehicle a little so that it doesn’t touch. Just be careful not to put more tension in the vinyl by pulling down.
We have just come over the top edge of a fender and have lots of bunched up vinyl that has caused lines of tension to form along the edge. If we install this area as usual we will create wrinkles and creases like this.
Finally, lift the vinyl up holding it lightly and look at the direction that the lines go in. If the tension lines point back like this, and you install against them you will get wrinkles. As you read the vinyl you should focus on the direction of the tension lines and move your squeegee with them. Some areas have complicated cross overs in the direction of the tension. This is where your skill at reading the vinyl becomes critical!
Choosing the right squeegee and using the right techniques makes all the difference.
Are you confident in your abilities? Try out your skills on a flat substrate application.